June 19, 2006
"What one man can invent, another can discover." (Sherlock Holmes)
1. Even a Fictional Character has to Die Some Time
"Zarqawi" was killed off the evening of Wednesday June 7, 2006, at a
house on the outskirts of the village of Hibhib, outside Baquba, I
wasn’t at all surprised.
Even a fictional character has to die some time.
This one had lost all credibility. The plot had become unbelievable.
So I argued a little over month ago, following release of the embarrassing Zarqawi promotional video and the fortuitous find by the Americans of some "out-takes", showing him decked-out in American gear and fumbling his M-249.
See Deceived "R" US: The al-Zarqawi story (Friday, May 12, 2006)
It was then I knew for sure that this "Zarqawi" was an impostor and his entire "narrative" a work of military deception.
There is an instinctive truth known to every animal: the ways in
which individuals hold themselves, move, and talk tells us how they
feel and who they are.
The body language, movement and voice of this "Zarqawi" scream "phony!"
That Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Bedouin from the Bani Hassan tribe, who
fought and distinguished himself in Afghanistan—this we know with some
certainty—could not operate an automatic weapon is simply unbelievable.
The intent of these out-takes, supposedly chanced upon by the
Americans in a raid on yet another "safe" house, was to ridicule
Zarqawi. And this they did, but at the expense of destroying the
credibility of the character itself.
There was much puzzlement when the video was released as to why the
most wanted man in Iraq, known only by a dated photograph, would risk
capture by revealing his much-changed face, not to mention his
dramatically increased girth, in this way.
A real guerrilla, of course, would not. But a simulated guerrilla, especially one scripted to die shortly, would.
Now we know the purpose of that video: it was to familiarise us with
al-Zarqawi's new appearance, so we could identify the body a month
Sure enough, it was an image taken from that video that was placed alongside a
photograph of a man, presumed to have been killed by two 500 lb bombs.
Their silent juxtaposition suggesting that they are the same man and
that he is Zarqawi.
The old black and white mug-shot, which we know to be of
Zarqawi, and which looks nothing like either of them, was nowhere to be
seen that day. Although, strangely, the U.S. Department of Defense web
site did use it to announce Zarqari's death (see the banner above).
It is certainly true that the photograph of what looks like a dead
man, supposedly found among the rubble of that house near Baquba after
the U.S. airstrike, looks remarkably similar to the person in last
month’s video. But if that video was a work of military deception, as I
argue, its rotund star is not Zarqawi and neither is the dead-looking
man in the photograph.
It is not unusual for a character in a fictional narrative to be
"killed" off. If the man in the photograph is indeed dead, the
impersonator appears to have been killed off too.
Let's hope he had a sense of irony.
The real Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed by American bombs at an
Ansar al-Islam camp in the Sulaimaniyah mountains of northern Iraq,
most likely during April, 2003, i.e., at the very beginning of the war.
The resistance tells us this and I would sooner take their word than that of the American occupying force.
identify was stolen by the Americans and used to create a caricature of
a monster, whom they used to vilify and divide the resistance and to
legitimate their own brutal occupation of Iraq.
2. "Where a Horse Shits, a Hundred Sparrows Feed" (Gramsci)
Zarqawi's death was announced, on Thursday, June 8, 2006, by Major
General William Caldwell, at the Press Information Center, in Baghdad.
Major General William Caldwell briefs the press (with briefing slides and video of the air strike).
Statement by President Bush on Death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
Statement by U.S. General George Casey announcing the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Response of Prime Minister Tony Blair
Does "Caldwell" sound familiar?
is the same Major General who, on Friday June 2nd, announced the
exoneration of the American forces responsible for the deaths of five
children, four women and two men in the Abu Sifa area of Ishaqi, March
See Getting away with murder at Ishaqi: The American’s "rational" defence, and When hope died: The lesson of Ishaqi.
In doing so, he had no qualms about ignoring compelling
evidence to the contrary, including video tape broadcast, with its
endorsement, by the BBC, just the day before.
then, our skepticism should be on high alert—especially so since that of most
journalists has been put to sleep.
Major General Caldwell's assertions as to the identity of Mr. Zarqawi and his
explanation of the circumstances surrounding the bombing of his "safe
house" have been swallowed hook, line and sinker by the the corporate
Let us keep in mind that this is a spokesman for an armed force, not
some genial ombudsman, and that armed forces operate by way of deception, as
well by organized violence.
Moreover, it is an armed force which invaded an innocent country based on a
transparent pack of lies about "weapons of mass destruction". It has
destroyed a society, pillaged its wealth, and humiliated, maimed and killed
men, women and children in their hundreds of thousands.
