Providing a Face to the Enemy: Who is Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi?
The “war on terrorism” requires a humanitarian mandate. It is presented as a “Just War” to be fought on moral grounds “to redress a wrong suffered”.
The Just War theory defines “good” and “evil”. It concretely portrays and personifies the terrorist leaders as “evil individuals”.
Several prominent American intellectuals and antiwar activists, who stand firmly opposed to the Bush administration, are nonetheless supporters of the Just War theory: “We are against war in all its forms but we support the campaign against international terrorism.”
To reach its foreign policy objectives, the images of terrorism must remain vivid in the minds of the citizens, who are constantly reminded of the terrorist threat.
The propaganda campaign presents the portraits of the leaders behind the terror network. In other words, at the level of what constitutes an “advertising” campaign, “it gives a face to terror”.
The “war on terrorism” rests on the creation of one or more evil bogeymen, the terror leaders, Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, et al., whose names and photos are presented ad nauseam in daily news reports.
Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi: New Terrorist Mastermind
Since the war on Iraq, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi has been presented to World public opinion as the new terrorist mastermind, over-shadowing “Enemy Number One”, Osama bin Laden.
The US State Department has increased the reward for his arrest from $10 million to $25 million, which puts his “market value” at par with that of Osama. Ironically, Al-Zarqawi is not on the FBI most wanted fugitives’ list.(1)
Al-Zarqawi is often described in official government statements as well as in media reports as an “Osama associate”, allegedly responsible for numerous terrorist attacks in several countries. In other reports, often emanating from the same sources, he is said to have no links to Al Qaeda and to operate quite independently. He is often presented as an individual who is challenging the lead-ership of bin Laden.
Osama belongs to the powerful bin Laden family, which has business ties to the Bushes and prominent members of the Texas oil establishment. Osama bin Laden was recruited by the CIA during the Soviet-Afghan war and fought as a Mujahideen. In other words, there is a longstanding documented history of bin Laden-CIA and bin Laden-Bush family links, which are an obvious source of embarrassment to the US Government. (See Chapter 2)
In contrast to bin Laden, Al-Zarqawi has no family history. He comes from an impoverished Palestinian family in Jordan. His par-ents are dead. He emerges out of the blue.
Al-Zarqawi is described by CNN as “a lone wolf” who is said to act quite independently of the Al Qaeda network. Yet surprisingly, this “lone wolf” is present in several countries, in Iraq, which is now his base, but also in Western Europe. He is also suspected of preparing a terrorist attack on American soil.
The media reports suggest that he is in several places at the same time. He is described as “the chief US enemy”,”a master of disguise and bogus identification papers”. We are led to believe that this “lone wolf” manages to outwit the most astute US intelligence operatives.
According to the Weekly Standard-which is known to have a close relationship to the Neocons in the Bush administration:
Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi is hot right now. He masterminded not only [Nicholas] Berg’s murder [in 2004] but also the Madrid carnage on March 11 , the bombardment of Shia worshippers in Iraq the same month, and the April 24  suicide attack on the port of Basra. But he is far from a newcomer to slaughter. Well before 9/11, he had already concocted a plot to kill Israeli and American tourists in Jordan. His label is on terrorist groups and attacks on four continents.(2)
Al-Zarqawi’s profile “is mounting a challenge to bin Laden’s leadership of the global jihad.”
In Iraq, according to press reports, he is preparing to “ignite a civil war between Sunnis and Shiites”. But is that not precisely what US intelligence is aiming at (“divide and rule”) as confirmed by several analysts of the US led war? Pitting one group against the other with a view to weakening the resistance movement.(3)
The CIA, with its $40 billion plus budget, pleads ignorance: they say they know nothing about him, they have a photograph, but, according to the Weekly Standard, they apparently do not know his weight or height.
The aura of mystery surrounding this individual is part of the propaganda ploy. Zarqawi is described as “so secretive even some operatives who work with him do not know his identity.”(4)
Consistent Media Pattern
What is the role of this new terrorist mastermind in the Pentagon’s disinformation campaign?
In previous war propaganda ploys, the CIA hired Public Relations firms to organize core disinformation campaigns. In 1990, the British PR firm Hill and Knowlton launched the 1990 Kuwaiti incubator media scam, where Kuwaiti babies were allegedly removed from incubators in a totally fabricated news story, which was then used to get Congressional approval for the 1991 Gulf War.
Almost immediately in the wake of a terrorist event or warning, US network television announces (in substance) that, they think this mysterious individual Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi is possibly behind it, invariably without presenting supporting evidence, and prior to the conduct of an investigation by the relevant police and intelligence authorities.
In some cases, upon the immediate occurrence of the terrorist event, there is an initial report which mentions Al-Zarqawi as the possible mastermind. The report will often say (in substance) that they think he did it, but it is not yet confirmed and there is some doubt on the identity of those behind the attack. One or two days later, the reports will be confirmed, at which time CNN may come up with a more definitive statement, quoting official police, military and/or intelligence sources.
Often the CNN report is based on information published on an Islamic website, or a mysterious video or audio tape. The authenticity of the website and/or the tapes is not the object of discus-sion or detailed investigation.
The news reports never mention that Al-Zarqawi was recruited by the CIA to fight in the Soviet-Afghan war, as acknowledged by Secretary Colin Powell in his presentation to the UN Security Council on 5 February 2003. (See Chapter 11.) Moreover, the press usually presents the terrorist warnings emanating from the CIA as genuine, without acknowledging the fact that US intelligence has provided covert support to the Islamic militant network consistently for more than 20 years. (See Chapters 1 and 3.)
