The Atlantic on al-Zarqawi

This is the item from Wonkette today parsing the implications of recent events in Iraq.

You know who the real winner is now that al-Zarqawi’s gone? The people of Iraq? No, they’re pretty much still screwed. It’s the editors of The Atlantic, who have a huge Zarqawi profile in their July/August issue, conveniently added to the website yesterday. Abu Musab al-Zarqari: Terrorist mastermind, total idiot.

I just took time out to read the extensive and impressive Atlantic profile by Mary Anne Weaver and several points are hammered home.

1) There is no love lost between al-Zarqawi and bin Laden and never has been. Here's a tidbit from the piece.

In December 1999, al-Zarqawi crossed the border into Afghanistan, and later that month he and bin Laden met at the Government Guest House in the southern city of Kandahar, the de facto capital of the ruling Taliban. As they sat facing each other across the receiving room, a former Israeli intelligence official told me, “it was loathing at first sight.”

2) A life-long thug, al-Zarqawi's image as omnipotent leader of the Iraqi insurgency was something of a U.S. creation. Here's what a former Jordanian intelligence official told Weaver.

“The Americans have been patently stupid in all of this. They’ve blown Zarqawi so out of proportion that, of course, his prestige has grown. And as a result, sleeper cells from all over Europe are coming to join him now.” He paused for a moment, then said, “Your government is creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Western and Israeli diplomats to whom I spoke share this view—and this past April, The Washington Post reported on Pentagon documents that detailed a U.S. military propaganda campaign to inflate al-Zarqawi’s importance. Then, the following month, the military appeared to attempt to reverse field and portray al-Zarqawi as an incompetent who could not even handle a gun. But by then his image in the Muslim world was set.

3) It would perhaps be a mistake to over-inflate the impact of his death on the insurgency. Here's another excerpt from the Atlantic.

Before leaving Amman, I had asked the high-level Jordanian intelligence official with whom I met whether al-Zarqawi, in his view, was a potential challenger to Osama bin Laden.

“Not at all,” he replied. “Zarqawi had the ambition to become what he has, but whatever happens, even if he becomes the most popular figure in Iraq, he can never go against the symbolism that bin Laden represents. If Zarqawi is captured or killed tomorrow, the Iraqi insurgency will go on. There is no such thing as ‘Zarqawism.’ What Zarqawi is will die with him.

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