Tuesday, April 11, 2006

He's dead, Jim

The Washington Post has reported that the role of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in the Iraqi insurgency has been played up by the Pentagon for propaganda purposes, both in Iraq and in the United States (see also early precursor article here).  A New York Times reporter named Dexter Filkins wrote a front-page article on a letter supposedly written by al-Zarqawi, although Filkins now says he had doubts of the authenticity of the letter.  Despite this, he just passed on the Pentagon propaganda, without bothering his readers with the details of such uninteresting topics as the authenticity of the letter he was writing about.  He mentioned the authenticity issue only in passing, in the patented Judy-Miller style of burying it in such a way that the reader is led to the conclusion that the Pentagon propaganda is the truth.  Filkins is playing a continuing role in Pentagon propaganda by downplaying the importance of  al-Zarqawi (see also here).  Presumably, the Pentagon is clearing the decks of al-Zarqawi in order to roll out a new series of lies (although not everyone in the Pentagon is going along with the new program).

Al-Zarqawi has been the Scarlet Pimpernel of the Iraqi insurgency, appearing in an enormous variety of roles and places.  You have to give him credit.  The fact that he has been dead since at least 2004 hasn’t slowed him up one bit (nor has the fact that he lost a leg and then grew it back to star in the Nick Berg beheading video).  Here’s some recent Robert Fisk (see also earlier Fisk here):

“Well, I don't know if al-Zarqawi is alive. You know, al-Zarqawi did exist before the American Anglo-American invasion. He was up in the Kurdish area, which was not actually properly controlled by Saddam. But after that he seems to have disappeared. We know there's an identity card that pops up. We know the Americans say we think we've recognised him on a videotape. Who recognises him on a videotape? How many Americans have ever met al-Zarqawi? Al-Zarqawi's mother died more than 12 months ago and he didn't even send commiserations or say ‘I'm sorry to hear that’. His wife of whom he was very possessive is so poor she has to go out and work in the family town of Zarqa. Hence the name Zarqawi. I don't know if al-Zarqawi is alive or exists at the moment. I don't know if he isn't a sort of creature invented in order to fill in the narrative gaps, so to speak. What is going on in Iraq at the moment is extremely mysterious.”

It’s mysterious all right.

The al-Zarqawi myth appears to be another manifestation of the American myth that al-Qaeda is behind the series of terrorist attacks in the ‘long war’ that continues to (barely) sustain the Bush Administration.  If there is to be some sort of phony Shi’ite terrorist attack on the United States, they won’t be able to blame it on Sunni al-Qaeda, so the shift away from al-Zarqawi may eventually have domestic American implications.