The Timely Death of al-Zarqawi

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Abu Musab Saddam
Osama al-Zarqawi, the extremely elusive if not entirely mythical
terrorist mastermind responsible for every single insurgent action
in Iraq except for the ones caused by the red-tailed devils in Iran
or the stripey-tailed devils in Syria, has reportedly been killed
in an airstrike in Hibhib, an area north of Baghdad, Iraqi
Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki announced Thursday

Zarqawi, the
notorious shape-shifter who, according to grainy video evidence,
was able to regenerate lost limbs, speak in completely different
accents, alter the contours of his bone structure and also suffered
an unfortunate binge-and-purge weight problem which caused him to
change sizes with almost every appearance, was head of an organization
that quite fortuitously dubbed itself "Al Qaeda in Iraq"
just around the time that the Bush Administration began changing
its pretext for the conquest from "eliminating Iraq’s [non-existent]
weapons of mass destruction" to "fighting terrorists over
there so we don’t have to fight them over here."

The name change
of the Zarqawi gang from its cumbersome original – "The
Monotheism and Holy War Group" – to the more media-sexy
"Qaeda" brand was thus a PR godsend for the Bush Administration,
which was then able to associate the widespread native uprising
against the Coalition occupation with the cave-dwelling dastards
of the bin Laden organization. This proved an invaluable tool for
the Pentagon’s massive "psy-op" campaign against the American
people, which was successful in sufficiently obscuring reality and
defusing rising public concerns about what many experts have termed
"the full-blown FUBAR" in Iraq until after the 2004 elections.

However, in
the last year, even the reputed presence of a big stonking al Qaeda
beheader guy roaming at will across the land has not prevented a
catastrophic drop in support for President Bush in general and the
war in Iraq in particular. Polls show that substantial majorities
– even those still psy-oped into believing the conquest has
something to do with fighting terrorism – are now saying that
the war "is not worth it" and call for American forces
to begin withdrawing.

With the Zarqawi
theme thus producing diminishing returns, the Administration has
had another stroke of unexpected luck with his reputed sudden demise.
Moreover, the fact that Zarqawi was killed in a military action
means that Mr. Bush will not have to cough up the $25 million reward
placed on the head of the terrorist chieftain. That money will now
be given to Mr. Bush’s favorite charity, Upper-Class Twits Against
the Inheritance Tax, an Administration spokesman said.

Despite its
fortuitousness, the
reputed death
of the multi-legged brigand came as no real surprise.
After all, approximately 376 of his "top lieutenants"
had been killed or captured by Coalition forces in the past three
years, according to press reports, and some 5,997 lower-ranking
"al Qaeda terrorists" have been killed in innumerable
operations during that same period, according to Pentagon press
releases. With the widespread, on-going, much-publicized decimation
of his group, Zarqawi had obviously been rendered isolated and ineffective
– except of course for the relentless series of high-profile
terrorist spectaculars he kept carrying out, according to other
Pentagon press releases.

News of the
reputed rub-out brought bipartisan praise. "This enormous victory
in the War on Terror is due entirely to the courage and wisdom of
the president," squealed Senate Majority Leader Lick Spittle
of Tennessee. "He has seen us through when so many of the flag-burning
destroyers of marriage wanted to cut and run. I think this president
is the best president the world has ever seen, and if I am ever
fortunate enough to be chosen as president by the American people
– minus the three million or so whose votes will be discarded,
lost, inadvertently mangled or just ignored, of course – I
promise I’ll be a president just like him!"

"We must
give credit where credit is due," said Democratic Sen. Joe
Biden, in a rare television appearance. "I have my differences
with the way the Administration is conducting this war, but the
elimination of Zarqawi is, I believe, a turning point, comparable
to the capture of Saddam Hussein, the first Iraqi elections, the
second Iraqi elections, the formation of the first Iraqi government
and the formation of the second Iraqi government. This is not the
end, or even the beginning of the end, but it is, I believe, the
end of the beginning. And no, I didn’t plagiarize that. I made it
up my own self."

The reputed
end of Zarqawi’s reign of terror comes a mere four years after U.S.
forces had pinpointed
his hideout and were prepared to destroy his entire operation
only to be forestalled by the White House. Before the war, Zarqawi
and his band of non-Iraqi Islamic extremists had a camp in northern
Iraq, in territory controlled by American-backed Kurdish forces,
who had wrested it from the hands of Saddam Hussein. U.S. Special
Forces, CIA agents and other American personnel had a free hand
to operate there; indeed, anti-Saddam Iraqi exiles held open meetings
in the territory, safe from the reach of the dictator.

In June 2002,
American forces had locked in on Zarqawi’s location. They prepared
a detailed attack plan that would have destroyed the terrorist band.
But their request to strike was turned down not once, but twice
by the White House. Administration officials feared that such a
strike would have muddied the waters in their public relations effort
to foment war fever against Saddam’s regime.

