June 9, 2006
following article published last April in the Washington Post
reveals the contents of leaked internal military documents
pertaining to Zarqawi. While official Washington and the media present
Zarqawi as an evil enemy and "terror mastermind", the leaked
documents confirm that Zarqawi was a central
figurehead in the Pentagon's propaganda campaign. This role has
been previously documented by a number of independent
What the Washington Post article conveys is
that the role of Zarqawi has been deliberately "magnified" as part of a
Pentagon PSYOP program. The hidden agenda was to distort the
nature of the Iraqi resistance movement.
The Washington Post
report also suggests that most of the media coverage of
"Who is Zarqawi", following his death, are grossly biased and
inaccurate. These reports fail to acknowledge how Zarqawi as an
"evil outside enemy" has served to provide legitimacy to America's "War
Moreover, upholding Zarqawi as
the terrorist mastermind, leader of the
insurgency, provides a humanitarian mandate to the US in its
global crusade against "Islamic terrorism". The
"villainise Zarqawi" Pentagon operation, presenting him as a
killer of innocent civilians also serves to distract public opinion
from the extensive war crimes committed by US and British forces in
Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research , 8 June 2006
Military Plays Up Role of Zarqawi
Jordanian Painted As Foreign Threat To Iraq's Stability
By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 10, 2006; A01
The U.S. military is conducting a propaganda
campaign to magnify the role of the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq,
according to internal military documents and officers familiar with the
program. The effort has raised his profile in a way that some military
intelligence officials believe may have overstated his importance and
helped the Bush administration tie the war to the organization
responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The documents state that the U.S. campaign aims to
turn Iraqis against Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian, by playing on
their perceived dislike of foreigners. U.S. authorities claim some
success with that effort, noting that some tribal Iraqi insurgents have
attacked Zarqawi loyalists.
For the past two years, U.S. military leaders have
been using Iraqi media and other outlets in Baghdad to publicize
Zarqawi's role in the insurgency. The documents explicitly list the
"U.S. Home Audience" as one of the targets of a broader propaganda
Some senior intelligence officers believe Zarqawi's
role may have been overemphasized by the propaganda campaign, which has
included leaflets, radio and television broadcasts, Internet postings
and at least one leak to an American journalist. Although Zarqawi and
other foreign insurgents in Iraq have conducted deadly bombing attacks,
they remain "a very small part of the actual numbers," Col. Derek
Harvey, who served as a military intelligence officer in Iraq and then
was one of the top officers handling Iraq intelligence issues on the
staff of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told an Army meeting at Fort
Leavenworth, Kan., last summer.
In a transcript of the meeting, Harvey said, "Our
own focus on Zarqawi has enlarged his caricature, if you will -- made
him more important than he really is, in some ways."
"The long-term threat is not Zarqawi or religious
extremists, but these former regime types and their friends," said
Harvey, who did not return phone calls seeking comment on his remarks.
There has been a running argument among specialists
in Iraq about how much significance to assign to Zarqawi, who spent
seven years in prison in Jordan for attempting to overthrow the
government there. After his release he spent time in Pakistan and
Afghanistan before moving his base of operations to Iraq. He has been
sentenced to death in absentia for planning the 2002 assassination of
U.S. diplomat Lawrence Foley in Jordan. U.S. authorities have said he
is responsible for dozens of deaths in Iraq and have placed a $25
million bounty on his head.
Recently there have been unconfirmed reports of a
possible rift between Zarqawi and the parent al-Qaeda organization that
may have resulted in his being demoted or cut loose. Last week, Defense
Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said that it was unclear what was
happening between Zarqawi and al-Qaeda. "It may be that he's not being
fired at all, but that he is being focused on the military side of the
al-Qaeda effort and he's being asked to leave more of a political side
possibly to others, because of some disagreements within al-Qaeda," he
The military's propaganda program largely has been
aimed at Iraqis, but seems to have spilled over into the U.S. media.
One briefing slide about U.S. "strategic communications" in Iraq,
prepared for Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top U.S. commander in
Iraq, describes the "home audience" as one of six major targets of the
American side of the war.
