Monday, June 12, 2006

Dead Men Tell No Tales

by Eric Margolis
June 12, 2006

`Zarqawi will be dead soon,’ two of his disgruntled Jordanian supporters told me last March. `He will be betrayed by his own men.’ They were referring to the notorious Jordanian-born guerilla leader who was finally cornered and killed last week by US forces.

That’s likely what happened, contrary to US reports of having tracked down Iraq’s most-wanted militant. Tipped off that al-Zarqawi was in a rural house outside the city of Baquba, US aircraft bombed it, killing him, two or three aides, and a woman and child. Who will collect the $25 million bounty offered by the US on Zarqawi remains to be seen.

An interesting question: since the US knew Zarqawi’s location and had it surrounded, why did it not try to take him alive? He would have been full of useful information, like captured genuine al-Qaida members? Perhaps because dead men tell no tales?

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the poster-boy of so-called `Islamic terrorism,’ was born in Zarqa, Jordan. He came closest to fitting the term `terrorist’ of anyone since the late, unlamented mass killer, Abu Nidal. Both were vicious killers who reveled in mass violence and cruel executions. They quickly forgot political goals and devoted themselves to wanton, often aimless bloodshed and extortion.

Few will miss Zarqawi. But his assassination is not `a major victory against al-Qaida,’ as President Bush claimed.

Contrary to erroneous reports promoted by the US government, Zarqawi’s so-called `al-Qaida in Iraq’ was not truly part of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida movement, and he was not the leader of the anti-US resistance in Iraq.

After the US invaded Iraq, Zarqawi, who had been a member of a small, mainly Kurdish anti-Saddam militant group, set up his own tiny radical organization. In a clever ploy to achieve instant notoriety, Zarqawi proclaimed it `al-Qaida in Iraq.’

The real al-Qaida was most displeased by Zarqawi’s brazen trademark infringement. This deception was enhanced by American-produced faked letters supposedly `intercepted’ by US forces claiming to show Zarqawi was part of al-Qaida and acting under bin Laden’s direct orders. This Soviet-style disinformation was gobbled up by the US media.

Osama bin Ladin and his deputy, Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri, repeatedly criticized Zarqawi’s bloody attacks on Muslim civilians, his kidnapping, and gruesome decapitations of hostages as `un-Islamic.’

Iraq’s twenty-odd resistance groups battling US-British occupation also strongly denounced Zarqawi’s murderous car and truck bombing rampages aimed at igniting a civil war between Sunnis, Shia and Kurds.

Some Iraqi resistance leaders and some Arab media even claimed Zarqawi and his henchmen were covert
‘agents provocateurs’ working for the US and Britain to stir up ethnic tensions as part of Britain’s old `divide and rule’ techniques.

This sounded far-fetched until the arrest in Basra of British SAS commandos armed with explosives and disguised as Arabs, leading many to believe Zarqawi’s men were indeed western double agents or criminals working for hire.

Now that Zarqawi is dead, what next? First, he will be unmourned. Zarqawi was universally hated and feared. In no way can he be hailed as a martyr or noble mujahid.

Ironically, the only people who may miss him are the Bush Administration’s pro-war neoconservatives. Zarqawi played a major starring role in US propaganda efforts to convince credulous Americans that the Bush Administration launched an unprovoked invasion of oil-rich Iraq `as the central front in the war on terrorism.

Zarqawi and his men spent most of their time killing Iraqi Shia civilians. The majority of attacks on US occupation forces in Iraq are conducted by former members of Saddam Hussein’s military, special forces, Baath Party, and other small underground nationalist groups like Nasserites and anti-Saddam nationalists.

So Zarwaqi’s death may mean a lessening of murderous attacks on Shia civilians, but is unlikely to take the heat of US-British occupation forces. In fact, his death might even promote better Sunni-Shia relations, allowing for the emergence of a more independent-minded Iraqi government that could increasingly reject Washington’s near-total `guidance.’

The first small but significant hints of such independence emerged in recent weeks when the new Baghdad government openly complained about the slaughter of Iraqi civilians by US troops.

The Iraqi resistance is fragmented into more than a score of shadowy groups. No single leader has yet emerged. Now that Zarqawi is gone, the US will need to find another demonic figure with which to keep selling the war to Americans at home and to US troops in Iraq, 75% of whom still amazingly believe Saddam Hussein launched the 9/11 attacks.

Assassinating Zarqawi will give Bush a short-lived bump in the polls. But in the longer run, killing him was perhaps not such a great idea. For the US, Zarqawi was far more useful alive. Iraqis, however, will be universally better off.

copyright Eric S. Margolis 2006


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