FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Zarqawi’s War

by PATRICK COCKBURN

Baghdad.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is a mysterious figure who has become notorious because of the savage cruelty with which he has treated his kidnap victims.

He heads an increasingly powerful Islamic fundamentalist movement in Iraq but little is known about him: US intelligence admits it does not even know if he has still has both legs, having supposedly had one amputated after being wounded by a US bomb in Afghanistan.

Zarqawi appears to be obsessed with personally participating in the grisly ritual of decapitating his hostages.

He sees anybody who co-operates with the US or the interim government as a potential victim. Islamic clerics who support the resistance but criticise Zarqawi’s methods are savagely denounced and two who were gunned down this week may have died on his orders.

The few people who have met Zarqawi and survived say he has a strong personality. A prison doctor who knew him when he was in jail in Jordan said he could order his followers to do things “just by moving his eyes.”

He calls his followers to battle with bloody thirsty rhetoric. On a tape recording earlier this year he says: “Oh Allah, America came with its horses and knights to challenge Allah and his message. Oh Allah, destroy the kingdom of Bush as you destroyed the kingdom of Caesar.”

He was born Ahmed Fadeel al-Khalayleh, an ethnic Palestinian, 37 years ago. After growing up in poverty in the grim industrial town of Zarqa in Jordan, he went to fight in Afghanistan in the 1980s. On his return to Jordan in 1992 was jailed for six years after guns were found in his house.

On his release Zarqawi returned to Afghanistan and later to Iraq. His name became internationally famous last year, when Colin Powell, the US Secretary State, denounced him before the UN Security Council as a link between al-Qa’ida and Saddam Hussein. No evidence for this was produced.

It was at this time that he is believed to have set up cells of his organisation Tawhid and Jihad (Unity and Holy War) in Iraq.

From February this year, US officials in Baghdad, citing a captured message from him, focussed on Zarqawi as the source of al-Qa’ida involvement in Iraq. This was largely a propaganda ploy. The US had long sought to portray the resistance to the occupation as either supporters of Saddam Hussein or foreign fighters linked to al-Qa’ida. Zarqawi’s name was brought up by US spokesmen at every press conference, as if he were the sole instigator of the guerrilla war.

The denunciations of Zarqawi by the US may, ironically, have helped him recruit men and money outside Iraq, particularly in Saudi Arabia. It also gained him popularity in some Sunni Muslim districts in Iraq. For instance when a US Bradley Fighting Vehicle was destroyed in Haifa Street earlier this month, local teenagers quickly made a black Tawhid flag and stuck it in the muzzle of the gun.

The group has claimed credit for a ruthless bombing campaign as well as the deaths of several hostages. The exact number of its members is unknown, but they may number as many as 1,000. It has disregarded calls by other Iraqi resistance groups to stop killing Iraqi policemen and young men, desperate for employment, queuing up to get jobs in the security services. Any Iraqi co-operating with the occupation in any way is a target.

Most of the Iraqi resistance is home-grown but Zarqawi and Tawhid plays an increasingly important role. At the time of the uprising in Sunni areas around Baghdad in April there were few foreign fighters, despite US claims to the contrary. Since then many foreigners have come to Fallujah, mostly from Saudi Arabia, and they are well-armed and well-financed.

Many Iraqis believe that extent and power of Zarqawi’s movement has been exaggerated by the US to discredit the resistance, though there is no doubt that Tawhid exists and is a growing force. But the savagery of its methods is creating a backlash among the other insurgents who see it as too willing to kill ordinary Iraqis.

ATTACKS ATRTRIBUTED TO ABU MUSAB AL-ZARQAWI

* 2003 Zarqawi is named as the organiser of a series of lethal bombings – from Casablanca in Morocco to Istanbul in Turkey.

* August 2003 Blamed by the US for assassination of the Shia cleric, Ayatollah al-Hakim, at a shrine in the town of Najaf, one of the bloodiest attacks in Iraq last year in which more than 50 Shia worshippers died.

* February 2004 US offers a $25m reward for the capture of Zarqawi (the original bounty on his head was $5m) after intercepting a letter which indicated he was working with al-Qa’ida to drive the US out of Iraq. Within days of the letter’s release, bomb attacks on recruiting centres for the Iraqi security forces had killed nearly 100 people.

* March 2004 Officials say he may have been behind the 11 March Madrid bombings which killed 191.

* May 2004 Zarqawi beheads the US contractor Nick Berg. The murder is broadcast on the internet.

* June 2004 Zarqawi’s group is blamed for a wave of attacks that killed more than 100 people in attacks in five Iraqi cities.

 

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail