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How US Propaganda Created a Myth

Abu Musab al-Zarkawi: Evil’s superhero

In order to make the Good’s superhero – George W. Bush – stand out, the US propaganda has created Evil’s superheroes: first, it was Bin Laden; then, Zarkawi. In both cases, according to Romanian journalist Vladimir Alexe, it is the demon of a fallen angel: a CIA agent who turns back against his creator. Once the myth has been created, it is blamed for the most diverse events in order to exorcize the cruelties of the Coalition.

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Over the last four years, terrorism has increased all over the world. From a regional phenomenon, it has now become an issue of international collective security, the nightmare of all societies, whether they are democratic or not. In these circumstances, the terrorism’s superstars have also appeared. The “first bad genie” of Islamic fundamentalism was Osama bin Laden. However, today his top place in the list of terror is threatened by a new character, considered to be as evil but far more mysterious than Bin Laden: Abu Musab al-Zarkawi. It is someone whose name was unknown three years ago but who is now considered to be the leader of the Iraqi resistance and mastermind of terrorist operations against the United States and Europe. They speak so much about very complex facts that, in the end, he looks like hero of popular stories rather than a man of flesh and blood. Some analysts say that he is an enigmatic Jordanian of Palestinian origin, a legend that seems to have been created with apparent propaganda purposes.

The “war on terror”, described by president Bush Jr. as the “war of law”, defines “Good” and “Evil” upon the Earth, which turns the two terrorist leaders into the embodiment of “Evil”. The propaganda campaigns thus aim at keeping the “terrorist threat” alive in the minds of American citizens. The creation of certain characters, certain myths of global terrorism like Osama bin Laden (former CIA agent) or, today, Abu Musab al-Zarkawi, always chased but never caught by the Pentagon, aims at validating and “personalizing” a war that has allowed the United States to significantly increase its direct influence area.

Afghanistan: the beginnings

Michel Chossudovsky wrote in an article entitled,«The Pentagon’s New Terrorist Mastermind», that the US counterespionage and intelligence agencies have organized, since a long time ago, their own terrorist organizations. Several “Islamic” organizations have acted and still act in accordance with a secret plan to create the opportunities and justify the intervention of the US Army. According to Chossudovsky, this organization operates like the two arms of a human body: the left arm creates the conditions for the intervention of the right one. Thus, there is a “brain” that coordinates everything and the author recalls that the “Islamic-terrorist” movement that Washington chases today was initially a US creation.

How did the United States invent the Islamic-terrorist movement? Zbigniew Brzezinski tells us in an interview published in the January 15-21 1998 edition of the Nouvel Observateur [1]. Jimmy Carter’s former national defense affairs advisor reveals in this exclusive interview that the CIA intervention in Afghanistan preceded the Soviet invasion in 1979. Brzezinski says: “According to the official version, the CIA backed the movement of the mujaheddins starting in 1980, that is, after the Soviet armed intervention in Afghanistan on December 24, 1979. Actually, everything happened in a different way, but it was a secret kept until now. On July 3, 1979, President Carter signed the first secret directive to help those who opposed the pro-Soviet regime of Kabul”. The aim was to create a “Viet Nam” for the Soviet army and economy. As part of this secret plan, the United States financed, trained and armed thousands of Islamists brought from different countries and continents to neighboring Pakistan. The prestigious Covert Action Quarterly magazine, that in its last editions published a summary of the September 11 2001 events and the evolution of terrorism, drew a worrying conclusion: the Carter Administration created the “Islamists” in Sudan; Bush Sr. strengthened cooperation with the “Islamists” in Afghanistan and Sudan; while the Clinton Administration backed the “Islamists” in Albania, Algeria, Bosnia, Chechnya, Iraq and Libya.

