Zarqawi; the Pentagon’s ongoing war of deception
By Mike Whitney
-- -- In more than 3 years of war, there has
never been a positive citing of alleged terror mastermind Abu Musab al Zarqawi. This has led many to believe that he is merely
a creation of Pentagon propagandists working with their agents
in the western press. Colonel Derek Harvey strengthened those
suspicions last week when he admitted in a Washington Post
article that the military intentionally “enlarged Zarqawi’s
caricature” to create the impression that the ongoing struggle
against occupation was really a fight against terrorism. But,
that is not the case. As Harvey notes, “The long term threat is
not Zarqawi or religious extremists, but former regime types and
The Pentagon has tried to discredit Col. Harvey, but the damage
has already been done. The mask has been removed from the War
Dept’s rather ineffective black-op, and the American public has
a great opportunity to see the amount of energy that goes into
fabricating a narrative to support an unpopular war.
The Zarqawi-myth is strikingly different from other examples of
Pentagon propaganda. The Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman stories
both followed a familiar pattern of exaggerating American
bravery to shore up support on the home-front. This type of
propaganda is harmless and can be expected to appear in
virtually any conflict. So too, there’s nothing unusual about
the Pentagon’s attempts to distance itself from its actions
which resulted in the needless (but predictable) deaths of
innocent civilians, like the bombing of wedding parties or the
recent rampage in Haditha where a number Iraqi noncombatants
were killed. All this is par for the course.
The Zarqawi case is vastly different from these traditional
forms of propaganda. It is information-warfare aimed exclusively
at the American people with the intention of manipulating their
perceptions. It builds the case for war out of whole cloth.
Zarqawi has become the central justification for the ongoing
occupation; a threatening, spectral figure who embodies the
evils of terrorism. His image has overshadowed the obvious
self-serving motives which led to the invasion and the
subsequent destruction of Iraqi society.
Undoubtedly, many of the generals who are calling for Rumsfeld’s
resignation must be uncomfortable with this deliberate effort to
deceive the American people. Not surprisingly, support for the
war has eroded in direct proportion to the administration’s loss
of credibility. The lies simply haven’t helped at all. The
exposing of Zarqawi is bound to further erode whatever small
amount of faith still remains in government’s trustworthiness.
The influence of foreign fighters in Iraq has always been
trivial. In the sieges of Falluja and Tel Afar less than 3% of
those captured were non-Iraqis, and even those figures are in
doubt. Never the less, a disproportionate number of articles
appearing in the media have focused on uncorroborated claims of
suicide bombings, beheadings, etc in an attempt to demonize an
enemy that is mostly a Pentagon invention. The lesson we draw
from this is powerful; nothing the military says can be trusted.
The civilian leadership, particularly Donald Rumsfeld, who we
expect has authored many of these clever propaganda-schemes,
should consider now whether the damage to their credibility has
been worth the small gains they may have made in hoodwinking the
public. It may be altruistic to think that “honesty is the best
policy”, but clearly, deception as policy has some glaring
shortcomings as support for the war continues to diminish.
The media’s role in facilitating the Zarqawi charade cannot be
overstated. New York Times reporter Dexter Filkins has been
singled out for running a dubious letter from Zarqawi “boasting
of suicide attacks” on the front page of the Times. Filkins
sheepishly admitted that he was “skeptical” about the letter but
that didn’t stop him (or 1,400 newspapers across the world) from
using the piece to spread unsubstantiated claims about an
imaginary Muslim terrorist.
Filkins, of course, is a very bright guy and knew that he was
being used to promote the racist themes that have engendered
greater suspicion of Muslims and fueled public hysteria. Still,
Filkins is just one small cog in the mighty corporate
propaganda-matrix which spews out anti-Arab hatred on a daily
basis. Zarqawi is merely a way of vilifying the people who
occupy the lands which possess the resources required to
maintain western prosperity.
In my own research, I have spend a few evenings going over
hundreds of articles on Zarqawi to find anything that might
confirm his existence. As noted earlier, there are no reliable
eyewitness accounts. What we find instead, is sometimes as many
as 2,200 articles appearing on any given day pointing to
Zarqawi’s involvement in a bombing without any tangible proof of
The news has simply become another “faith based” operation like
the Bush administration.
Zarqawi-related news is devoid of any factual content. The
accepted policy of the news agencies (without exception) is to
reiterate the same Pentagon talking points, suspicions, and
baseless claims as their peers. This gives us some insight into
the collaborative relationship between the corporate media and
their allies in the defense establishment. The Pentagon’s
apparitions immediately become part of the national dialogue
completely unchallenged by anyone in the news industry.
We should not expect that the Zarqawi myth will disappear
anytime soon. The Bush administration has demonstrated a
stubborn determination to cling to their fantasies no matter how
threadbare they become. Besides, as Brigadier-General Mark
Kimmitt noted, “The Zarqawi PSYOP program is the most successful
information campaign to date”.
Indeed, it probably is.
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