Forget, for now, the American's words of fingerprint and DNA
evidence of Zarqawi's identity. They are not to be trusted. The
Americans do not deserve the benefit of any doubt.
In fact, my
aim here is to raise "reasonable doubt" about the presumed guilt of
"Zarqawi" and his improbable death.
I return to the media spectacle over Zarqawi's death at the end of this paper.
First, I want to explain how Zarqawi's career as an evil killer since 2003 was a work of military
I shall do so using the U.S. Army’s own Field Manual (FM) 3-13:
Information Operations: Doctrine, Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures,
28th November 2003.
You can download the entire manual in PDF here. Chapter 4 is the relevant chapter.
3. The Target of the Zarqawi Deception
Almost immediately, in that chapter, we are told:
Adversary decision makers are the overall target of Military Deception; however not all adversaries are military, and commanders may also want to deceive others who are not adversary host-nation civilians. Such actions are taken to protect the force (4-2.) (my emphasis).
This stipulation gives architects of Military Deception much latitude.
The Zarqawi Deception was aimed at two targets:
The aim here was to undermine support for the resistance by exploiting their known dislike of outsiders—Zarqawi was Jordanian.
how the alleged new head of "al-Qaeda in Iraq" (there is no such
organization)—Abu Hamza al-Muhajir—is also an outsider. "Al-Muhajir" is
Arabic for "immigrant". He too is a fiction created by the Americans.
(b) Americans, civilians and military
aim here was to convince Americans, including its military, that the
enemy in Iraq is a surrogate of the enemy responsible for 9/11.
This motivated those fighting the war in Iraq and legitimized it back home.
U.S. Field Manual says that deceiving non-adversary host-nation
civilians is done to "protect the force". In this case, "the force"
includes its Commander-in-Chief, President Bush. He is being protected
from the American people armed with the truth.
Zarqawi Military Deception initially had two targets, since Iraqis are
not as naïve and gullible as most Americans seem to be, the most
receptive audience has been that in the United States.
Anyone doubting that the U.S. Military would deceive the American public had better read Thomas E. Ricks, 'Military Plays Up Role of Zarqawi’, Washington Post, April 10, 2006.
Ricks discovered a "psychops" program aimed at exaggerating Zarqawi’s role. He notes:
The documents explicitly list the "U.S. Home Audience" as one of the targets of a broader propaganda campaign.
See also these Power Point slides, prepared for General George Casey, the top U.S. Commander in Iraq.
This is the same Casey who announced "Zarqawi’s" death last
Thursday. He said Zarqawi's death "is a significant blow to Al-Qaeda
and another step toward defeating terrorism in Iraq". Try reconciling
these remarks with the above Power Point slides. This is the same Casey
who dismissed as "baloney" the testimony of two Iraqi eyewitnesses who
said they saw the Americans beating the unlikely survivor of the
Ricks is so staggered at the realisation that the
American public is being deceived that he does not press the matter to
its logical conclusion: A military capable of exaggerating and planting
evidence is capable of creating the mythic figure in the first place.
4. Secrecy, Realism and the Unwitting
Only staff and subordinate commanders who need to know are informed of an MD [Military Deception] operation (4-8).
To ensure both secrecy and realism, unwitting actors are often tasked to portray deception events (4-8).
points are important, for they argue against the belief that the
Zarqawi deception would require a vast conspiracy. It need not. In
fact, it requires that only a few people know and that the rest be
unwitting participants in the deception.
A lot of unwitting actors have portrayed Zarqawi deception events. That is one reason it has been so realistic.
Bush, the son of an ex-C.I.A. Director, certainly knows, as do
Cheney and Rumsfeld. George W. Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq,
also knows. I doubt that the current Prime Minister, Nouri Maliki,
knows. He is too sincere.
Indeed, Casey provided cover for another piece of U.S.
Military Deception, the attempted assassination of Guiliana Sgrena and
the accidental killing of Nicola Calipari, on the road to Iraq Airport,
Friday, March 4, 2005. See The Killing of Nicola Calipari and U.S. Military Deception.
Most of the U.S. military personnel risking their lives looking for this dead man have not the slightest idea.
5. The Zarqawi Deception Story
At the heart of any military deception is a Deception Story:
plausible, but false, view of the situation, which will lead the
deception target into acting in a manner that will accomplish the
commander’s goal (4-18).
Deception Story began life during U.S. Secretary of State Colin
Powell’s, now infamous, presentation to the U.N. Security Council, in
February, 2003, the aim of which was to secure its backing for the
Anglo-American invasion of Iraq.
Powell talked of a "sinister nexus between Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network".
today harbors a deadly terrorist network headed by Abu Musab Zarqawi,
an associate and collaborator of Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda
These claims were false, just as the rest of his presentation was full of falsehoods.
