Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only shake you down once a year, but when we do we really mean it. It costs a lot to keep the site afloat, and our growing audience, well over TWO million unique viewers a month, eats up a lot of bandwidth — and bandwidth isn’t free. We aren’t supported by corporate donors, advertisers or big foundations. We survive solely on your support.
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:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
David Swanson
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
James McEnteer
Eugene, Oregon and the Rising Cost of Cool
Norman Pollack
The Great Debate: Proto-Fascism vs. the Real Thing
Michael Winship
The Tracks of John Boehner’s Tears
John Steppling
Fear Level Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Where Is That Wasteful Government Spending?
James Russell
Beyond Debate: Interview Styles of the Rich and Famous
September 26, 2016
Diana Johnstone
The Hillary Clinton Presidency has Already Begun as Lame Ducks Promote Her War
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Against Russia
Dave Lindorff
Parking While Black: When Police Shoot as First Resort
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
Brian Cloughley
The United States Wants to Put Russia in a Corner
Guillermo R. Gil
The Clevenger Effect: Exposing Racism in Pro Sports
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail