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Saturday, June 10, 2006

Zarqawi's Death and Past Deaths

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi: Dead Again

Let’s see. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the phantom terrorist with super-human powers, was killed in the Sulaimaniyah mountains of northern Iraq, and then he was killed in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, followed by a death during Operation Matador near the town of Qaim on the Syrian border, and finally he was killed, along with his mentor, Osama bin Laden, in the besieged city of Fallujah. Now we are told he was “killed in a U.S. air raid north of Baghdad [in the town of Hibhib near Baquba],” according to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, Reuters reports.

The reported death—and past deaths—are simply another dimension of a rather transparent psychological operations campaign run out of the Pentagon. In April, we learned that al-Zarqawi is little more than hype, a neocon propaganda program. “The US military is conducting a propaganda campaign to magnify the role of the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, according to internal military documents and officers familiar with the program,” reported the Sydney Morning Herald. “The effort has raised his profile in a way that some military intelligence officials believe may have overstated his importance and helped the Bush Administration tie the war to the organization responsible for the September 11 terrorist attacks,” or rather supposedly responsible, as no credible evidence has surfaced to date to pin blame on “al-Qaeda” (in fact, it is difficult to prove “al-Qaeda” itself actually exists). “The military’s propaganda program has largely been aimed at Iraqis, but seems to have spilled over into the US media. One “selective leak” about Zarqawi was made to Dexter Filkins, a New York Times reporter based in Baghdad. Filkins’s resulting article, about a letter supposedly written by Zarqawi and boasting of suicide attacks in Iraq, ran on the Times front page in February, 2004.”

I’d have to say this is backwards. In fact, the “propaganda program” was aimed primarily at Americans, who need a scary Freddy Kruger Muslim to convince them the occupation of Iraq is necessary. More scary demons will be required soon for a shock and awe attack unleashed against Iran.

Of course, it is only natural to kill off al-Zarqawi once again. Earlier this year, the Pentagon released a video, allegedly discovered “by US forces in a hideout in the Al-Yusufiyah neighborhood of southern Baghdad,” showing al-Zarqawi (or a person we are told is al-Zarqawi), wearing New Balance tennis shoes and fumbling with a U.S. M-249 squad automatic weapon. It appears the purpose of this video is to make al-Zarqawi out to be a bumbling idiot. “Is the recently released video, which consists in ridiculing rather than villainizing ‘Enemy Number One’, part of the Zarqawi PSYOP program?” muses Michel Chossudovsky.

It appears the neocon-dominated Pentagon wants to retire the al-Zarqawi PSYOP program, as al-Zarqawi has served his purpose—demonizing the resistance and kicking off a “civil war” in Iraq. Recall the retirement of Osama. “Deep in my heart I know the man is on the run, if he’s alive at all. Who knows if he’s hiding in some cave or not; we haven’t heard from him in a long time. And the idea of focusing on one person is—really indicates to me people don’t understand the scope of the mission,” said the Decider on March 13, 2002. Indeed, the “scope of the mission” became glaringly obvious almost exactly a year later, when the neocons invaded Iraq. However, in order to put a damper on embarrassing questions poised by the corporate media, this time around, instead of ambiguity, the Pentagon has decided to kill the al-Zarqawi myth with a real live bomb, thus resolving the question in a typically violent way.

Naturally, there is always the possibility al-Zarqawi will surface again, as he has done in the past. In early 2005, the “terror mastermind” (alternatively depicted as a petty criminal of sub-standard intelligence) “escaped shortly before raids on his hideouts,” according to Newsday. “Al-Zarqawi’s close calls are one sign that his militant network in Iraq has sustained serious losses and may be unraveling. Since early [February, 2005], Iraqi and U.S. forces have carried out a series of little-noticed raids in Baghdad, Mosul and other areas that led to the killing or capture of at least eight al-Zarqawi operatives. And then there was the story about the “Jordanian rebel” eluding “capture by American troops, but [leaving] behind a treasure trove of information” on a laptop computer. It was reported al-Zarqawi jumped out of a truck and ran to a safe house in Ramadi, even though he only has one leg.

