All the talk of Zarqawi's death is unsettling. The carefully scripted reaction from BushCo was predictably inane: "This killer won't kill again," or something equally fatuous. I did notice that he made mention of justice being done and wondered how that got in there since it cause trouble the last time he threw that word around the Muslim world.
The constant announcements from the corporate media of his death are gruesome for obvious reasons. Who else died when those two five hundred pound bombs hit the safe house? But beyond all the uncomfortable talk of revenge, which isn't justice at all, (I keep waiting to see the gigantic photo of the dead man provided during a DOD briefing nailed to the White House gates.) the fact is that Zarqawi's killing will only make matters in Iraq worse. From Nir Rosen's interview on BBC's The World today: (not an exact transcription but very close)
How many insurgents took orders directly from Zarqawi?
It's difficult to put numbers on it but the answer is definitely very few. Zarqawi's foreign fighters were always a small number of resistance. The insurgency was always dominated by Iraqis fighting for national liberation and not for the global jihad that Zarqawi was fighting for.
What is the distinction between resistance and insurgency?
It's all muddled. There are militias, there are foreign fighters. The insurgency is sort of passe. Now it's Shi'a militias versus Sunni militias. It's a civil war.
How much does the death of Z help the defence and security ministers to tamp down the violence in Iraq? Is the advantage now in their court?
No. Zarqawi was not that significant and his death is certainly insignificant. What you're going to be seeing is a new group. It'll be called the Zarqawi Brigade or the Zarqawi Batallion and they're going to claim some huge attack in the next few days targeting some important Shi'a leader or a large group of Shi'a civilians. So his death can only serve to encourage a new flock of jihadis who flock to Iraq to avenge his death. And because he wasn't the commander of a very significant number of fighters, it can hardly affect the command and control structure of the various Sunni militias fighting the Shi'as and fighting the Americans and fighting the British.
In your book you write, "Zarqawi could thank the United States for much of his reknown. By blaming every attack on him they inflated his myth and served as his best recruiters. Why would they want to create this Zarqawi?
I think it was certainly a miscalculation. In 2002 when Zarqawi was hiding in the autonomous Kurdish area of Iraq, and Colin Powell went before the United Nations and said Zarqawi who belongs to Al Qaeda, is the link between Al Qaeda and Iraq, Z must have been the one most surprised by that because he didn't belong to Al Qaeda and he had never had any link to Saddam. And the United States continuted to spread this myth about him because they didn't want to admit that the insurgency or the resistance was an Iraqi-dominated opposition to the American project in Iraq. So Zarqawi being a foreign fighter made it very convenient: there's a small number of people who are attacking the Americans and they're all foreigners like Zarqawi. The reality was that the majority of the attacks were conducted by Iraqi Sunnis were alienated and scared of the new order. And Zarqawi was one among the many groups there. But by blaming Zarqawi for all the attacks, they made him a hero thorough the Ar world and other young, aspiring jihadis flocked to his cause or people flocked to donate money to his cause, when without the American attribution, he wouldn't have risen such prominence.
It sounds like what you're saying is that that myth will continue to grow now that he is dead.
I believe so, yes. He was seeking martyrdom and now his supporters around the world will be celebrating his death. He's finally in paradise.
It would be easy to write something like, I'm glad that Zarqawi is dead because he was one of the bad guys. There's certainly enough pressure out there to do that. But I'm not happy. I'm sad and I'm terrified. It's finally sinking it with me that this is the beginning of a very long and bloody road - a road my kids will have to walk. So no, this isn't one for the good guys. Michael Berg, the father of Nicholas Berg, one of Zarqawi's victims, and a man who has had his life threatned because his views of BushCo's War on Iraq don't comport with the corporate party line, knows that too:
Give O'Brien credit there. You don't learn how to editorialize like that in Journalism School or at Barbizon or wherever she got her degree. Knowing how to pull off that kind of off-topic pandering is what got her hired. And she has no intention of being the next Ashleigh Banford. (h/t Dave Johnson)
O'BRIEN: Mr. Berg, thank you for talking with us again. It's nice to have an opportunity to talk to you. Of course, I'm curious to know your reaction, as it is now confirmed that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the man who is widely credited and blamed for killing your son, Nicholas, is dead.
