by Stan Goff
Musab al-Zarqawi is apparently dead. The United States armed forces in Iraq
have been bombing al-Zarqawi hideouts almost weekly since May 2004 when American
businessman Nicholas Berg was shockingly beheaded on film, and someone claiming
to be Zarqawi is said to have taken credit for it. With a $25 million reward
on his head, there were surely a series of tragic mistakes based on opportunistic
It’s hard to
say who was more interested in transforming the Jordanian Bedouin fighter,
formerly Ahmad Fadhil Nazzal al-Khalayleh, into a legend -- Zarqawi himself
or the American military. Now the Bush administration will reap the short-term
reward for this dramatis persona... and the long-term grief. This is the latest
symbolic rabbit that the administration has pulled out of the hat labeled
“turning the corner.” The press will tune in and turn on to this docudrama
with monotonous predictability. The Bush administration will get a little
bump in the polls as people divert their attention from its other political
chicaneries and snatch at the last threads of hope that: the war is about
terrorism, after all, and we are the good guys; the lives lost will not be
in vain, and we will really “turn the corner” this time... the Iraqis and
the world will see that we are a benign and beneficial nation.
But the attention-deficit
disorder of the media and a society inebriated on the instant gratification
of the consumer bacchanalia will watch this triumphalism fade, in days, not
weeks, and the grating realities of our culture’s meaningless drudgery and
vacuous need to be entertained, the steadily mounting casualties, rising gas
prices, the Haditha massacres... all of it will return. When it does, the
draught will be that much more bitter. The war will continue. The blood will
spill. Even fewer people will retain the capacity to fall, yet again, for
the old Turning-the-Corner parlor trick.
Pentagon and the White House will have lost the personification of evil that
Zarqawi represented to justify the war. As Scott McClellan -- before his ticket
was punched -- said hundreds of times, like one of those dolls with a string
on its back, “Iraq is the front line in the global war on terror.” Zarqawi
was the ultimate “foreign fighter,” one who willingly adopted the name “al
Qaeda in Iraq,” feeding the mistaken notion that there is actually an organization
called al Qaeda, an official enemy that is global and eternal, and now manifest
on this particular part of the oil patch.
Just this year,
the Washington Post published a document showing that the Pentagon
had an active program to legendize Zarqawi.
campaign is discussed in several of the internal military documents. ‘Villainize
Zarqawi/leverage xenophobia response,’ one U.S. military briefing from 2004
stated. It listed three methods: ‘Media operations,’ ‘Special Ops (626)’ (a
reference to Task Force 626, an elite U.S. military unit assigned primarily
to hunt in Iraq for senior officials in Hussein’s government) and ‘PSYOP,’
the U.S. military term for propaganda work...” (Washington Post, 10 April
public-relations staff, with the active assistance of an obsequious US press,
successfully portrayed Zarqawi as a one-man dynamo, an evil genius who was
single-handedly running most of the “insurgency” in Iraq, a take-off on the
earlier theme of foreign fighters being the majority of the resistance. This,
and we should remember when the British SAS was caught in the act of planting
bombs last year that would have been attributed, undoubtedly, to Zarqawi.
“They won’t have
Ahmad Fadhil Nazzal al-Khalayleh to kick around any more,” to coin a phrase.
No they won’t, and it will be their loss. Zarqawi will be sorely missed in
The rabbits in
the Turn-the-Corner hat get smaller with each passing day.