The plausible, but false, view of the situation is this:
(a) that Zarqawi is alive: until the recent video, no one had lain eyes on him in years.
that he is one of Osama bin Laden's "lieutenants" and head of
"al-Qaed-in-Iraq": this impression came from letters said to be
"intercepted" by the Americans. All of these letters were American
fakes. See below.
(c) that Zarqawi and
al-Qaeda are at the heart of the Iraqi resistance and sectarian
violence (against Shiites): we know this from the various claims of
responsibility posted on web sites "known to be used by
How does the Deception Story
lead the deception target into acting in a manner that will accomplish
the commander’s goals? The belief that al-Qaeda is at the heart of the
Iraq resistance revives emotional reactions to 9/11. This:
(a) motivates the U.S. military and maintains morale.
(b) maintains support for the U.S. occupation of Iraq, or, at least, makes opposition seem unpatriotic.
(c) ensures that the world looks the other way.
In all three cases, Zarqawi and al-Qaeda-in-Iraq is seen as a surrogate or proxy for those responsible for 9/11.
A good [deception] story conforms to the target’s beliefs about reality.
At the core of these beliefs is Americans’s belief in their own intrinsic goodness.
self-beliefs are summed up in the motto of the U.S. Military Academy
(West Point). duty + honor + country. The Cadet Honor Code states "A
cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do." This
belief is at the heart of leadership in America’s military and, its
[But see West Point Graduates Against the War:
"We stand appalled by the deceitful behavior of the government of the
United States and, in particular, its widely known malefactors."]
America’s goodness takes on the enemy’s evilness.
Zarqawi is not an ordinary "terrorist", he is depraved. Although he
cannot handle an automatic rifle, he can, apparently, wield a sword and
use it to part hostages from their heads.
Zarqawi’s exaggerated wickedness balances America’s exaggerated goodness. They are mirror-images, made for each other.
Americans cannot believe that their soldiers and marines could "do
such things". The truth of the matter—that America is the "enemy"—is
beyond the comprehension of most of them.
When they clearly have committed atrocities, the old "bad applies" metaphor is paraded once more and the core beliefs survive to face another day.
The Zarqawi Deception Story also conforms to American’s beliefs about Iraq and Iraqis. These beliefs are what Edward Said called "orientalism":
the web of racism, cultural stereotypes, political imperialism, dehumanizing ideology holding in the Arab or the Muslim (Said, Orientalism, p. 27).
lies behind the belief that Iraqis were incapable of ridding themselves
of Saddam Hussein, that they need America’s help to establish
"democracy", and that they are incapable of rebuilding their own
Americans's beliefs about reality are also evident in the fictional
organization of "al-Qaeda-in-Iraq" and Zarqawi's role in it.
It is a top-down organization, with Zarqawi at its head, surrounded
by loyal "lieutenants" and "associates". Zarqawi swears his
"allegiance" to Osama bin Laden. They have planning documents and
membership lists, but tend to leave both lying around for the Americans
to find. They even oblige us with blooper video "out-takes".
And they are "wired". They have laptops, use e-mail a lot and
operate web sites at which they post videos of the latest beheading.
And the Americans—who can catch a teenager trying to hack his way
into the Pentagon before his coffee gets cold—are powerless to detect
the location of these high-tech terrorists.
The typical CNN or Fox News devotee, apparently, sees no incongruity
between "Zarqawi's" reliance on the internet in a country with an, at
best, intermittent electricity supply and decrepit telephone system.
The electricity supply at Baquba, outside of which was Zarqawi's
"safe" house, is particularly bad. These terrorists would do better
with carrier pigeons.
Nevertheless, "al-Qaeda in Iraq" is an organization any American can
recognize, and that's the important thing. It comes across like a
subsidiary of a trans-national corporation, staffed by characters from
It is also quite unlike any real guerrilla organization. One wonders what the old members of the Irish Republican Army make of "al-Qaeda-in-Iraq".
when the deception story’s central elements are false, the
preponderance of information that creates the target’s perceptions is
inevitably factual (4-8).
inevitably factual preponderance of information that creates the
target’s perceptions is the undoubted reality of kidnapping,
beheadings, and sectarian violence.
If I am correct about this Military Deception then it is highly
probable that its architects are also behind the atrocities attributed
to Zarqawi. Why would the Americans want to attack Shiites? To drive
them into their arms for protection, and away from joining forces with
the resistance for liberation.
The truth of these killings is wrapped around a big, fat lie.