History of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi
Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi’s name was first mentioned in relation to the thwarted attack on the Radisson SAS Hotel in Amman, Jordan, during the December 1999 millennium celebrations. According to press reports, he had previously gone under another name: Ahmed Fadil Al-Khalayleh, among several other aliases.
An Al-Zarqawi legend was in the making. According to The New York Times , Al-Zarqawi is said to have fled Afghanistan to Iran in late 2001, following the entry of US troops. According to news reports, he had been “collaborating with hard-liners” in the Iranian military and intelligence apparatus:
United States intelligence officials say they are increasingly concerned by the mounting evidence of Tehran’s renewed interest in terrorism [and support to Al-Zarqawi], including covert surveillance by Iranian agents of possible American targets abroad. American officials said Iran appeared to view terrorism as [a] deterrent against [a] possible attack by the United States.
Since the surprise election of reformer Mohammad Khatami as president of Iran in 1997 and his wide public support, Washington has been counting on a new moderate political majority to emerge. But the hard-line faction has maintained its grip on Iran’s security apparatus, frustrating American efforts to ease tensions with Tehran.
Now, Iranian actions to destabilize the new interim government in Afghanistan, its willingness to assist Al Qaeda members and its fuelling of the Palestinian uprising are prompting a reassessment in Washington, officials say.(5)
Presenting the Tehran government as having links to Al Qaeda was part of an evolving disinformation campaign, consisting in portraying Iran as a sponsor of the “Islamic terror network”.
Turning Point in the Disinformation Campaign
In the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Al-Zarqawi’s name reemerges, this time almost on a daily basis, with reports focusing on his “sinister relationship to Saddam Hussein”.
A major turning point in the propaganda campaign occurs on February 5, 2003 at the United Nations Security Council, follow-ing Colin Powell’s historic address to the UN body.
Focussing on the central role of Al-Zarqawi, Secretary Colin Powell presented detailed “documentation” on the ties between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, and linked this “sinister nexus” to Iraq’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction:
Our concern is not just about these illicit weapons; it’s the way that these illicit weapons can be connected to terrorists and terrorist organizations…
But what I want to bring to your attention today is the potentially much more sinister nexus between Iraq and the Al Qaeda terrorist network, a nexus that combines classic terrorist organizations and modern methods of murder. Iraq today harbors a deadly terrorist network, headed by Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi, an associate and collaborator of Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda lieutenants.
Zarqawi, a Palestinian born in Jordan, fought in the Afghan War more than a decade ago [as a Mujahideen recruited by the CIA]. Returning to Afghanistan in 2000, he oversaw a terrorist training camp. One of his specialities and one of the specialities of this camp is poisons…
We know these affiliates are connected to Zarqawi because they remain, even today, in regular contact with his direct subordinates, including the poison cell plotters. And they are involved in moving more than money and materiel. Last year, two suspected Al Qaeda operatives were arrested crossing from Iraq into Saudi Arabia. They were linked to associates of the Baghdad cell, and one of them received training in Afghanistan on how to use cyanide.
From his terrorist network in Iraq, Zarqawi can direct his network in the Middle East and beyond. [Al-Zarqawi is presented here as being active in several countries at the same time.]…
According to detainees, Abu Atiya, who graduated from Zarqawi’s terrorist camp in Afghanistan, tasked at least nine North African extremists in 2001 to travel to Europe to conduct poison and explosive attacks. Since last year, members of this network have been apprehended in France, Britain, Spain and Italy. By our last count, 116 operatives connected to this global web have been arrested. The chart you are seeing shows the network in Europe.
We know about this European network, and we know about its links to Zarqawi, because the detainee who provided the information about the targets also provided the names of members of the net-work…
We also know that Zarqawi’s colleagues have been active in the Pankisi Gorge, Georgia, and in Chechnya, Russia. The plotting to which they are linked is not mere chatter. Members of Zarqawi’s net-work say their goal was to kill Russians with toxins.
We are not surprised that Iraq is harboring Zarqawi and his subordinates. This understanding builds on decades-long experience with respect to ties between Iraq and al Qaeda…
As I said at the outset, none of this should come as a surprise to any of us. Terrorism has been a tool used by Saddam for decades. Saddam was a supporter of terrorism long before these terrorist networks had a name, and this support continues. The nexus of poisons and terror is new; the nexus of Iraq and terror is old. The combination is lethal.
With this track record, Iraqi denials of supporting terrorism take their place alongside the other Iraqi denials of weapons of mass destruction. It is all a web of lies. When we confront a regime that harbors ambitions for regional domination, hides weapons of mass destruction, and provides haven and active support for terrorists, we are not confronting the past, we are confronting the present. And unless we act, we are confronting an even more frightening future.(6)
Following Powell’s February 2003 UN Security Council presentation, Al-Zarqawi immediately gained in public notoriety as a terrorist mastermind involved in planning chemical and biological weapons attacks.
The Ansar Al-Islam Connection
Based on fake intelligence, Secretary Powell’s presentation to the UN Security Council consisted in linking the secular Baathist regime to the “Islamic terror network”, with a view to justifying the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
According to Powell, Al-Zarqawi had been working hand in glove with Ansar Al-Islam, an obscure Islamist group, based in Northern Iraq.
In the wake of 9/11, Ansar had allegedly been responsible for plotting terror attacks in a number of countries including France, Britain, and Germany. US officials had also pointed to the sinister role of Iraq’s embassy in Islamabad, which was allegedly used as a liaison between Ansar Al-Islam operatives and representatives of the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein.
Ironically, Ansar was allowed to develop in a region which had been under US military control since the 1991 Gulf War, namely Kurdish held Northern Iraq. This region-which was in “the no fly zone”-was not under the control of the Saddam government. It became a de facto US protectorate in the wake of the 1991 Gulf War.