MICHAEL BERG: Well, my reaction is I'm sorry whenever any human being dies. Zarqawi is a human being. He has a family who are reacting just as my family reacted when Nick was killed, and I feel bad for that. (Watch video of the two bombs falling on al-Zarqawi -- 2:00)
I feel doubly bad, though, because Zarqawi is also a political figure, and his death will re-ignite yet another wave of revenge, and revenge is something that I do not follow, that I do want ask for, that I do not wish for against anybody. And it can't end the cycle. As long as people use violence to combat violence, we will always have violence.
O'BRIEN: I have to say, sir, I'm surprised. I know how devastated you and your family were, frankly, when Nick was killed in such a horrible, and brutal and public way.
BERG: Well, you shouldn't be surprised, because I have never indicated anything but forgiveness and peace in any interview on the air.
O'BRIEN: No, no. And we have spoken before, and I'm well aware of that. But at some point, one would think, is there a moment when you say, 'I'm glad he's dead, the man who killed my son'?
BERG: No. How can a human being be glad that another human being is dead?
O'BRIEN: There have been family members who have weighed in, victims, who've said that they don't think he's a martyr in heaven, that they think, frankly, he went straight to hell ...
You know, you talked about the fact that he's become a political figure. Are you concerned that he becomes a martyr and a hero and, in fact, invigorates the insurgency in Iraq?
BERG: Of course. When Nick was killed, I felt that I had nothing left to lose. I'm a pacifist, so I wasn't going out murdering people. But I am -- was not a risk-taking person, and yet now I've done things that have endangered me tremendously.
I've been shot at. I've been showed horrible pictures. I've been called all kinds of names and threatened by all kinds of people, and yet I feel that I have nothing left to lose, so I do those things.
Now, take someone who in 1991, who maybe had their family killed by an American bomb, their support system whisked away from them, someone who, instead of being 59, as I was when Nick died, was 5-years-old or 10-years-old. And then if I were that person, might I not learn how to fly a plane into a building or strap a bag of bombs to my back?
That's what is happening every time we kill an Iraqi, every time we kill anyone, we are creating a large number of people who are going to want vengeance. And, you know, when are we ever going to learn that that doesn't work?
O'BRIEN: There's an alternate reading, which would say at some point, Iraqis will say the insurgency is not OK -- that they'll be inspired by the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in the sense of he was turned in, for example, we believe by his own No. 2, No. 3 leadership in his ranks.
And, that's actually them saying we do not want this kind of violence in our country. Experts whom we've spoken to this morning have said this is a critical moment where Iraqis need to figure out which direction the country is going to go. That would be an alternate reading to the scenario you're pointing to. (Watch how Iraqi leaders cheered after learning about al-Zarqawi's death -- 4:31)
BERG: Yes, well, I don't believe that scenario, because every time news of new atrocities committed by Americans in Iraq becomes public, more and more of the everyday Iraqi people who tried to hold out, who tried to be peaceful people lose it and join -- what we call the insurgency, and what I call the resistance, against the occupation of one sovereign nation.
O'BRIEN: There's a theory that a struggle for democracy, you know...
BERG: Democracy? Come on, you can't really believe that that's a democracy there when the people who are running the elections are holding guns. That's not democracy.
O'BRIEN: There's a theory that as they try to form some kind of government, that it's going to be brutal, it's going to be bloody, there's going to be loss, and that's the history of many countries -- and that's just what a lot of people pay for what they believe will be better than what they had under Saddam Hussein.
BERG: Well, you know, I'm not saying Saddam Hussein was a good man, but he's no worse than George Bush. Saddam Hussein didn't pull the trigger, didn't commit the rapes. Neither did George Bush. But both men are responsible for them under their reigns of terror.
I don't buy that. Iraq did not have al Qaeda in it. Al Qaeda supposedly killed my son.
Under Saddam Hussein, no al Qaeda. Under George Bush, al Qaeda.
Under Saddam Hussein, relative stability. Under George Bush, instability.
Under Saddam Hussein, about 30,000 deaths a year. Under George Bush, about 60,000 deaths a year. I don't get it. Why is it better to have George Bush the king of Iraq rather than Saddam Hussein?
O'BRIEN: Michael Berg is the father of Nicholas Berg, the young man, the young businessman who was beheaded so brutally in Iraq back in May of 2004.
Related: Jude, writing at the American Street, has a good post on how an MSNBC interview of Michael Berg reveals the true nature of what Jude calls "Bush theology" and the corporate media's fealty to it.