That slide, created by Casey's subordinates, does
not specifically state that U.S. citizens were being targeted by the
effort, but other sections of the briefings indicate that there were
direct military efforts to use the U.S. media to affect views of the
war. One slide in the same briefing, for example, noted that a
"selective leak" about Zarqawi was made to Dexter Filkins, a New York
Times reporter based in Baghdad. Filkins's resulting article, about a
letter supposedly written by Zarqawi and boasting of suicide attacks in
Iraq, ran on the Times front page on Feb. 9, 2004.
Leaks to reporters from U.S. officials in Iraq are
common, but official evidence of a propaganda operation using an
American reporter is rare.
Filkins, reached by e-mail, said that he was not
told at the time that there was a psychological operations campaign
aimed at Zarqawi, but said he assumed that the military was releasing
the letter "because it had decided it was in its best interest to have
it publicized." No special conditions were placed upon him in being
briefed on its contents, he said. He said he was skeptical about the
document's authenticity then, and remains so now, and so at the time
tried to confirm its authenticity with officials outside the U.S.
"There was no attempt to manipulate the press,"
Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the U.S. military's chief spokesman when the
propaganda campaign began in 2004, said in an interview Friday. "We
trusted Dexter to write an accurate story, and we gave him a good
Another briefing slide states that after U.S.
commanders ordered that the atrocities of Saddam Hussein's government
be publicized, U.S. psychological operations soldiers produced a video
disc that not only was widely disseminated inside Iraq, but also was
"seen on Fox News."
U.S. military policy is not to aim psychological
operations at Americans, said Army Col. James A. Treadwell, who
commanded the U.S. military psyops unit in Iraq in 2003. "It is
ingrained in U.S.: You don't psyop Americans. We just don't do it,"
said Treadwell. He said he left Iraq before the Zarqawi program began
but was later told about it.
"When we provided stuff, it was all in Arabic," and
aimed at the Iraqi and Arab media, said another military officer
familiar with the program, who spoke on background because he is not
supposed to speak to reporters.
But this officer said that the Zarqawi campaign "probably raised his profile in the American press's view."
With satellite television, e-mail and the Internet,
it is impossible to prevent some carryover from propaganda campaigns
overseas into the U.S. media, said Treadwell, who is now director of a
new project at the U.S. Special Operations Command that focuses on
"trans-regional" media issues. Such carryover is "not blowback, it's
bleed-over," he said. "There's always going to be a certain amount of
bleed-over with the global information environment."
The Zarqawi program was not related to another
effort, led by the Lincoln Group, a U.S. consulting firm, to place
pro-U.S. articles in Iraq newspapers, according to the officer familiar
with the program who spoke on background.
It is difficult to determine how much has been spent
on the Zarqawi campaign, which began two years ago and is believed to
be ongoing. U.S. propaganda efforts in Iraq in 2004 cost $24 million,
but that included extensive building of offices and residences for
troops involved, as well as radio broadcasts and distribution of
thousands of leaflets with Zarqawi's face on them, said the officer
speaking on background.
The 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.
One internal briefing, produced by the U.S. military
headquarters in Iraq, said that Kimmitt had concluded that, "The
Zarqawi PSYOP program is the most successful information campaign to
Kimmitt is now the senior planner on the staff of
the Central Command that directs operations in Iraq and the rest of the
In 2003 and 2004, he coordinated public affairs,
information operations and psychological operations in Iraq -- though
he said in an interview the internal briefing must be mistaken because
he did not actually run the psychological operations and could not
speak for them.
Kimmitt said, "There was clearly an information
campaign to raise the public awareness of who Zarqawi was, primarily
for the Iraqi audience but also with the international audience."
A goal of the campaign was to drive a wedge into the
insurgency by emphasizing Zarqawi's terrorist acts and foreign origin,
said officers familiar with the program.
"Through aggressive Strategic Communications, Abu
Musab al-Zarqawi now represents: Terrorism in Iraq/Foreign Fighters in
Iraq/Suffering of Iraqi People (Infrastructure Attacks)/Denial of Iraqi
Aspirations," the same briefing asserts.
Officials said one indication that the campaign
worked is that over the past several months, there have been reports
that Iraqi tribal insurgents have attacked Zarqawi loyalists,
especially in the culturally conservative province of Anbar. "What
we're finding is indeed the people of al-Anbar -- Fallujah and Ramadi,
specifically -- have decided to turn against terrorists and foreign
fighters," Maj. Gen Rick Lynch, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad,
said in February.