The central element of the deception story, that there is such a
thing as "al-Qaeda-in-Iraq", that Zarqawi is alive and the leader of
this organization, which is responsible for these atrocities, are false.
main evidence of the existence of al-Qaeda-in-Iraq consists of
'"intercepted" letters, supposedly between Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden
or those close to him.
For example, in January 2004, the Americans claimed that their
intelligence officers intercepted a 17-page letter allegedly from
al-Zarqawi to Osame bin Laden.
There have been many other conveniently intercepted communications.
All the signs are that they are American forgeries, leaked to selective
American news media, thus acquiring a patina of authenticity.
For example: In his article in the Washington Post (see above), Ricks draws attention to one such "selective leak" by the U.S. military to Dexter Filkins, a New York Times
reporter based in Baghdad, regarding a letter supposedly written by
Zarqawi and boasting of suicide attacks in Iraq. The resulting article
ran on the Times front page on February 9, 2004.
The main evidence that these atrocities have been committed by
Zarqawi consists of dubious claims of responsibility posted on the
internet . These are relayed to us by the American news media along
with a cryptic message along the lines of "the video was posted on a
website that Zarqawi's group often uses to issue messages".
Again, no real guerrilla organization would rely on the internet
when the electricity supply is unpredictable, intermittent and lasts no
more than a few hours a day.
In fact, the only people with a reliable source of electricity and access to the latest internet technology are the American military.
6. The Costs and Benefits of the Zarqawi Deception
MD operations involve risks and costs. Commanders base the decision to
conduct an MD operation on a deliberate assessment that weighs costs
against benefits (4-23).
The cost of the Zarqawi deception has been the danger of it being discovered. This risk, however, has been easily managed.
are few independent journalists in Iraq (many of them have been killed
by the Americans). Most journalists operate from within the Green Zone,
writing stories for back home based on information hand-me-downs from
the U.S. military.
Hence the all-too familiar sources:
- "on condition of anonymity"
- "a military officer said Friday"
- "according to an officer familiar with …"
- "Jordanian officials told ABC news …."
Journalism has been the first casualty of this war.
The benefits of the Zarqawi Deception are numerous and compelling:
(a) The U.S. military seems to have persuaded most Americans that Zarqawi led the resistance to the occupation.
the day after Zarqawi’s death, President Bush declared that "justice"
had been "delivered" to the "operational commander of the terrorist
movement in Iraq."
Through his every
action, he sought to defeat America and our coalition partners, and
turn Iraq into a safe haven from which al-Qaida could wage its war on
free nations. Source
the fictional Zarqawi did not pretend to be "the operational commander
of the terrorist movement in Iraq". But the belief that he was
encouraged the conviction among Americans that they are fighting in
Iraq the same enemy that attacked them on 9/11. The above quote from
the President attempts to reaffirm it.
This conviction allowed
the war to proceed and prevents opposition to it in the States from
developing momentum. It also motivates the armed forces, most of whom
believe they are there "because of" 9/11.
(b) Because the real Zarqawi is dead, he can be blamed for all manner of atrocities, to suit political expediency.
Here are just a few examples:
(i) When the Shiites seemed likely to join the
Sunni-driven resistance, the Americans paraded a letter, which they
alleged was written by Zarqawi, calling for a civil war against the
(ii) Only weeks later, the Americans blamed Zarqawi for the suicide bombing of Shiite mosques in Karbala and Baghdad.
Zarqawi came to America’s rescue shortly after publication of
photographs of torture at Abu Ghraib, in the form of the kidnapping of
Nicholas Berg. The Americans told us that he had been decapitated by
Finally, the Zarqawi Deception Story held the world spell bound and
silent while the Americans laid waste to a city rooted in Babylonian
times, Fallujah. It did so by using Zarqawi to invoke the emotions of 9/11.
Zarqawi’s alleged presence in Fallujah was the pretext for America’s razing to the ground that city, in November, 2004. Thus:
Fallujah had become a hub for foreign guerrillas who joined Zarqawi's network, U.S. military officials have said. (Source).
The then Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, warned the city to hand Zarqawi over or else face a full scale assault.
In a letter sent on Oct. 14, 2004, to Kofi Annan, the Fallujah Shura Council, which administers the city, said:
Fallujah, [the Americans] have created a new vague target: al-Zarqawi.
Almost a year has elapsed since they created this new pretext, and
whenever they destroy houses, mosques, restaurants, and kill children
and women, they said: 'We have launched a successful operation against
al-Zarqawi.' The people of Fallujah assure you that this person, if he exists, is not in Fallujah
... and we have no links to any groups supporting such inhuman
behavior. We appeal to you to urge the UN [to prevent] the new massacre
which the Americans and the puppet government are planning to start
soon in Fallujah, as well as many parts of the country (my emphasis).