Now that “civil war” has spread over Iraq, as engineered (the idea is to break up Iraq into three ethnic and religious pieces), the Pentagon may want to move on from the al-Zarqawi PSYOP program. “Has the US created, as part of a covert intelligence operation, a bogus ‘resistance movement’ made up of its own Al Qaeda sponsored ‘terrorists’? Their suicide attacks target Iraqi civilians rather than the US military,” Michel Chossudovsky writes.

The suicide bombings tend to encourage sectarian divisions not only within Iraq, but throughout the entire Middle East. They serve Washington’s interests. They contribute to undermining the development of a broader resistance movement uniting Shia, Sunni, Kurds and Christians against the illegal occupation of the Iraqi homeland. They also tend to create, at the international level, divisions within the antiwar and peace movements.

Moreover, the disinformation campaign also permeates the Iraqi and Middle East press. The latter tend to take the alleged Al Zarqawi’s statements published on the internet at face value. The Zarqawi threat to the Shia is seen as genuine. The links between Al Qaeda in Iraq and US intelligence is rarely mentioned.

By Kurt Nimmo
06/08/06 "Another Day In The Empire"

Another 'Turning Point'

Dissecting the Zargawi Spectacle

Timing is everything. And to the managers of the Iraq War, perception has always trumped reality. From the beginning it was a war of media stunts—the attempt to assassinate Saddam with 50 cruise missiles before the invasion, the Shock and Awe, the bringing down of the statues, Jessica Lynch, Saddam in the hole, the purple fingered Iraq election and many events staged for media consumption.

The essence of information/media warfare is to seize the advantage, frame the story, and capture the audiences’ imagination from the staged flags of Iwo Jima to that not so safe house in Baquba.

And now we have the bloodied head of the feared Zarqawi displayed on TV by the very military that will not allow us to see the American dead coming home. He was brought down by not one, but two, 500 pound bombs, in a later televised operation that CNN tells us cost $500,000 and has been underway for months. (And despite their devestating impact was apparently not blown to smithereens.)

What a coup! What a show! And what an event for Iraqi “leaders” to show-off with terms like he has been “eliminated.” Within hours, the spinmeisters were claiming a “major victory” and pronouncing another “turning point.”

Think also of the timing. Yes, they think about timing all the time. Timing is, as I have said, everything. A day earlier the NY Times had the defeat of the CIA backed warlords in Somalia on page one. The day and week before, it was All the Haditha, All The time with many commentators like Paul Rodgers, to cite one example, arguing that responsibility for the crimes and the cover-ups goes way UP the chain of command.

Not good. Not good at all. In fact, a very public opinion conscious Administration was aware, had to be aware, that a new AP poll was coming out showing well over 50% of the American public as sick of the war. Here’s that report.

“The poll, taken Monday through Wednesday before news broke that U.S. forces had killed al-Zarqawi, found that 59 percent of adults say the United States made a mistake in going to war in Iraq — the highest level yet in AP-Ipsos polling.”

How do you get all those folks back on the proverbial reservation? How do you turn around a public relations disaster?”

The answer: give them a mediagenic "Miracle" something to wave the flag again about.

What better time to pull the rabbit out of the hat and dominate the news cycle by burying the bad news while producing some good news. It’s that oldest of formulas called “change the subject.”

And yesterday morning, they changed it with AP reporting:

“With al-Zarqawi out of the way and the new government in place, some Sunni Arab leaders may be emboldened to resume a dialogue they started last fall — exchanges sunk by al-Zarqawi's al-Qaida in Iraq.”


According to Raw Story, the hunt for Zargawi had been underway for a long time with its recent success only disclosed, of course, way after the fact.