There was no evidence of Saddam Hussein’s support to Ansar Al-Islam. In fact, quite the opposite. The US military authorities stationed in the region had turned a blind eye to the presence of alleged Islamic terrorists. With virtually no interference from the US military, “Al Qaida affiliates [had] been operating freely in the [regional] capital, …coordinating the movement of people, money and supplies for Ansar al-Islam”.(7)
The spiritual founder of Ansar Al-Islam, Mullah Krekar con-firmed that “like most militant Islamists, [he] hates Saddam.” At the time of the US invasion of Iraq, Mullah Krekar was living in Norway, where he had refugee status. “The US has not requested his arrest. If Iraq is guilty of occasional meetings with second-level Al Qaeda operatives, then what is the Norwegian government guilty of?”(8)
Ansar Al-Islam was largely involved in terrorist attacks directed against the secular institutions of the Kurdish regional govern-ments. It was also involved in assassinations of members of the Kurdish Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
In fact in the days following Colin Powell’s February 5, 2003 presentation to the United Nations Security Council, a senior military leader of PUK forces General Shawkat Haj Mushir was assas-sinated allegedly by Ansar Al-Islam.(9) Surrounded in mystery, the assassination of Shawkat was barely mentioned in the US press.
In the days following Colin Powell’s February 5, 2003 UN address, the Iraqi foreign ministry clarified in an official statement that:
the Iraqi government [of Saddam Hussein] helped the [PUK] Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani against the Ansar al-Islam group. He [the spokesman] accused Ansar al-Islam of carrying out acts of sabotage inside Iraq…[and] that the United States had turned down an Iraqi offer to cooperate on the issue of terrorism.(10)
While accusing Baghdad of links to the terror network, the presence and activities of Islamic fundamentalist groups in Northern Iraq was largely serving US interests.
These groups were committed to the establishment of a Muslim theocracy. They had contributed to triggering political instability while at the same time weakening the institutions of the two dom-inant secular Kurdish parties, both of which had been on occasion been involved in negotiations with the government of Saddam Hussein.
Quoting a “top secret British document”, the BBC revealed on the very same day Colin Powell made his presentation to the UN Security Council (5 February 2003): “that there is nothing but enmity between Iraq and Al Qaeda. The BBC said the leak came from [British] intelligence officials upset that their work was being used to justify war.”(11)
Moreover, the powerful Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) which plays a behind the scenes role in US military planning also refuted the substance of Colin Powell’s statement to the UN Security Council concerning the links between the Iraqi government and the Islamic terror network. (This refutation is all the more serious, in view of the fact that these alleged links were used as a justifica-tion for the invasion of Iraq.):
The question of Iraqi links to Al Qaeda remains murky, although senior Bush administration officials insist such ties exist… [M]any experts and State Department officials note that any Al Qaeda pres-ence in Iraq probably lies in northern regions beyond Saddam’s control. Many experts say there is scant evidence of ties between Al Qaeda and Iraq, noting that Al Qaeda’s loathing for “impious”Arab governments makes it an unlikely bedfellow for Saddam’s secular regime.(12)
Mysterious Chemical-Biological Weapons Plant in Northern Iraq
The substance of Powell’s UN statement with regard to Al-Zarqawi rested on the existence of an Ansar al-Islam chemical-biological weapons plant in Northern Iraq which was producing ricin, sarin and other biological weapons, to be used in terror attacks on the US and Western Europe:
When our coalition ousted the Taliban, the Zarqawi network helped establish another poison and explosive training center camp, and this camp is located in North-Eastern Iraq.
The network is teaching its operative how to produce ricin and other poisons. Let me remind you how ricin works. Less than a pinch-imagine a pinch of salt-less than a pinch of ricin, eating just this amount in your food would cause shock, followed by circulatory failure. Death comes within 72 hours and there is no anti-dote. There is no cure. It is fatal.
Those helping to run this camp are Zarqawi lieutenants operating in northern Kurdish areas outside Saddam Hussein’s controlled Iraq, but Baghdad has an agent in the most senior levels of the radical organization Ansar al-Islam, that controls this corner of Iraq. In 2000, this agent offered Al Qaeda safe haven in the region. After we swept Al Qaeda from Afghanistan, some of its members accepted this safe haven. They remain there today.
The above statement by Colin Powell, concerning the North Iraqi facility where the ricin was being produced, was refuted by several media reports, prior to the US-led invasion:
There is no sign of chemical weapons anywhere-only the smell of paraffin and vegetable butter used for cooking. In the kitchen, I discovered some chopped up tomatoes but not much else. The cook had left his Kalashnikov propped neatly against the wall. Ansar al-Islam-the Islamic group that uses the compound identified as a military HQ by Powell-yesterday invited me and several other foreign journalists into their territory for the first time. “We are just a group of Muslims trying to do our duty,” Mohammad Hasan, spokesman for Ansar al-Islam, explained.”We don’t have any drugs for our fighters. We don’t even have any aspirin. How can we produce any chemicals or weapons of mass destruction?”(13)
The intelligence contained in Colin Powell’s UN statement had been fabricated. At the height of the military invasion of Iraq, a few weeks later, US Special Forces, together with their “embedded” journalists, entered the alleged chemical-biological weapons facility in Northern Iraq. Their report also refutes Colin Powell’s state-ments to the UN body:
What they [US Special Forces] found was a camp devastated by cruise missile strikes during the first days of the war. A specialized bio-chemical team scoured the rubble for samples. They wore protective masks as they entered a building they suspected was a weapons lab. Inside they found mortar shells, medical supplies, and grim prison cells, but no immediate proof of chemical or biological agents. For this unit, such evidence would have been a so-called smoking gun, proof that it has banned weapons. But instead, this was a disappointing day for these troops on the front line of the hunt for weapons of mass destruction here. Jim Sciutto, ABC News, with US Special Forces in Northern Iraq.(14)
The Alleged Ricin Threat in the US
On February 8, 2003, three days after Colin Powell’s UN speech, the ricin threat reemerged, this time in the US. Al-Zarqawi was said to be responsible for “the suspicious white powder found in a letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist which contained the [same] deadly poison ricin.”(15)
In a CIA report which was supposedly “leaked” to Newsweek, a group of CIA analysts predicted authoritatively that:
“[There was] a 59 percent probability that an attack on the US homeland involving WMD would occur before 31 March 2003.” …It all seems so precise and frightening: a better than 90 percent chance that Saddam will succeed in hitting America with a weapon spewing radiation, germs or poison. But it is important to remember that the odds are determined by averaging a bunch of guesses, informed perhaps, but from experts whose careers can only be ruined by under-estimating the threat.(16)
The picture of “terrorist mastermind”Al-Zarqawi was featured prominently in Newsweek’s cover story article.
