Blogs > HNN > Musab al Zarqawi: Holy Warrior, Terrorist, Loser

May 5, 2006 2:36 pm

Musab al Zarqawi: Holy Warrior, Terrorist, Loser

American efforts at ideological warfare are dismal enough to make its successes conspicuous by comparison. I was thus delighted to read this front-page item in today's New York Times, describing what seems to me an exceedingly amusing propaganda victory at the expense of the supposedly fearsome Musab al Zarqawi, recently of"Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia." Some choice excerpts from the article drive the point home:
The videotape released last week by the terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi showed him firing long bursts from a machine gun, his forearms sprouting from beneath black fatigues, as he exuded the very picture of a strong jihadist leader.

But in clips the American military released on Thursday and described as captured outtakes from the same video, Mr. Zarqawi, head of the Council of Holy Warriors, cut a different figure.

In one scene, Mr. Zarqawi, the most wanted terrorist in Iraq, appears flummoxed that his American-made M-249 machine gun will not fire fully automatically. Off camera, one aide is heard ordering another,"Go help the sheik." A man walks over and fiddles with the weapon so Mr. Zarqawi can fire it in bursts.Another sequence shows Mr. Zarqawi handing the weapon off to other aides and striding away, revealing white jogging shoes beneath his black guerrilla attire. One insurgent later appears to grab the machine gun absent-mindedly by its scalding-hot barrel and drop it.
No one ever said that the preachers of death knew what the hell they were doing. I regret that I can't reproduce the photo of the hapless Zarqawi struggling with his machine gun, since it represents him as looking like a cross between an overweight Yoda, a short Chewbacca, and a bearded Bozo the Clown.

I don't know whether the clips were or will be shown on American television, but they have not so far been shown on Al Jazeera or Al Arabiya--which apparently deemed them insufficiently newsworthy, or perhaps feared that the bulk of the Arab viewing population might laugh so hard at them as collectively and simultaneously to wet their pants. I agree that that would be a hazard, but I still think the clips would be worth broadcasting.

I generally don't find military people worth quoting about anything (including war), but Gen. Lynch's comment on the video strikes me as rather astute, for a change:

"What you saw on the Internet was what he wanted the world to see," General Lynch said."Look at me, I'm a capable leader of a capable organization, and we are indeed declaring war against democracy inside of Iraq, and we're going to establish an Islamic caliphate."

"What he didn't show you were the clips that I showed, wearing New Balance sneakers with his uniform, surrounded by supposedly competent subordinates who grab the hot barrel of a just-fired machine gun," he said.

"We have a warrior leader, Zarqawi, who doesn't understand how to operate his weapon system and has to rely on his subordinates to clear a weapon stoppage," the general said."It makes you wonder."
The article doesn't tell us what it makes Gen. Lynch wonder, but it makes me wonder why it is that uninformed people rush into print daily to declare the enemy in Iraq utterly invincible, and the war irrevocably lost. Really? Behold the enemy. Have we really lost the war to this guy? How does one do that, anyway?

Of course, if Musab al Zarqawi had really been keeping up with the latest Western fashions (and by"Western" I mean: in Manhattan), he'd have known to wear cowboy boots instead of New Balances. Better luck next time, partner.

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Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

I partly agree with you. I agree that there is no clear yardstick by which we are losing in Iraq. The trouble is, there is no clear yardstick by which we are winning, either.

On WMD, I would actually go beyond what you said. The Iraq Survey Group's 2004 final report makes it clear that Iraq did in fact possess WMD by the relevant legal definition of that term, stipulated in UN Resolution 687 as a condition of Iraq's ceasefire in the 1991 war.

On WMD, I agree that the war has been successful. It could have been done better, but the fact is, there was no way to force Iraq's compliance with its post-war obligations but to do so militarily, and there was a need to get that compliance. The war delivered that. There we agree.

But the fact remains that we are still in Iraq, and still fighting the insurgency with no end in sight (as we are in Afghanistan, for that matter). It was also a capital mistake not to have destroyed Moktada al Sadr's militia when we had the chance.

I don't agree that anarchy serves our interests. There was anarchy in Afghanistan between 1989 and the rise of the Taliban. That led to the rise of the Taliban, which gave sanctuary to bin Laden. We don't want to repeat the same history in Iraq. Today, there is anarchy in the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan and in Kashmir. Same problem.

I agree that putting a stable government in power is subsidiary to destroying the enemy, but the fact remains that the insurgency has not yet been destroyed. Until it is, I don't think we can call Iraq a success. And unless they defeat us, we can't call it a failure, either.

Michael Edward Piston - 5/20/2006

It is difficult to understand by what yardstick the U.S. may be said to have lost, or be losing, any war in Iraq. This war was initiated to ensure that American enemies would not have access to weapons of mass destruction originating in Iraq and that certainly has been accomplished. Those who object that there were no WMD in Iraq at the time of the invasion neglect (usually intentionally) the fact Ba'th government certainly had the capacity and the intention of developing the same at the earliest opportunity - e.g. when sanctions were lifted (and they would be foolish not to - WMD are what saved Iraq from destruction in the Iran - Iraq and probably could have successfully defended the country against the U.S. invasion). Iraq's capacity for the development of WMD and to otherwise threaten U.S. allies in the Middle East has been utterly shattered. To that extent the Iraq War has been a tremendous success. What the invasion has not done has put in place a stable pro U.S. government. That however, with never a declared U.S. objective, and to the extent it was a goal at all, it was secondary to the primary goal of eliminating Iraq as a regional power. Anarchy in Iraq serves U.S. interest as well, and perhaps even better than a nominally pro-U.S. government, that could eventually grown strong enough to turn against the U.S. and threaten its allies again.

Darren Michael Peterson - 5/10/2006

I wish that the West had used its position to denigrate and belittle the terrorists a bit more. This has been a discussion of mine on a couple of other websites.

Unfortunately, immediately after 9/11 it was suggested that Wall Street stand up to terrorists by opening strong and the American people should show their support by shopping!

Once it was learned that partisan advantage could be made by making one party appear more serious about terrorism than the other... well, it turned into who could better spin the dangers of these terribly powerful and elusive master criminals/terrorists... giving them way more credence than they deserved.

Regardless of a person's feelings about The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, he has been mocking the terrorists for a long time... showing the absurdity of their cause and America's reaction to it.

Like bullies, they only have the power over us that we give them! Instead of cowering in fear and changing who we are in the hopes of not upsetting them... we need to stand firm and let them know that we will not be intimidated.