At every turn,
the Bush team had painted a picture of Saddam Hussein as a powerful
dictator able to threaten the entire world. They had implied, insinuated
and sometimes openly declared that he was in league with al Qaeda.
But this wildly successful psy-ops campaign would have been undermined
by a raid on Zarqawi, which would have exposed the truth: that Saddam
was a crippled, toothless despot who had lost control of much of
his own land and couldn’t even threaten vast enemy armies within
his own borders – much less his neighbors or the rest of the
world. It would have also exposed the fact that the only Islamic
terrorists operating on Iraqi soil were in areas controlled by America
and its allies – which, now that Mr. Bush’s invasion has opened
the whole country to extremist terror, is still the case.

With Zarqawi’s
Bush-granted liberty reputedly at an end, the Pentagon moved quickly
to confirm the identity of the man killed in Hibhib today. At a
joint press conference with Prime Minister Maliki, U.S. Gen. George
Casey said Zarqawi’s body had been identified by "fingerprints,
facial recognition and known scars" after a painstaking forensic
examination by Lt. Col. Gil Grissom and Major Catherine Willows.

In yet another
amazing coincidence, the announcement of the death of Zarqawi or
somebody just like him came just as Prime Minister Maliki was finally
submitting his candidates for the long-disputed posts of defense
and interior ministers, which then sailed through parliament after
months of deadlock. The
fortuitous death
also came after perhaps the worst week of bad
PR the Bush Administration has endured during the entire war, with
an outpouring of stories alleging a number of horrific atrocities
committed by U.S. troops in recent months.

Oddly enough,
Zarqawi first vaulted into the American consciousness just after
the public exposure of earlier U.S. atrocities: the tortures at
Abu Ghraib prison in the spring of 2004. With story after story
of horrible abuse battering the Administration during an election
year, Zarqawi, or someone just like him, suddenly appeared with
a Grand Guignol production: the beheading of American civilian Nick
Berg. This atrocity was instantly seized upon by supporters of the
war to justify the "intensive interrogation" of "terrorists"
– even though the
Red Cross had determined
that 70 to 90 percent of American captives
at that time had committed no crime whatsoever, much less been involved
in terrorism, as the notorious anti-war Wall Street Journal reported.
Abu Ghraib largely faded from the public eye – indeed, it was
not mentioned by a single speaker at the Democratic National Convention
a few weeks later or raised as an issue during the presidential
campaign that year.

Today’s news
has likewise knocked the new atrocity allegations off the front
pages, to be replaced with heartening stories of how, as the New
York Times reports, Zarqawi’s death "appears to mark a major
watershed in the war." Thus in his reputed end as in his reputed
beginning, the Scarlet Pimpernel of Iraq has, by remarkable coincidence,
done yeoman service for the immediate publicity needs of his deadly
enemy, the Bush Administration.

It is not yet
known who will now take Zarqawi’s place as the new all-purpose,
all-powerful bogeyman solely responsible for every bad thing in
Iraq. There were recent indications that Maliki himself was being
measured for the post, after he publicly denounced American atrocities
and the occupiers’ propensity for hair-trigger killing of civilians,
but he seems to be back with the program now. Administration insiders
are reportedly divided over shifting the horns to Iranian President
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s already much-demonized head, or planting them
on extremist Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, or elevating some hitherto
unknown local talent – or maybe just blaming the whole shebang
on Fidel Castro, for old times’ sake.

The announcement
of the new bogeyman is expected sometime in the coming weeks.

It looks like the Twits might not get that reward money after all.
Prime Minister Maliki said that those who helped locate Zarqawi,
or someone just like him, in Hibhib, would get their reward "later."
"We believe in honoring our commitments." However, the
Times of London’s man in Iraq, Ned Parker, tells us that Zazqawi
might have been shopped
to the Americans by Iraqi insurgents

One of the
most interesting things about the news of his death is the timing.
There have been talks going on since the election last December
by US and Iraqi officials to try to bring the homegrown insurgency
back into the political process. Certainly there was tension between
the homegrown Iraqi insurgency and Zarqawi’s foreign fighters.
So it’s possible a deal was finally cut by some branch of the
Iraqi insurgency to eliminate al-Zarqawi and rid themselves of
his heavy-handed influence.

So if Bush
does decide to pay off the informants – and it’s his money, after
all, not Maliki’s; in fact, in today’s Iraq, any money that Maliki’s
government might still have left after three years of occupation
rapine is Bush’s money too – but if Zarqawi’s rumblers are paid
off, then it’s likely that Bush will be forking over $25 million
to Iraq’s Sunni insurgents. That will certainly keep them flush
with IEDs for a long time to come. It’s FUBAR every which way you
turn in Bush’s Babylon.

9, 2006

Floyd, Global Eye columnist for the Moscow Times, is the
author of Empire
Burlesque: The Secret History of the Bush Regime

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