In the National Review (February 18, 2003), one month before the onslaught of the invasion of Iraq, Al-Zarqawi was described as Al Qaeda’s “chief biochemical engineer”:
It is widely known that Zarqawi, Al Qaeda’s chief biochemical engi-neer, was at the safe house in Afghanistan where traces of ricin and other poisons were originally found. What is not widely known-but was briefly alluded to in Sec. Powell’s UN address-is that starting in the mid-1990s, Iraq’s embassy in Islamabad routinely played host to Saddam’s biochemical scientists, some of whom interacted with al Qaeda operatives, including Zarqawi and his lab technicians, under the diplomatic cover of the Taliban embassy nearby to teach them the art of mixing poisons from home grown and readily available raw materials.(17)
Radioactive Dirty Bombs
In the immediate aftermath of Powell’s speech, there was a code orange alert. Reality had been turned upside down. The US was not attacking Iraq. Iraq was preparing to attack America with the support of “Islamic terrorists”. Official statements also pointed to the dangers of a dirty radioactive bomb attack in the US. Again Al-Zarqawi was identified as the number one suspect.(18)
Meanwhile, Al-Zarqawi had been identified as the terror mas-termind behind the (thwarted) ricin attacks in several European countries including Britain and Spain, in the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq.
Britain’s Ricin Threat
In January 2003, there was a ricin terror alert, which supposedly had also been ordered by Al-Zarqawi. The ricin had allegedly been discovered in a London apartment. It was to be used in a terror attack in the London subway. British press reports, quoting official statements claimed that the terrorists had learnt to produce the ricin at the Ansar al-Islam camp in Northern Iraq.
Two years later, the police investigation revealed that the ricin threats in Britain had been fabricated, and Britain’s system of jus-tice had been “tailored to a time of terror”:
There was no ricin and no Al Qaeda recipe, only a formula apparently confected by a white American Christian survivalist and downloaded from the Internet. Even if Bourgass, a nasty and deluded loner, had managed to create his poison and smear it on car-door handles, it would not have worked. Had Bourgass the poisoner devoted himself to creating the perfect Nigella chickpea couscous, he could hardly have been a less likely mass exterminator…
In the absence of chemical poison, a war against Iraq, a fake link between Al Qaeda and Saddam and a double helping of contempt of court were brewed up on Kamel Bourgass’s hob. Tony Blair, David Blunkett, Colin Powell and senior police officers all used the arrests to illustrate the existence of a new breed of Islamist super-terrorist. A criminal prosecution was exploited to fit a political agenda. A war was justified and civil liberties imperiled by the ricin stash that never was.
Lawyers for the eight cleared men are outraged at the way their clients have been portrayed by the media and politicians, and there is so little acknowledgment of a just result, from the Home Office and elsewhere, that one wonders if dodgy convictions would have left some politicians more satisfied. Meanwhile, a new terror law, more draconian than expected, is in the Labour manifesto, pushing crim-inal trials for those who “glorify or condone acts of terror”.
The affair of the sham ricin casts a long shadow over the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, the credulous sensationalists of the media and, most of all, over politicians…
Eight innocent men were presumed guilty. Ten others held for two years without charge reportedly had non-existent links to the ricin plot cited on their government control orders.(19)
It is worth mentioning that “authoritative” news stories on the ricin threat as well as the (nonexistent) chemical weapons plants in Northern Iraq, continued to be churned out in the wake of the invasion, despite the fact that official reports confirmed that they did not exist. In a June 2004 report in the Washington Times:
Zarqawi stands as stark evidence of a link between Saddam Hussein’s autocratic regime and bin Laden’s al Qaeda terror network. Zarqawi, 38, operated a terrorist camp in northern Iraq that specialized in developing poisons and chemical weapons.
The Spanish Connection
In the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq, fabricated threats of chemical weapons attacks had emerged in several countries at the same time. Was the disinformation campaign being coordinated by intelligence officials in several countries?
In Spain, in the months prior to the March 2003 invasion, Bush’s indefectible coalition partner, Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar had initiated his own disinformation campaign, no doubt in liaison with the office of the US Secretary of State.
The timing seemed perfect: on the very same day Colin Powell was presenting the Al-Zarqawi dossier to the UN (focussing on the sinister chemical weapons facility in Northern Iraq), Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar was busy briefing the Spanish parliament on an alleged chemical terror attack in Spain, in which Al-Zarqawi was supposedly also involved.