So, the people of Fallujah couldn't find this "Zarqawi" and, after the massacre, neither could the Americans.
Because he has been dead since 2003!
The political ground for siege of Fallujah was provided by the
beheading of Kenneth Bigley and two American hostages, in the months
preceding the siege. And who was responsible? Mr. Zarqawi, once again.
7. The "Death of Zarqawi": Facts and "Factual Facts"
Straight up, I am unsure as to precisely what did or didn't happen on the evening of June 7, around
6.15 p.m., in, around and to that house, just outside Hibhib, near Baquba.
I would as soon let things settle awhile, so what follows is provisional.
This I do know:
(a) It is important to resist the temptation to evaluate those events in terms dictated by the Military of the United States.
It is engaged in a war to impose its will upon the various armed
resistance groups of Iraq. Its perception of truth will be tailored to
this political and military reality.
Its allegiance is to its Commander-in-Chief, President Bush, the "war president", not to us.
(b) The prior issue when assessing the veracity of the "death of
is the authenticity of the video released a little over a month ago,
for an image of that video's central character has done much to
persuade the watching world that the dead man is Zarqawi.
The Americans maintain that the man in the video is Zarqawi, but they have
provided no independent, corroborating evidence, beyond the image from
the video itself.
Claims of fingerprint and D.N.A. authentication are not independent,
cannot be checked and so should be treated with circumspection. I
return to this below.
(c) The man in that video is not Zarqawi. Not even his dog would fall for that.
No authentic guerrilla would: (i) undermine his operational
effectiveness by revealing his appearance to the enemy, (ii) parade
around in American garb, and (iii) be unable to operate an automatic
In addition, the man in the video does not even look much like the Zarqawi we know from his earlier, black-and-white mug shot.
(d) The most plausible explanation of that video is that it is a
work of Military Deception, that its central character works for the
Americans and his appearance was revealed so that we could recognize
So, let us keep these points in mind, as I raise reasonable doubts
regarding the "Death of Zarqawi" episode of this made-for-television
Military Deception, broadcast on Thursday, June 8, 2006, and days
A. Major General Caldwell: The Firewall around the Deception
General Caldwell comes across as an honest man. If he seems to be
telling the truth, it is because he believes that he is.
Major General Caldwell, I believe, is the unwitting voice of the Zarqawi Deception.
Details of the bombing raid are classified, i.e., they are secret.
Major General Caldwell has been the firewall around these secrets.
His role has been to screen external communications to those within
the firewall, i.e., those privy to the deception, with the aim of
inhibiting or preventing undesirable questions, while permitting
Getting information out of him, is like pulling teeth.
B. Tailoring the Deception Story
There are facts, and then, as the Major General tells us, there are "the
factual facts", and these require "follow-on work". ("And then you give
follow-on work to establish exactly what the factual facts are.")
This "follow-on work", to discover these "factual facts", allows the
Deception Story to be adapted according to (i) how it is being received
in news media, and (ii) the escape of "contra-" factual facts.
This helps explain the hesitant and changeable account of the bombing raid. For example:
- On Thursday, (i.e., the day after the bombing) a young girl was among the casualties.
- On Friday she had disappeared from the casualty list, which was now 3 men and 3 women (a suggestion of impropriety).
- On Saturday, the Major General reversed the previous day's
announcement and confirmed that one of the dead was a small girl, age 5
The body of a 5-7 year old girl cannot be mistaken for that of an
adult woman. To murder a little girl is poor public relations, however,
and I suggest that is why a girl became a woman overnight. It was
changed back again only when independent reports of the girl's body
emerged from neighbours and the Iraqi police.
- On Thursday, Zarqawi died instantly.
- On Friday, he survived for a few minutes.
- On Saturday, he survived for almost an hour.
Well, what we had found, as with anything, first reports are not always fully accurate as we continue the debriefings. But we were not aware yesterday that, in fact, Zarqawi was alive when U.S. forces arrived on the site.
Well, here's another explanation:
The "he died immediately" had the benefit of allowing the Iraqi
police to reach the scene first and deal with their own. This preserves
the illusion that Iraqis are in charge in Iraq.
But the "narrative" needed a fitting moral conclusion and the one chosen was Zarqawi dying in the benevolent arms of America.
The "he survived for a few minutes" allowed the Americans to envelop
"Zarqawi" with their compassion and show him mercy, as they desperately
tried to save his life (having just desperately tried to end it).
Despite the fact that this person actually had no regard for human life, we were not going to treat him in the same manner.
He was treated better in death than he treated others in life (Major General Caldwell).
I'm surprised he didn't die of nausea.