From a geo-strategic point of view, Osama bin Laden is President Bush’s best “friend”. What would have Bush done without Bin Laden? Asks himself Michael C. Ruppert, who has thirty years of experience in “secret” missions, in his work Crossing the Rubicon . The conclusions of the author go further: “I think that Bin Laden was and still is a CIA agent working for the United States and for Wall Street”.
That would explain why the most wanted and sought terrorist on Earth has not been caught. However, since January 2003, another myth of world terrorism has appeared in the international arena: that of Abu Musab al-Zarkawi, whom nobody knew until then. Then, who is this Zarkawi?

A confused biography for an obscure terrorist

Very little was said about Abu Musab al-Zarkawi until January 2003. An illustrious unknown character quickly became the most famous terrorist of the planet.

However, his biography is full of mystery and, thus, it is very difficult to tell legend from reality. Legend could be attributed to the people’s stories but also to official propaganda. With the necessary omissions, here are some of the main events that have allegedly marked the life of Abu Musab al-Zarkawi.

He was born 38 years ago in Zarka, Jordan. He was a member of a nine-child poor family. His family belongs to the Bam Hassan Bedouin tribe, the biggest and most religious of the Hashemite tribes in Jordan. He was named Ahmed Fadil Hamdan Khalaila but later he changed it to Abu Musab al-Zarkawi, after his father’s hometown.

When he was 12 years old, Abu Musab was expelled from school and found refuge in the Palestinian camps near Amman. He was almost 20 years old when he went to fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan. There, he invented a way to build homemade bombs and later went to train in a camp of Mujaheddins from different Muslim countries. In 1990 he went back to Jordan. In December 1999, the name of Zarkawi was related to the attack against the “Padisson Sas” hotel in Amman. After the police uncovered the conspiracy, Zarkawi was arrested but later pardoned. After coming out of jail he fled to Pakistan and later went back to Afghanistan. In 2002, Zarkawi joins the Talibans to fight the American forces. It is said that he was seriously wounded in a foot during an ambush although he was able to flee to Iraq where he had his wounded foot amputated in a hospital in Baghdad. _ Later, according to all probabilities, the Anglo-American invasion finds Abu Musab al-Zarkawi in the North of Iraq, in the Kurdish area, an ideal place to continue the “holy war” ahead of his group “Ansar al-Islam”, comprised of nearly 400 fundamentalists. Finally, in April 2003, after the fall of Baghdad to the offensive of the US troops, Zarkawi and his group are located in central Iraq, an area known as the “Sunni triangle”.

Birth of a Legend

Zarkawi was thus catapulted to the international arena in February 2003, just six weeks after the US invasion of Iraq under the pretext of the presence of “weapons of mass destruction” made by the regime of Saddam Hussein, according to a speech given by State Secretary Colin Powell before the UN Security Council in which he stated: “What I want to note today is the connection, maybe even more sinister, that exists between Iraq and the terrorist network Al-Qaida, a connection that links traditional terrorist organizations to modern methods of killing. Today, Iraq shelters a deadly terrorist network lead by Abu Musab al-Zarkawi, who is an ally and collaborator of Osama bin Laden and his deputies in Al Qaida”. In his speech, Powell uses the name of Zarkawi to establish a link between Saddam Hussein, the Baas party (national socialist) and what Washington describes as the “network of Islamic terror”. In other words, hitherto unknown, the terrorist of Jordanian origin, was presented as the real evidence of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq links with Al Qaida. Once the connection was established, the Bush Jr. Administration could allege that the regime of Baghdad was a threat to the United States. As part of this argument, a man, the mysterious Abu Musab al-Zarkawi, was abruptly presented as a super-terrorist.

As he was then completely unknown, the State Secretary had to make a brief introduction: “a Palestinian of Jordanian origin, Abu Zarkawi had fought during the Afghan war more than ten years ago. After returning from Afghanistan, in 2000, he led a training camp for terrorists. One of his specialties, and also of the camp, was poison. When our coalition made the Talibans flee, the network of Abu Zarkaoui helped establish another training camp for specialists in poison and explosives in North East Iraq.
This network teaches its members to produce ricin and other poisons (…). From his terrorist network in Iraq, Abu Zarkawi can lead the operations of this network in the Middle East and farther (…). Abu Zarkawi and his network prepared terrorist acts against countries such as France, Great Britain, Spain, Italy, Germany and Russia”.