According to Prime Minister Aznar, Al-Zarqawi had established links to a number of European Islamic “collaborators” including Merouane Ben Ahmed,”an expert in chemistry and explosives who
Prime Minister Aznar confirmed in his speech to the Chamber of Deputies (Camera de diputados) on the 5th of February 2001 that the sixteen Al Qaeda suspects, allegedly in possession of explo-sives and lethal chemicals, had been working hand in glove with “terrorist mastermind” Al-Zarqawi.
Prime Minister Aznar’s statements concerning these “lethal chemical weapons in the hands of terrorists” was also based on fabricated intelligence. An official report of the Spanish Ministry of Defense confirmed that “the tests on chemicals seized from 16 suspected Al Qaeda men in Spain…have revealed that they are harmless and some were household detergent.”(21)
A defense ministry lab outside Madrid tested the substances-a bag containing more than half a pound of powder and several bottles or containers with liquids or residues-for the easy-to-make bio-logical poison ricin… The Spanish defense ministry, which car-ried out the tests, and the lab itself declined to comment.(22)
3/11: The Madrid 11 March 2004 Train Bombing
In the wake of the US led invasion of Iraq, Al-Zarqawi’s name was being routinely associated, without supporting evidence, with numerous terror threats and incidents in Western Europe and the US.
While the press reports regarding the March 11, 2004 Madrid train bombing did not generally point to Al-Zarqawi’s involvement, they nonetheless hinted that the Moroccan group which allegedly “supervised the bombings in Madrid, [was] acting [according to the CIA] as a link between Al-Zarqawi and a cell of mostly Moroccan Al Qaeda members.”(23)
This type of reporting, which broadly replicates the sinister relationship described by Prime Minister Aznar in his February 5, 2003 statement to the Spanish Parliament, provides a face to the out-side enemy.
Two days after the 3/11 Madrid bombing, CNN reported, quot-ing US intelligence sources, that Al-Zarqawi, described as “a lone wolf”, might be planning attacks on “soft targets” in Western Europe:
LISOVICZ: And Jonathan, specifically, Abu Musaab Al-Zarqawi is someone you have described as Al Qaeda 2.0, which is pretty scary.
SCHANZER: Yes. Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi is the man we caught; we intercepted his memo last month. US intelligence officials found this memo. It indicated that he was trying to continue to carry out attacks against the United States.
CAFFERTY: Where do we stand in your opinion on this war on terrorism? We have got this terrible situation in Madrid. We’ve got this fellow, Zarqawi, you are talking about, the lone Wolf that is active, some think inside Iraq. We have got terrorist attacks happening there. There is discussion all over Western Europe of fear of terrorism, possibly being about to increase there. Are we winning this war or are we los-ing it? What is your read?
SCHANZER: I think we’re winning it. We’ve certainly-I mean counterterrorism at its core is just restricting the terrorist environment. So we’ve cut down on the amount of finances moving around in the terrorist world. We have arrested a number of key figures. So we are doing a good job.(24)
“Are we winning or loosing” the war on terrorism. “We are doing a good job.” These catch phrases are part of the disinformation campaign. While they acknowledge “weaknesses” in US countert-errorism, their function is to justify enhanced military-intelligence operations against this illusive individual, who is confronting US military might, all over the World.
The April 2004 Osama Tape
Meanwhile, another mysterious Osama tape (April 2004) had emerged in which bin Laden acknowledged his responsibility for the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the 3/11 train bombing in Madrid in March 2004:
“I [Osama] am offering a truce to European countries, and its core is our commitment to cease operations against any country which does not carry out an onslaught against Muslims or interfere in their affairs as part of the big American conspiracy against the Islamic world… The truce will begin when the last soldier leaves our countries. …Whoever wants reconciliation and the right (way), then we are the ones who initiated it, so stop spilling our blood so we can stop spilling your blood… What happened on September 11 and March 11 was your goods delivered back to you.(25)
In other words, Osama bin Laden offers “a truce” if the various European countries involved in Iraq accept to withdraw their troops. In return, Al Qaeda will declare a moratorium on terrorist attacks in Europe.
Without further investigation, the Western media described the controversial April 2004 Osama tape as an attempt by “Enemy Number One” to create a rift between America and its European allies.
The tape in all likelihood was a hoax of US intelligence. The propaganda ploy consists not only in upholding the US-led occupation of Iraq as part of the broader “war on terrorism”, it also provides a pretext to European governments, pressured by citizens movements, to turn a blind eye to the US-UK sponsored war crimes in Iraq. In the words of France’s President Jacques Chirac, “nothing can justify terrorism and, on that basis, nothing can allow any discussion with terrorists.”
Underlying the Osama tape is the presumption that the “extremists” in Iraq are the same people responsible for the 9/11 and 3/11 terrorist attacks. It follows, according to one US press report, that the “anti-war zealots”, by opposing the US led occupation, are in fact providing ammunition to Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda:
Bin Laden’s deranged fantasies are frighteningly similar to those many anti-war zealots harbor both here and abroad…. He also apparently tries to justify the attacks of 9/11 as retaliation for US support for Jews in Palestine, and US invasions in the Gulf War and Somalia. “Our actions are reactions to your actions,” he said.
This is gibberish, but it is typical of a megalomaniacal mind. Even Hitler, after all, insisted his attack on Poland was in self-defense. Evil often comes cloaked in the counterfeit robes of virtue.
But it’s also easy to see how such arguments can gain traction among impoverished Arabs who long have been repressed by their own governments and are searching for answers.
