© Bryan Zepp Jamieson 6/10/06
Al-Zarqawi is dead. Chances are you might have heard about it in passing. The right wing, serene and confident, has no need to blow this up into a major victory for America that shows that, once and for all, Amerga is winning the warrenterrah.
In reality, even Putsch was soft-pedaling the ramifications of the death of a man, it’s pretty much universally agreed, belongs on everyone’s better-dead list. Putsch has been burned so many times by his own “light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel” pronouncements that he’s not doing it again. If a garden slug can learn to avoid hot dry surfaces, there’s no reason to suppose the president of the United States can’t, on good days, achieve the same level of mentation as a garden slug.
That hasn’t stopped other right wingers from crowing that America has won. Claudia Rosett declared it “an important battlefield” victory. Tripping all over her own spin, she explained that it was important to reduce figures such as al-Zarqawi “in the public imagination to mortal scale.” She then praised the US military for doing just that by producing the video of Zarqawi playing around with a gun he clearly didn’t understand. So if he had been already reduced to mortal scale, wouldn’t it be smarter to keep him alive?
In case you are wondering who Claudia Rossett is, she’s a self-described journalist from “The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies”. In other words, she’s a flack from a right wing think tank, there to provide talking points to a compliant US media who would have covered World War Two by balancing Roosevelt speeches with pro-Hitler editorials from the German-American Bund. She’s there to broadcast admin propaganda while giving the admin deniability for when the propaganda follows the same embarrassing progression that “mission accomplished” and the capture of Saddam did. She’s there to look like a fool because the president has learned to avoid hot dry surfaces.
The fact is that Zarqawi was pretty much an American invention. He was a third rate thug with no recognizable leadership potential and the US was casting around frantically for a bogeyman to replace the captured Saddam, and didn’t dare use Osama bin Laden since Putsch, for his own reasons, doesn’t want him captured or killed.
So Zarqawi was pumped up to be “the leader of al Qaida in Iraq”, which is a bit like being the leader of the Green Party in Alabama. Al Qaida isn’t a big player in the Iraq resistance; even the US military admits that it’s 90% home-grown Iraqis, most of whom see the Americans as invaders and occupiers for no other reason than that Americans invaded and occupied their country.
In fact, just a few days earlier, a theory had been making the rounds among right wing bloggers that, according to one such blogger, “Zarqawi had been killing so many Iraqis that he was making it too difficult for al Qaeda to set up cells in Iraq. Bin Laden would rat out Zarqawi, thereby creating a martyr and ending an internal threat.”
Greg Palast recently argued that the US sent the criminally inept Paul Bremmer over to Iraq to deliberately sabotage relations with the Iraqi people and make a large organized resistance inevitable. The notion was that a highly visible and destructive resistance would convince the American people that terrorism was a real and immediate threat, causing them all to cling desperately to Putsch’s pant legs for protection. Despite the innate cowardice of the American right, there is little evidence that this has worked out. Most Americans can see the difference between a Resistance and the type of terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center.
I’m guessing the rest of the Resistance didn’t much mind the Americans singling out Zarqawi. According to reports, he was regarded as something of a buffoon (the video of him with the gun certainly seemed to bear that out) and so his death would be no great loss. In the meantime, by distracting American attention from the real leaders of the insurrection, it gave them carte-blanche to make Iraq ungovernable and effectively put Afghanistan back under Taliban control. Indeed, Zarqawi “died” a couple of times, which served to make the American administration look like buffoons, and I’m sure the insurrectionists were jiggy with that.
So: you have the right trying to pump the killing of this man into something on the level of shooting down Tojo, or Wolfe slaying Montcalm, when the reality is that they just killed the resistance version of Ted Knight.
Meanwhile, the admin remembers the killing of Uday and Qusai, and purple fingers, and the flattening of Fallujah, and shies away from saying anything they’ll regret later.
That didn’t stop the Americans from trying to milk the incident at home and thus lose whatever propaganda mileage they may have gotten from it in Iraq and pretty much the rest of the world.
There were the photos. It is considered sacrilegious and desecration of the dead to photograph a body and to publish the photos the way the military did. Much of the rest of the world, including Americans of better moral values than those held by Republicans, were repulsed at the American 21st century equivalent of sticking the enemy’s head on a pike.
Finally, there’s a report from an eyewitness, one Mohammed Ahmed, who claimed that when American troops arrived at the scene of the bombing, a still-living Zarqawi had been placed in an ambulance, and the troopers then pulled him from the ambulance, put a sack over his head, and proceeded to beat the man to death.
It’s just one eye witness, his unsupported word against that of the military, but given the track record of the once-proud military in Iraq, don’t be too quick to dismiss him out of hand. Even if the report is not true, it will be believed in Iraq, and increase the hatred and resolve of the resistance that much more.
Taking a badly injured man and beating him to death isn’t going to go over, just as plastering the airwaves with pictures of his body won’t. It’s one thing in Arabic culture to defeat a foe, and quite another to humiliate him after the battle is finished.
So everyone who thinks that Zarqawi’s death is turning a corner, or a light at the end of the tunnel, or a turning point in Iraq, forget it. It isn’t. This bloody, unwinnable mess is just going to grind on, and this administration will have no other solution to the mess it has created other than to try to create yet another bogeyman to scare you with.