”According to military and intelligence sources, five of Zarqawi's men were picked up in early May by an already ongoing effort by an elite US special ops force, known by some as Gray Fox and by others as Task Force 145, which had been scouring Iraq for Zarqawi since the insurgency began.”


HMMMM…..Isn’t “Gray Fox” a perfect name in the age of Fox News?

So they may have known where he was in early May. But rather then reeling him in then, they waited for a more opportune moment in order to maximize the impact.. Like yesterday!

Significantly, the “good guys” moved just as a trifecta of bad news stories was souring the public on the War on Terror

The new message of the day quickly became “Gotcha,” recalling L Paul Bremer’s announcement of the capture of s Saddam with an upbeat, “We got him.”

The implication, of course, echoed on every major media outlet is that now the tide will turn.

No one remembered or mentioned an NBC story aired in 2004 that reported the Administration had three opportunities to kill Zarqawi and didn’t. NBC Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski reported on March 2, 2004

”NBC News has learned that long before the war the Bush administration had several chances to wipe out his terrorist operation and perhaps kill Zarqawi himself — but never pulled the trigger.”


The unquestioned assumption in the mainstream is that Zarqawi is Al Qaeda and since, everyone hates Al Qaeda, with him out of the way, peace is at hand, the insurgency is history.

Not so fast.

Professor Juan Cole, who knows more about Iraq than any ten TV journalists, was quick to point out:

’There is no evidence of operational links between his Salafi Jihadis in Iraq and the real al-Qaeda; it was just a sort of branding that suited everyone, including the US. Official US spokesmen have all along over-estimated his importance. Leaders are significant and not always easily replaced. But Zarqawi has in my view has been less important than local Iraqi leaders and groups. I don't expect the guerrilla war to subside any time soon.”

The key words again: “just a sort of branding,” just another way of saying that show biz has infiltrated news biz with Zarqawi playing the role of the evil pirate that everyone can blame any crimes they want. In fact as Mazin Qumsiyeh, a Middle East Human right activist points out, the press has long distorted his relationship to the resistance:

”Zarqawi was not a leader of the Iraqi resistance/insurgency. In fact, the leadership of the Iraqi resistance condemned Zarqawi and company. US intelligence itself believes that most of the resistance is home grown and not linked to Zarqawi/Al-Qaeda. This was intentionally obfuscated in the media parroting of government triumphalist PR.”

Hmmm..."government triumphalist PR."

The Nation’s David Corn also argues the resistance will fight on:

”His death--brought about by a US air strike that was apparently ordered after a captured Zarqawi lieutenant disclosed Zarqawi's favorite hiding places--may not mean much in terms of bringing peace, democracy and stability to Iraq. His al Qaeda in Iraq--which was estimated to number no more than several hundred fighters--made up the smallest slice of the insurgency. His departure will not have much impact on the forces fueling the fighting and chaos in Iraq.”

On the right, the news rapidly became grist for talking points in the ditto head echo chamber. Here’s a smirking comment in a blog called Red State:

”My guess is that he is not going to find those 72 virgins either. He may find a bunch of disgruntled suicide bombers who didn't get their virgins! My impression is that there aren't a lot of sweet virgins in hell. Abu is going to burn in hell for some time, perhaps forever!

“Furthermore, he was killed because of a tip from an Iraqi citizen. This morning, Dan Seanor,(sic) former coalition spokesman, said that tips are coming in from all over Iraq.”


What about the Tipping point argument? Stop The War's Malcolm Kendal Smith in England writes.

”The anti-war movement will not feel sorry in any way over Zarqawi's death. While we have always defended the right of Iraqis under international law to resist the US and British occupation of their country, we have never supported the use of tactics which target innocent Iraqi civilians, of the kidnapping of aid workers such as Margaret Hassan, or the murder of journalists who have died in record numbers trying to report the realities of life in Iraq since the war in 2003.