When Iraqi neighbours and police started telling a very different
story, the Americans had to change tack again. According to a neighbour
They stomped on his stomach and his chest until he died and blood came out of his nose.
The Los Angeles Times reported:
An Iraqi police lieutenant who said he was among the first people at the scene told The Times
on Saturday that after Iraqi police had carried Zarqawi to the
ambulance on the stretcher, U.S. troops took him off the stretcher and
placed him on the ground. One of the Americans tried to question
Zarqawi and repeatedly stepped on his chest, causing blood to flow from
his mouth and nose, said the lieutenant, who spoke on condition of
new story was that, yes, Zarqawi survived for much longer than
previously stated, but during that time, American troops tried
desperately to save his life.
To deal with the awkward testimony by Iraqi eyewitness that they seemed to have been desperately trying to end his life, they wheeled out General Casey himself to deliver a verbal 500 lb. bomb: "baloney".
That's that then.
Before continuing, three observations:
- Having dropped two 500 lb. bombs on "Zarqawi", why on earth would they then try to save his life?
- Hibhib is but a short distance from Baghdad. The Military of
the United States has a fetish with information technology and
"precision". They had time enough to prepare two enormous—and
framed—photographs of Zarqawi, but not time enough to establish these
- The bodies of a woman and the little girl were left in the
rubble until the day after the bombing, when, according to an
Iraqi special forces colonel, who refused to give his name, his unit
Precision munitions. Imprecise information.
C. Why not capture Zarqawi alive, rather than kill him?
to the U.S., Zarqawi had close ties to Osama bin Laden, who has escaped
detection since 9/11. [OBL is also dead, but that's for another paper.]
He was, they say, head of a terrorist organization that had claimed
responsibility for, or was blamed for, countless bombings which had
killed thousands of civilians.
Why, then, did they not attempt to capture him alive?
He could have been interrogated. He could have provided information
about the whereabouts of bin Laden, which might have led to his
capture. He could have provided information about "al-Qaeda-in-Iraq"
which could have been used to prevent further killing.
He could have been put on trial and the Americans's allegations against him proven. Isn't that justice?
The Americans surely cannot have thought that Zarqawi would have put
up much of a struggle, for, when they released the "out-takes", early
in May, they used the opportunity to mock his fighting ability.
According to Major General Rick Lynch:
It's supposed to be
automatic fire, he's shooting single shots. Something is wrong with his
machine gun, he looks down, can't figure out, calls his friend to come
unblock the stoppage and get the weapon firing again …. And, his close
associates around him ... do things like grab the hot barrel of the
machine gun and burn themselves. Source
man incapable of operating an automatic weapon, with "close associates"
daft enough to "grab the hot barrel" of a machine gun "and burn
themselves", the Americans’ line a month ago, could not be regarded as
capable of putting up serious resistance to capture.
Why, with any luck, he might have shot himself and saved the Americans the bother.
Judging by his portly stature in that video, he certainly wasn't about to out-run anyone or stray too far from a good meal.
In any event, what was the hurry? Tear gas could have been used, or some other agent capable of incapacitating Zarqawi.
Finally, what of the "collateral" damage: the "spiritual advisor"
(more likely a "personal chef", I would have thought), the two women,
and—above all—the little girl? Surely they were not dangerous
What is the moral difference between what Zarqawi is said to have done,
planted bombs which killed innocent civilians, and what the Americans actually did that day?
This is how the Americans responded to the suggestion that Zarqawi could have been taken alive:
Major General Caldwell:
would assume if we would had gone in there and tried to have captured
him, that would have taken some kind of overwhelming force at that
point in time, and that perhaps they didn't have it ready.
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad:
the only means that could be applied in a timely fashion was the attack
by air power and that was decided by General Casey as the right thing
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld:
came to a conclusion that they could not really go in on the ground
without running the risk of having him escape, so they used air power.
Surely, these are unsatisfactory explanations.
D. Is it probable that two 500 lb. bombs would have left Zarqawi relatively unscathed?
of the head and upper torso of Zarqawi showed him remarkably unmarked
considering that two 500 lb bombs had been dropped on him.
a GBU-12 laser-guided bomb
a GBU-38 joint direct attack munition
These bombs kill by hurling shrapnel, heat and blast. The fearsome force of the blast is apparent from the video of the bombing.
GBU-12 is timed to detonate a split-second after piercing a building's
floor, imploding its structure. That accounts for the large crater in
the photographs of the bombing's aftermath.
We are told there was an autopsy, performed on Saturday, June 10, 2006, which found that Zarqawi died as a result of a blast injury to the lungs.
This finding is interesting, because his skin was not marked by heat, and yet blast and heat go together.