The United States should be grateful for this latest tape. It puts a lot of things in perspective. Europe and the United States are at war together, and the enemy is someone of flesh and blood who can be frightened-enough so that he feels it necessary to propose a truce.(26)
Al-Zarqawi and the Abu Ghraib Prison Scandal
The Abu Ghraib torture scandal, including the release of the pho-tographs of tortured POWs, reached its climax with the broadcast of CBS’s “60 Minutes” hosted by Dan Rather on the 28th of April 2004.(27)
Within days of an impending scandal involving the upper ech-elons of the Pentagon, which directly implicated Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Al-Zarqawi was reported to be planning simultaneous large scale terrorist attacks in several countries, including a major terrorist operation in Jordan.
With Al-Zarqawi featured prominently on network television, these reports served to usefully distract public attention from the Abu Ghraib torture scandal.
A mysterious videotape was released, describing in minute detail how “terrorist mastermind” Al-Zarqawi was planning to wage a major attack inside Jordan. The alleged attack consisted in using “a combination of 71 lethal chemicals, including blistering agents to cause third-degree burns, nerve gas and choking agents, which would have formed a lethal toxic cloud over a square mile of the capital, Amman”.(28)
According to the news reports, “the alleged terrorist plot was just days away from execution”. The targets were the Jordanian intelligence headquarters, the prime minister’s office and the US Embassy. According to CNN, which broadcast excerpts of the mys-terious videotape, “the Jordanian government fears the death toll could have run into the thousands, more deadly even than 9/11”.(29)
[In CNN’s coverage], Jordanian special forces [are] raiding an apartment house in Amman in the hunt for an al Qaeda cell. Some of the suspects are killed, others arrested, ending what Jordanian intelli-gence says was a bold plan to use chemical weapons and truck bombs in their capital… The Jordanian government fears the death toll could have run into the thousands, more deadly even than 9/11.
For the first time the alleged plotters were interviewed on video-tape, aired on Jordanian TV. CNN obtained copies of the tapes from the Jordanians. This man revealing his orders came from a man named Azme Jayoussi, the cell’s alleged ringleader.
HUSSEIN SHARIF (through translator): The aim of this operation was to strike Jordan and the Hashemite royal family, a war against the crusaders and infidels. Azme told me that this would be the first chemical suicide attack that al Qaeda would execute.
VAUSE: Also appearing on the tape, Azme Jayoussi, who says his orders came from this man, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the same man the US says is behind many of the violent attacks in Iraq.
AZME JAYOUSSI,ACCUSED PLOTTER (through translator): I took advanced explosives course, poisons, high level, then I pledged allegiance to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, to obey him without any questioning, to be on his side. After this Afghanistan fell. I met Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq.(30)
Al-Zarqawi ‘s “Attack on America”
Two days later on the 29 April 2004, immediately following the reports on the terrorist threat in Jordan, the State Department announced that Al-Zarqawi was now planning a similar chemical weapons attack on America.(31)
The ” freelancer” and “lone wolf, …acting alone in the name of Al Qaeda” had been crossing international borders unnoticed. One day, he’s in Jordan, the next day in the US, and back again a few days later in Iraq.
According to the US State Department Annual Report on Terrorism, quoted by CNN:
[T]he number of terrorist attacks around the world declined last year, but the government’s annual report on terrorism includes a chilling warning about the year ahead… The State Department says terrorists are planning an attack on US soil. High on their anxiety list, terrorist Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi.
[According to the State Department’s Coordinator for Counter-terrorism, Cofer Black] “He [Al-Zarqawi] is representative of a very real and credible threat. His operatives are planning and attempt-ing now to attack American targets, and we are after them with a vengeance.(32)
The State Department report was released on the same day as the CBS’s “60 Minutes” program on the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.
The Nicholas Berg Execution
Barely a couple of weeks later, Al-Zarqawi is named as the mastermind behind the execution in Iraq of Nicholas Berg on May 11, 2004. Media coverage of Berg’s terrible death was based on a mys-terious report (and video) on an Islamic website, which according to CNN provided evidence that Al-Zarqawi might be involved:
ENSOR: The Web site claims that the killing was done by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian terrorist whose al Qaeda affiliated group is held responsible by US intelligence for a string of bombings in Iraq and for the killing of an American diplomat in Amman. CNN Arab linguists say, however, that the voice on the tape has the wrong accent. They do not believe it is Zarqawi. US officials said the killers tried to take advantage of the prison abuse controversy to gain attention…
BROWN: So, the administration said today we’ll track these people down.We will get them beyond, I guess, this belief that Zarqawi somehow was involved. Are there any clues out there that we heard about?
ENSOR: This is going to be very, very difficult. They’ve been look-ing for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi for several years now. There’s a large price on his head. He’s been blowing up a lot of things in Iraq according to him and according to US intelligence. They don’t know where he is, so it’s-I don’t think they have any clues right now, at least none that I know of-Aaron.(33)
While initially expressing doubts on the identity of the masked individual, a subsequent and more definitive report, based on “authoritative intelligence”, was aired two days later by CNN on 13 May 2004:
The CIA confirms that Nicholas Berg’s killer was Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi; The CIA acknowledges sticking to strict rules in tough interrogations of top al Qaeda prisoners.
BLITZER Because originally our own linguists here at CNN suspected that-they listened to this audiotape and they didn’t think that it sounded like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. But now definitively, the experts at the CIA say it almost certainly is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi?
ENSOR: They say it almost certainly is. There’s just a disagreement between the CNN linguists and the CIA linguists. The US Government now believes that the person speaking on that tape and killing Nick Berg on that tape is the actual man, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.(34)
The report on the Nicholas Berg assassination, coincided with calls by US senators for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. It occurred a few days after President Bush’s “apology” for the Abu Ghraib prison “abuses”. It served once again to distract public attention from the war crimes ordered by key members of the Bush Administration.
+Authenticity of the Video
The video footage published on the website was called “Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi shows killing of an American”.