From an anonymous mujaheddin, Al-Zarkawi became a star of international terrorism overnight, particularly some weeks later when President Bush Jr. himself mentioned Al-Zarkawi, describing him as “the most dangerous man on the planet after Osama bin Laden”.

Terror in the United States

After Colin Powell’s speech before the Security Council, the public opinion did not forget the name of Al-Zarkawi. The terrorist, of whom nothing had been ever heard, abruptly became omnipresent in all fronts. On February 8, 2003, there was an “anti-ricin alert” in the United States. They discovered some “suspicious white powder” in a letter addressed to the leader of the Republican majority in the US Senate, Bill Frist. The national authorities immediately mentioned the name of Zarkawi, identifying him as the “possible mastermind” of the operation. The National Review magazine on February 18, 2003, gave the following arguments: “It is well known that Zarkawi, a biochemical engineer and head of the Al Qaida organization, was hiding in Afghanistan where traces of ricin and other poisons were found”.

Zaqrkaui’s ricin hysteria was later replaced by something else. On February 13, 2003, the ABC television network announced that the ghost-terrorist sheltered in Iraq was there preparing an attack with a radioactive bomb against the United States. It was exactly a week after Colin Powell’s speech before the Security Council.

Immediately, the US authorities declared “orange alert”! Then, Powell told ABC: “It is easy for a terrorist to attack us with a radioactive bomb made in the United States. The American people must be aware that the possibility exists”. During that time, the US television network warned hotels, boutiques, flooded electronic mailboxes, etc. After the announcement, thousands of Americans hurried to buy gas masks, plastic covers, adhesive tape, etc, in order to prepare for an eventual attack.

It is not necessary to say that after the occupation of Iraq, the Coalition troops have not found a single radioactive bomb, or ricin or any chemical weapons whatsoever.

The Spanish Affiliate

The “Al-Zarkawi myth” was strengthened by Spanish president José María Aznar. While Colin Powell presented the “Zarkawi file” in the United Nations, on February 5, 2003, Aznar declared in the Spanish Parliament that there was information indicating that Spain could be the target of chemical attacks.

According to Aznar and reported by El País on February 6, 2003, Al-Zarkawi had links with Merouane Ben-Ahmed, an “expert on explosives and chemical weapons whom he had recently visited in Barcelona”. What is more, Aznar sustained that 16 Al-Qaida suspects who possessed chemical weapons and explosives, had relations with the ghost-terrorist Al-Zarkawi.

The information was completely false. The Spanish Defense Minister later recognized that the “chemical weapons” were mere detergents (cf. Irish News, February 27, 2003).

Later, the Madrid attacks took place on March 11, 2004. Although the Spanish media investigations excluded Al-Zarkawi, the CIA regarded him as the main suspect of the attacks. The hypothesis was again introduced in the CNN on March 13, 2004. That is, two days after the attacks, when the Spanish police investigation was only beginning.

A CNN guest explained why he accused Al-Zarkawi: “I intercepted his last memorandum, last month, which indicated the continuation of actions against the United States”.

Later, the argument was retaken, but with more details. According to the CIA, a “group of Moroccans” could have been involved in the Madrid attacks. They were supposed to be in touch with Al-Zarkawi according to an investigation carried out by news daily The Australian on May 24, 2004.

Thus, the mysterious Al-Zarkawi seems to be a very busy person. Let us take a closer look at what he did in the spring of 2003.