Blast is a violent wave of highly compressed air which spreads
outwards from the explosion’s source. Blast is always accompanied by
heat because they are two forms of the same source of energy. It is the
rapid release of heat that causes the gaseous products of reaction to
expand and generate the blast. You cannot have blast without there
If there was blast enough to damage his internal
organs, there would have been heat enough to burn his skin. And yet
there was no sign of that in the photographs.
The blast would also have ripped off his clothes, and yet he is
reported to have been fully clothed. Indeed, a thumb-size computer disc
drive was allegedly found on him.
E. Is it probable that "documents and computer equipment" would have survived the bombing without damage?
to a "military officer", who, of course, spoke "on condition of
anonymity", the following were retrieved from this bombed "safe" house:
an M-16 rifle, fitted with special optics
AK – 47 rifles
an unspecified number of grenades
policy documents and letters
a lap-top computer, mobile phones
information storage devices, including flash disks, and a thumb-size computer drive found on Zarqari's body.
According to Iraqi National Security adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie, troops combing though the debris found al-Zarqawi's diaries,
telephone numbers, computers, and a database in one computer.
Indeed, it is claimed that information said to have been retrieved
from these computer storage devices has been used to launch raids on
members of "al-Qaeda-in-Iraq" within days of the bombing. This suggests
that no special means were needed to repair these devices or to recover
Mr Rubaie told a news conference in Baghdad.
We believe this is the beginning of the end of al-Qaida in Iraq. We feel we know their
locations, the names of their leaders, their whereabouts, their
movements, through the documents we found during the last few days. Source
When heat, blast and shrapnel destroyed just about everything else in
that house, how is it that "information", on paper and computer
storage devices survived unscathed?
Listen to this New York Times reporter who was on-the-spot:
Concrete blocks, walls, a fence, tin cans, palm trees, a washing
machine: everything at the Hibhib scene was shredded or blown to pieces.
There is the bottle of aspirin sitting on top of the debris, still
intact even as the pills inside exploded. An unopened can of Diet
Pepsi, its side ripped apart. A fan sitting at the bottom of the hole,
its blades twisted. And pieces of rubble so tiny, they fit in the
pockets of soldiers who grabbed them as souvenirs. Source
But data on delicate computer storage devices, so sensitive to dust, and paper survived without a scratch.
F. Since the rubble was blown up by the Americans shortly after they
arrived on the scene, when did they have opportunity to search it for
to an Iraqi eyewitness, Ali Abbas, 25, a labourer, the remains of the
house were blown-up within hours of the Americans's arrival:
When [further one-to-one questioning] was over they took us a
distance from the house. They placed five detonations around the house
and asked us to open our mouths and close our ears. They then blew up
what remained of the rubble house. Source
Not content with dropping two 500 lb. bombs on the house, they then bombed the rubble!
So how could they have had time to search the debris and retrieve this "treasure trove"?
G. How many autopsies were performed on the body of "Zarqawi"?
In response to a question, from Stars and Stripes, about how they could determine cause of death without an autopsy, Major General Caldwell responds:
far as the autopsy goes, there was -- I know -- quote -- was an
"autopsy" done, but I'm going to go back to make sure that it was
performed by whatever the certified kind of person that we're supposed
to have so we can call it an autopsy, and make sure I'm exactly correct
before I tell you that. Source
this mean that an autopsy was done on the Thursday, but it was
conducted by an uncertified "kind of person", and that, because of this
intervention by the official newspaper of the U.S. Armed Forces,
another was done on the Saturday by a certified "kind of person"?
H. From where did the Americans obtain a sample of Zarqawi's D.N.A. which was "matched" with that taken from the body?
Americans had been hunting Zarqawi for at least 3 years. In all that
time, they had little idea what he looked like, how much he weighed and
how tall he was.
How was it, then, that they came to be in possession of what they
knew to be non-degraded samples of Zarqari's blood, hair, saliva or
semen, which would qualify as forensic evidence?
We are told that the D.N.A. testing as done by the F.B.I.
I. Why was Zarqari's immediate family not asked to identify the body?
would have been quicker than D.N.A. testing. It would be the respectful
thing to do. It would also carry more weight among Iraqis who have
learned not to trust the word of Americans.
On this point, why hasn't the family been allowed to see the body?
J. Is it probable that Zarqawi would arrange for beheadings in the very area in which he was staying?
couple of days before "Zarqawi's" untimely end, nine severed heads,
wrapped in plastic bags, were left in a fruit box by the side of a road
According to Tony Snow, President Bush's Press Secretary:
moves into Baquba...and what happens? Over the weekend, they found nine
heads in a box... That's what Zarqawi brought to Baquba.
is it likely that Zarqawi would risk drawing attention to himself, by
arranging for beheadings in the very area in which he was staying?