“Zarqawi and his terrorism were a consequence of the illegal invasion of Iraq. As were the 1,400 deaths by violent means recorded in May 2006 by Baghdad's central morgue alone. As were the numerous atrocities committed by the US military, the names of which are engraved for ever in history: Abu Ghraib, Fallujah, Tal Afar, Haditha and many more….

“Zaqawi's death will no more be a turning point for Iraq than any of the "new beginnings" proclaimed by Bush and Blair, because the chaos, destruction and slaughter in Iraq can only end when their source is removed – i.e. when all the occupying troops leave Iraq and Iraqis are free to decide for themselves how they want their country to be governed."

Not everyone on the left in the UK feels this way. Jonathan Steele of the Guardian believes “The death of Abu Musab al Zarqawi offers Iraq's government a chance, long term, to fix the mess created by the U.S. and Britain.”



These events and the continuing horrors there may not mobilize a war weary country as Bob Herbert noted in the NY Times.

”For the smug, comfortable, well-off Americans, it doesn't seem to matter how long the war in Iraq goes on - as long as the agony is endured by others. If the network coverage gets too grim, viewers can always switch to the E! channel (one hand on the remote, the other burrowing into a bag of chips) to follow the hilarious antics of Paris, Britney, Brangelina et al.


And no facts, no revelations, no exposes will dislodge the ideologues for whom no crime cannot be excused or ignored. Here’s Gordon Sawyer fulminating on a website in Georgia:

"Let me ask you: does it make you sick in the pit of your stomach to read or hear about our GI's being investigated for possible criminal charges because they shot someone in the heat of battle? These are our brightest and best who volunteered to defend our freedom, and here they are in Haditha, Iraq, doing the job we-the-people asked them to do. And what do we know about the situation last November 19 in which some Iraqis were killed. First we know Haditha is a hotbed for the bad guys….

This could have happened to any one of the military people we have in Iraq ... any one of the soldiers of Charlie Company (My Lai?), or any of the young Marines from our area"...

Gordon is no doubt happy today with Zarqawi the Horrible out of the way. Unfortunately, whether he likes it or not, the bloodshed will continue and those who committed crimes there will eventually be brought to justice, Moses, Jesus, and Allah willing.


Ian Williams reports on a speech by Deputy Secretary Mark Malloch Ground criticizing the US government’s stance and the hysterical response by UN Ambassador John Bolton:

”Malloch Brown also reminded the audience that the US and UN have been "constructively engaged, on Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and many other areas. This may have been a euphemism for "the UN doing what the US wanted," but in any case American demands on such questions tend to run into epistemological problems.

“For example, Ambassador Bolton currently has to persuade the other members of the Security Council, whose votes he has dismissed as irrelevant, to make the UN that he thinks the US should quit, enforce international law, in which he does not believe, against Iran for non-existent breaches of a Nuclear Non-proliferation treaty that he himself had been trying to sabotage in his previous position as head of disarmament affairs at the State Department.

“Of course Malloch Brown was not so crass as to name Bolton. The clever thing to do would have been to ignore the speech, but since Bolton has all the diplomatic skills of a Bull elephant on heat, he rose to the bait and angrily denounced the Deputy Secretary General, thus reinforcing the latter's credibility with the non-aligned delegations.”


Another Good Read: Robert Perry:” Why Democrats Lose”



Tom Hayden writes:

“I kept the feelings to myself, but i was hoping that Marcy Winograd would achieve 33 percent in her anti-war campaign against Jane Harman. When Winograd finished with 37.5 percent, many of her diehard supporters may have been dismayed. But I was deeply relieved because she had been tested and proven herself a serious threat to the hawkish consensus, now and in the future.

Politics is simplified into winning and losing, but politics also is a process of changing the balance of forces. Marcy revealed the hidden depth of anti-war sentiment among Democrats, and delivered a message for 2008.

By Danny Schechter

06/09/06 "News Dissector "