From his Iraqi hiding place – protected from the eyes of the UN inspectors that search the entire country – our super terrorist was preparing ricin to send it by mail to the United States, he was also burying radioactive bombs, organizing and coordinating the actions of his criminal organization that had extended its operations to four European countries and, finally, he was acting as a mediator between Al Qaida and Saddam Hussein’s regime. Not even the US invasion of Iraq was able to stop this frenzied activity, on the contrary. Since then, the actions attributed to Al-Zarkawi are numerous. His name is linked with almost all terrorist operations.

The Weekly Standard, a magazine close to the neo-conservative circles of the PNAC group, published on May 24, 2004, that “Al-Zarkawi led not only the killing of Nick Berg but also the March 11 slaughter in Madrid, the Shiites’ bombing during the same month and the kamikaze attack in the port of Bassorah on April 24. Before September 1, 2001, he was conspiring to kill Israeli and American tourists in Jordan”.

Abu Musab al-Zarkawi became the new “evil genie” of Islamism, while Osama bin Laden was gradually falling into obscurity. The CIA increased its reward for Zarkawi from two million dollars to 30 millions, a sum that matched his status of super terrorist.

Oddly enough, and in spite of his alleged involvement in so many criminal activities, Zarkawi continues to be a ghostly character. The information about him continues to be limited. CIA officials acknowledged in the same edition of the Weekly Standard that the Agency does not have a single photo of Zarkawi and also ignores his height and weight.

The Videotape of Nicholas Berg’s Execution

In May 2004, Al-Zarkawi was accused for the beheading of Nicholas Berg after taking him as hostage. Observers noted that this execution – excessively covered by media – took place at the right moment for Donald Rumsfeld when, amid the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, several US senators had asked for the resignation of the Defense Secretary for considering responsible, at least morally, of the horrors that took place in that prison.

The videotape with the execution of Nick Berg aroused anti-Iraqi feelings in the public opinion that distracted attention from two important issues. On May 11, 2004, the CNN presented a mysterious report, found in an Islamic site, which accused Zarkawi of beheading Berg. Two days later, the CNN announced: “The CIA confirms that Abu al-Zarkawi killed Nicholas Berg”.

The evidence: a videotape entitled: “Abu Musab al-Zarkawi present in the execution of an American citizen”. The recording showed one masked man speaking in English whom CIA experts unanimously said it was Zarkawi.

In “Was Nick Berg killed by US intelligence?” Sirajin Sattayev noted a series of incoherencies in the videotape.

Thus, Sattayev pointed out: Zarkawi is a Jordanian but the man in the videotape does not speak with a Jordanian accent. Zarkawi had one foot amputated. However, neither of the man in video’s feet shows this anomaly. In addition, the man called Zarkawi wears a yellow ring – probably golden – and that is something that no Islamic fundamentalist would do because his faith does not allow it.

Immediately after this real bomb was public – a Zarkawi with his two feet, a gold ring in his ring finger and who speaks English –, the News and World Report magazine on May 24 affirmed: “US intelligence officials, who thought Zarkawi had lost a foot in Afghanistan, recently modified their opinion and now affirm that Zarkawi has his two feet”. The situation changes.

The Mystery of the Hostages in Iraq

Unlike Bin Laden, Zarkawi has never called for a “holy war” against Jews or Christians (the “crusaders”). During his speech before the UN Security Council, Colin Powell forgot to mention two important facts: first, that Zarkawi and his organization “Ansar al-Islam” opposed Saddam Hussein; and, second, that the United States show no interest (they could have done it) in destroying his base in the North of Iraq, a region mainly inhabited by Kurds. Why?

Since when is the taking of hostages a strategic method in Iraq? Since almost six months after the US-led Coalition occupied the country. In May 2004 (after nearly a year after the occupation) Nick Berg was beheaded. Eugène Armstrong and Jack Hensley followed him in September 2004 and so did British Ken Bigley in October 2004.

What is amazing is that some especially unpleasant characters for the Coalition were among Zarkawi’s hostages.

They were businessmen who were suspects of committing espionage, “leftist” or independent journalists who made reports against the interests of occupation forces and who ignored censorship, or activists from independent humanitarian organizations.