8. How to Turn Moral Outrage Inside-Out, Like a Glove
Let me repeat this from the U.S. Army Manual:
All MD operations involve risks and costs. Commanders base the decision
to conduct an MD operation on a deliberate assessment that weighs costs
against benefits (4-23).
Ending a Military Deception operation also requires a deliberate assessment of the costs and benefits.
One obvious cost of ending the Zarqawi deception is that it removes
someone to blame, a legitimate enemy for the Americans to fight in
This cost is minimized by creating a successor to carry on the
mayhem. Note how quickly "al-Qaeda-in-Iraq" confirmed the death of
"Zarqawi" (within hours), appointed a successor (within days) and
planted a series of bombs in Baghdad (within days).
This strategy entails a delicate a delicate balance between the
claim that Zarqawi's death is a major victory in the "war on terror"
and the claim that al-Qaeda-in-Iraq is alive and kicking.
This attempt to balance is evident in the President's public responses to the death of Zarqawi.
The risk of ending the Zarqawi Deception is the possibility that
something could go wrong ("what if he survives the bombing?") and that
the attention of the world’s media will detect the deception.
This risk is low. The journalists who visited the bomb site did so
as guests of the military and quickly retreated to the safety of the
Green Zone. Critical, enquiring, Western minds do not live long in Iraq.
The great benefit of "the death of Zarqawi" is that it takes the
moral outrage that was building up over Haditha and Ishaqi and turns it
inside-out like a glove.
Make no mistake: there was growing realisation that the slaughter of
innocent civilians at Haditha and Ishaqi was but the tip of an iceberg.
Desperate times call for desperate measures—hence the bringing of "justice" to Mr. Zarqawi.
The children executed by the Americans at Haditha and Ishaqi are all but forgotten by the Western media.
We are reminded once again of America’s Great Pain:
Zarqawi ➔ al-Qaeda-in-Iraq ➔ Osama bin Laden ➔ 9/11 and "America Under Attack".
It's enough to bring on a fainting spell.
Even the Iraq Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who, the week before
had condemned the Americans for their casual slaughter of Iraqi
lives—"They crush them with their vehicles and kill them just on
suspicion or a hunch," forgot about all that in his haste to pay them
tribute for "terminating" Zarqawi.
Indeed, he used it as an opportunity to rebrand his beleaguered government. Within minutes
of the announcement of Zarqawi's death he named the three key security
ministers that had taken so long to fill. It was almost as if it were
An unexpected bonus is that Zarqawi can be blamed for the brewing conflict between the United States and Iran!
This according to a memo
provided to USA TODAY by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which, he
says, came from the bombed house of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (although
Major General Caldwell says it came from another al-Qaeda house). The
full text of the memo is here.
Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!
(Sir Walter Scott, Marmion, Canto vi. Stanza 17.)
web woven by architects of the Zarqari Deception will take some
untangling, for what is real and what is false in Iraq embrace and
imitate each other.
This paper is but a start in this untangling.
What, then, happened to "Mr. Zarqawi"?
Once the decision was made to exit the Deception Program, the man
who simulated Zarqawi—not any real Zarqawi—immediately became the most
dangerous threat to America, not only its military, but its presidency.
Once the decision was made to terminate "Zarqawi", to turn the tide
of moral outrage, the days of he who simulated him were numbered.
One of two things happened:
(a) The man was killed using a more reliable method than bombing and
the photograph is not of a bombing victim. Not one of the Iraqi
eyewitnesses immediately identified the most wanted man in Iraq. That
would help explain the remarkable absence of external injuries on the
body in the photograph.
(b) The inhabitants of the bombed house were the man who impersonated Zarqawi in the video and his family.
The Americans bombed the house. They took their time to arrive on
the scene to allow the Iraqis first contact with the prize and because
they did not imagine that anyone could survive the
When they discovered, to their horror, that "Zarqawi" was
alive, they behaved as the Iraqi witnesses have said: they extinguished
what little life was left in him. This man knew too much to live.
I will revise these tentative conclusions as and when further evidence becomes available.
Finally, I will be relieved to be mistaken about this deception. The
events I have described are truly diabolical and if I am wrong there is
that much less evil in the world.
And if I am correct?
Then when the perpetrators of this wicked war are finally brought to
justice, let us reserve a special place for the architects of this
Let us recall also the now forgotten children slaughtered by the
Americans at Haditha and Ishaqi, and the little girl they killed
without a second thought, to push them off the front pages, that
summer's evening, June 7, 2006.
This is for them.
Dr. Richard Marsden
June 19, 2006