Dead Men Left

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

"Zarqawi: Bush's man for all seasons"

This is an interesting article on Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, containing at least two useful pieces of information:

The US$25 million bounty on his head makes Zarqawi an equal of bin Laden on America’s most-wanted list. Soon Zarqawi started being characterized simultaneously as al-Qaeda’s top operative in Iraq, and the number one promoter of civil war in that country. His organization, al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (Unity and Holy War), cornered the global market of gory videos showing hostages chained, caged and beheaded. The Bush administration went into full gear, wanting the world to believe that petty criminal Zarqawi was holding the world hostage.

What had he actually done until 2004? Not much. Unlike bin Laden in 1998, he never issued a declaration of war against Jews and Crusaders. Because Zarqawi may have been in northern Iraq at the time - training Ansar al-Islam fighters - and because he may have traveled to Baghdad in May 2002 to treat his injured, or amputated leg, was evidence enough for Powell to speak of “a sinister nexus between Iraq and the al-Qaeda terrorist network”. Powell of course never mentioned two crucial facts: even if Zarqawi was really in northern Iraq, he was in a safe heaven for Iraqi Kurds; and Ansar al-Islam was a mortal enemy of Saddam’s Ba’athists. Not to mention the fact that the Pentagon always refused to take out Ansar’s base: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was not interested in obliterating a perfect pretext for the war. Moreover, Ansar could also be used as an ally against Saddam


So, first Zarqawi was used as a justification for the Iraqi war; then he became the reason for why there was no peace. Instead, what sources close to the resistance tell Asia Times Online, is that Zarqawi is a minor player: most Iraqis, Shi’ite and Sunni alike, reject his brutal methods, and even Islamic clerics who support the resistance but criticize Zarqawi’s methods are routinely denounced by Zarqawi as “collaborators”.

Where is his “base”? Zarqawi may have found plenty of funds and manpower in Saudi Arabia, especially after the siege of Fallujah in April, as well as in pockets of the Sunni triangle. Tawhid does exist as a movement, it may have as many as 1,000 members. Once again, the majority of the Iraqi resistance refuse to blow up Iraqi policemen or the desperate urban youth queuing up every day to get jobs in the security services. But for Tawhid, any Iraqi collaborating with the occupation in any way is a legitimate target.

Everything imaginable, in Iraq and elsewhere, has been attributed to Zarqawi: the Casablanca and Istanbul bombings in 2003; the assassination in August 2003, in Najaf, of key Shi’ite player Ayatollah al-Hakim; bomb attacks in February 2004 where more than 100 unemployed people applying for a job with the Iraqi police were killed; the Madrid bombings in March; the beheading of Berg; a wave of attacks in June, with more than 100 dead; the beheadings of the two Americans Armstrong and Hensley and Briton Bigley in September/October. Zarqawi is connected to something like three dozen “terrorist attacks” in Iraq, not to mention countless warnings, threats or communiques. But only half a dozen attacks among roughly 3,000 against the Americans and the so-called coalition can be attributed with certainty to Zarqawi.

There's also some background on US "psychological operations" and all that stuff; to be honest, I generally tend to be a bit wary of such talk. It's not so much that cunning plots to manipulate public politics are not hatched by security services (take Colin Wallace and "Clockwork Orange" in Northern Ireland, for example), just that they are of relatively minor importance. Conspiracies do not make history. The machinations of small groups rarely decide what whole societies can and cannot do. This applies especially under developed capitalism's pressing need for public legitimation and its comparatively open system of political management.