While CIA experts released a statement saying that Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi “was the man in the mask who beheaded the US citizen Nick Berg in front of a camera,” several reports question the authenticity of the video.(35)
Al-Zarqawi is Jordanian. Yet the man in the video “posing as Jordanian native Zarqawi does not speak the Jordanian dialect. Zarqawi has an artificial leg, but none of these murderers did. The man presented as Zarqawi had a yellow ring, presumably a golden one, which Muslim men are banned from wearing, especially so-called fundamentalists.”(36)
When the issue of his artificial leg was mentioned in relation to the video, US officials immediately revised their story, stating they were not quite sure whether he had actually lost a leg: “US intelligence officials, who used to believe that Zarqawi had lost a leg in Afghanistan, recently revised that assessment, concluding that he still has both legs.”(37)
Nicholas Berg was assassinated. The identity of the killers was not firmly established. Moreover, there were a number of other aspects pertaining to the video, which suggested that it was a fake.
Another report stated that Zarqawi was dead.
The audio was not in synchrony with the video, indicating that the video footage might have been manipulated.
The Iraqi Resistance Movement
In the wake of the invasion of Iraq, the disinformation campaign consisted in presenting the Iraqi resistance movement as “terrorists”.
The image of “terrorists” fighting US peacekeepers is presented on television screens across the globe.
Portrayed as an evil enemy, Al-Zarqawi was used profusely in Bush’s press conferences and speeches, in an obvious public relations ploy:
You know, I hate to predict violence, but I just understand the nature of the killers. This guy, Zarqawi, an al Qaeda associate-who was in Baghdad, by the way, prior to the removal of Saddam Hussein-is still at large in Iraq. And as you might remember, part of his operational plan was to sow violence and discord amongst the various groups in Iraq by cold-blooded killing. And we need to help find Zarqawi so that the people of Iraq can have a more bright-bright future.(38)
The portrait of terror mastermind Al-Zarqawi was used to personify the Iraqi resistance.
In an almost routine and repetitive fashion, his name is linked to the numerous “terrorist attacks” in Iraq against the US led-occupation.
While the Western media highlights these various occurrences including the kidnappings of paid mercenaries, on contract to Western security firms, there is a deafening silence on the massacre of more than one hundred thousand Iraqi civilians by coalition forces, since the beginning of the US-led occupation in April 2003.(39)
The 2004-2005 operation in Fallujah, which resulted in several thousand civilian deaths, was casually described by the Bush admin-istration as “a crackdown” against extremists working under the leadership of Al-Zarqawi. According to official statements, Al Qaeda mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was in Fallujah, which had become a so-called “hotbed for foreign fighters”. In the words of Newsweek:”Saddam may not have had direct ties to Al Qaeda, but the Jihadists are eager to fill his shoes.”(40)
In other words, the Bush administration needs Al-Zarqawi and the “war on terrorism” as a justification for the killing of civilians in Iraq, which it continues to describe as “collateral damage”.
Consistently, a barrage of media reports had surfaced on Al Qaeda links to the Iraqi resistance movement. The insurgents are described as Islamic extremists and fundamentalists: “hard-line Sunnis, foreign extremists, and, now, Sadr and his disenfranchised Shiite followers”.41
The secular character of the resistance movement is denied. In a completely twisted logic, Al Qaeda is said to constitute a signifi-cant force behind the Iraqi insurgents.
The disinformation campaign ultimately consists in convincing the US public that the “Defense of the Homeland” and the occupation of Iraq are part of the same process and involving the
same enemy. In the words of former CIA Director James Woolsey in a CNN interview:
Iraqi intelligence, trained al Qaeda in poison gases and conventional explosives. And had senior-level contacts going back a decade. And the Islamists from the Sunni side, from the al Qaeda, work with people like Hezbollah. They’re perfectly happy to work together against us. It’s sort of like three Mafia families, but they insult each other, but can still cooperate…. I think it’s Islamist totalitarians masquerading as part of a religion. Certainly if anybody in the intelligence community is surprised by this, the really surprising thing would be that they are really surprised. Some of them have had an idea fix for a long time, that al Qaeda would never work with the Ba’athist and the Shiite Islamist would never work with the Sunni. It’s just nuts. They work together on important things. It’s not that one necessarily controls the other. It’s not sort of like state sponsorship, but cooperation, support here and there against us, sure, they’ve been doing it for years and years and years.(42)
New Propaganda Ploy
As the resistance movement in Iraq unfolds and challenges the US military occupation, Al-Zarqawi is increasingly portrayed by the media as the main obstacle to the holding of “free and fair elec-tions” in Iraq.
Barely a week prior to the January 2005 Iraqi elections spon-sored and organized by the Bush administration, with the support of the “international community,” another mysterious Al-Zarqawi audiotape surfaced on the Internet.
While the news reports initially stated that “the authenticity of the tape could not be determined”, they later confirmed, quoting “authoritative intelligence” that “the voice in the tape appeared to be that of Al-Zarqawi”. In his own words, Al-Zarqawi had now declared “a fierce war on this evil principle of democracy and those who follow this wrong ideology”.(43)
The Al-Zarqawi pre-election audiotape usefully served the disinformation campaign, by underscoring the evil and insidious links between Al-Zarqawi and former Saddam regime loyalists.
Secular Sunni Baathists and jihadists are said to have joined hands. In the Zarqawi audiotape, the Shiite majority is presented as “evil”, serving to create divisions within Iraqi society:
The leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, whose “young lions” are attacking polling stations and killing candidates, has described Shias as “the most evil of mankind…the lurking snakes and the crafty scorpions, the spying enemy and the pene-trating venom”. Understanding that elections favor the majority, he said that the US had engineered the poll to get a Shia government into power.(44)
Again, reality is turned upside down. The existence of an Iraqi resistance movement to the US-led occupation is denied. The “insurgents” are “terrorists” opposed to democracy. Al-Zarqawi is pinpointed as attempting to sabotage what both the American and European media have described in chorus as “the first democratic elections in half a century”. Meanwhile, the US-UK military man-date in Iraq is upheld by the “international community” and Washington’s European allies.