For example, Nick Berg was kidnapped when the Coalition suspected he was clandestinely going from Iraq to Iran. According to his father, the FBI was investigating the entire Berg family in the United States searching for information about his trips to Iran. The reports by Giuliana Segrena, the journalist of Manisfesto Italian communist news daily), were not favorable to the occupation troops and constantly made reference to the “genocide of Fallujah”.

Only journalists called “war correspondents”, accredited before the Coalition forces, are encouraged by the United States to go to Iraq. They receive a uniform of the US Army and military protection. At the hotel, they receive only notes and videotapes controlled by military censorship. Like during the war with former Yugoslavia, these numerous “war correspondents” hardly go out of their hotels and to their newspapers they only send information produced by the US Army.

The other journalists, the ones who do their work ignoring the military censorship, take the risk of falling in the hands of “Zarkawi” and becoming a hostage or being beheaded. So, isn’t the idea to intimidate independent journalists or NGO workers (see the Pentagon’s program “P2OG”) so that they stay away from “sensitive” areas?

No matter how unpredictable the situation may be in Iraq, we have to, at least, be amazed at the very strange way in which Al-Zarkawi tries to achieve his goals. Many of the victims of his organization’s actions were not supposed to be afraid, a priori or in an explicit way, of becoming a target of Islamic terrorists.

Ten Thousand Dollars for Believing in the “Zarkawi” Fiction

The name of Al-Zarkawi was cited in 2003 to justify the war in Iraq. Today, he is presented as the spearhead of the insurrection; a pretext used to say that peace is still not possible and that Coalition forces must postponed their withdrawal. Zarkawi’s organization is accused of all kinds of actions: car-bombs, kidnappings, taking of hostages and executions. So many and so complex actions seem hard to be directed by only one man. The Australian newspaper The Age presents an interesting hypothesis: “Al-Zarkawi does not exist”. Or, at least, the hyperactive and spirited character described by the US secret services does not exist. It is a fictitious character. The Age reports the anonymous testimony of an official of the US Army specialized in psychological operations. He allegedly told the Australian newspaper: “I paid up to 10,000 dollars to opportunistic people and common criminals so that they told journalists that Zarkawi des exist, thus making him the hero of every terrorist action in Iraq”.

Then, where is the truth or the lie about the legend of the new characters of terrorism? Has this character completely been created in a laboratory of misinformation or taking a real person and adding some “features”? Whatever it may be the case, as to his beginnings in the Islamic struggle, the CIA should know a lot.

Media outlets avoid recalling an extremely important fact: “Al-Qaida” was born in 1987, in the Islamic camps of Pakistan, backed by the CIA and the ISI (counter espionage services of the Pakistani army) that was fighting in Afghanistan against the Soviet occupation. It was at that time that the CIA recruited Bin Laden.

He and the young Zarkawi were serving the interests of the United States against the enemy of that epoch: the Soviet Union. This fact was even recognized by former State Secretary Colin Powell on February 5, 2003, in his speech before the Security Council.

There is plenty of information, systematically ignored by the mainstream media and television networks, as to the help and support given by the CIA to Al-Qaida during those years. Top political figures like Colin Powell and Richard Armitage have directly involved in trying to channel the efforts of the Islamic rebels in Afghanistan. Thus, one can conclude that Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarkawi are pure “creations” of the CIA.

Today, a new argument is gaining ground among the neoconservatives: that Al-Zarkawi is financed by Iran. That explains why Washington placed Iran in the list of the countries members of the “Axis of Evil”. So, the “epoch of Al-Zarkawi” seems to continue and the ghost-terrorist could be used against Iran.

Article published in Ziua on July 9, 2005.

Vladimir Alexe

Journaliste au quotidien Ziua (Le Jour) à Bucarest, auteur d’ouvrages d’histoire contemporaine, en particulier une biographie très critique de l’ancien président Ion Iliescu.

 
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