“Clash of Civilizations”
With Iraq under continued US military occupation, the propaganda ploy now consists in focussing on the “clash of civilizations”: the great divide between the societies of the Islamic Middle East and the Judeo-Christian West. Whereas the latter is recognized as “a moral system” closely associated with modern forms of Western democracy, the former is said to be entrenched in theocratic and authoritarian forms of government, dominated directly or indirectly by the tenets of Islamic fundamentalism.
It is on the premises of this “clash of civilizations” that America has formulated its messianic mission “to spread liberty in the world”. In the words of President George W. Bush, there is “no neutral ground in the fight between civilisation and terror”
“The clash of civilizations,” as described by Samuel Huntington, had become an integral part of the propaganda campaign.
Islam is not only heralded as being broadly “un-democratic” and incompatible with a (Western) system of representative gov-ernment, the jihadists-including bin Laden and Al-Zarqawi are ushered in as the sole spokesmen for an Iraqi “insurgency” described in press reports and on network television, as being composed of “terrorists” and “criminal gangs”:
The questions Zarqawi raises go way beyond the elections in Iraq to the whole issue of modernization of the Arab world. Is democracy un-Islamic? Is there a fundamental clash between the principles of representative government and the principles of Islam?(45)
Meanwhile, the illegality of the US occupation under international law and the Nuremberg charter goes unmentioned.
Under the disguise of “peace-keeping”, the United Nations is actively collaborating with the occupying forces. The deaths of thou-sands of civilians, the torture chambers and the concentration camps, the destruction of an entire country’s infrastructure-not to mention the issue of the missing “weapons of mass destruction”- have been overshadowed by the fabricated image of an American commitment to democracy and post-war reconstruction.
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI),”FBI Most Wanted” at http://www.fbi.gov/ mostwant/topten/fugitives/fugitives.htm.
- Weekly Standard, 24 May 2004.
- See Michel Collon, “Washington has Found the Solution ‘Let’s Divide Iraq as We Did in Yugoslavia!'”, Centre for Research on Globalization, 23 December 2003, http://globalresearch.ca/articles/COL312A.html. See also Vladimir Radyuhin, “From Kosovo to Iraq”, The Hindu, 18 August 2003.
- Washington Times, 8 June 2004.
- New York Times, 24 March 2002.
- US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s address to the UN Security Council, 5 February 2003.
- Midland Independent, 6 February 2003.
- Glen Rangwala, “Claims in Secretary of State Colin Powell’s UN Presentation concerning Iraq, 5th February 2003”, http://www.traprockpeace.org/ firstresponse.html On Mullah Krekar, see Daily News, New York, 6 February 2003.
- The Australian, 11 February 2003.
- News Conference by Lieutenant-General Amir al-Sa’di, adviser at the Iraqi Presidency; Dr Sa’id al-Musawi, ‘head of the Organizations’ Department at the Iraqi Foreign Ministry; and Major-General Husam Muhammad Amin, head of the Iraqi National Monitoring Directorate, BBC Monitoring Service, 6 February 2003.
- Quoted in Daily News, New York, 6 February 2003.
- Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) website at http://www.cfrterrorism.org/ groups/alqaeda3.html.
- The Observer, London, 9 February 2003.
- ABC News, 29 March 2003.
- Pittsburgh Post Gazette, 8 February 2004.
- Newsweek, 24 February 2003.
- National Review, 18 February 2003.
- ABC News, 13 February 2003.
- Mary Riddell,”With poison in their souls: The demonisation of the ricin suspects by politicians and the media smacks of Salem”, The Observer, 17 April 2005.
- Reported in El País, Madrid, 6 February 2003.
- Europe Intelligence Wire, 27 February 2003.
- Irish News, 27 February 2003.
- The Australian, 27 May 2004.
- CNN, 13 March 2004, emphasis added, For details on the Madrid bombing see, “Madrid ‘blueprint’: a dodgy document” by Brendan O’Neill, Centre for Research on Globalization, 1 April 2004, http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/ ONE404A.html
Ibid., See also the report by Al Jazeera, Centre for Research on Globalization, 17 April 2004, http://globalresearch.ca/articles/ALJ404A.html
- Deseret Morning News, Salt Lake City, 15 April 2004.
- Torture of Iraqi POWs in Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib Prison, CBS Transcript: “60 Minutes”, 28 April 2004.
- Charleston Post Courier, 28 April 2004.
- CNN, 27 April 2004, emphasis added.
- Ibid, emphasis added.
- CNN, 29 April 2003.
- CNN, 11 May 2004.
- CNN, 13 May 2004.
- Sirajin Sattayev,”Was Nick Berg killed by US intelligence?”, Centre for Research on Globalization, 23 May 2004, http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/ SAT405A.html.
- US News and World Report, 24 May 2004.
- President George W. Bush, Press Conference, 1 June 2004, emphasis added.
- See Les Roberts, Riyadh Lafta, Richard Garfield, Jamal Khudhairi, Gilbert Burnham,”Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq”, Lancet, 29 October 2004.
- Newsweek, 19 April 2004.
- US News and World Report, 19 April 2004.
- Quoted from CNN, Lou Dobbs, Tonight, 15 April 2004.
- Associated Press Report, 23 January 2005.
- Quoted in The New Statesman, 31 January 2005.
- The Washington Post, 30 January 2004.