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Analysis Last Updated: Jun 12th, 2006 - 00:45:37

Al-Zarqawi, international man of mystery
By Matt McCollow
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jun 12, 2006, 00:43

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Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, alleged leader of the al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorist group, has reportedly been killed by US forces . . . again.

Reports indicate that US fighter jets dropped two 500-pound bombs on Zarqawi�s hideout [1], and successfully blew the terrorist mastermind to bits. Thankfully the bits were large enough to be identified quickly after the attack so the pundits and talking heads could shout about our great victory.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told reporters "Every time a Zarqawi appears, we will kill him.� [1]. How apropos a thing to say, Mr. Prime Minster, in fact, it seems like every time Mr. Zarqawi appears, it�s because he is being killed, or at least seriously wounded.

For a moment, let�s hop aboard the Wayback Machine and take a little trip back to the year 2002. Like many former jihadist Muslims who had fought the Soviet Russians in the 1980s, al-Zarqawi took up arms against the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001-2002. Reports indicate that Zarqawi suffered a rather serious injury to one of his legs during the fighting, and may have possibly had it amputated [2].

The leg injury would become an issue again in March of 2004, when leaflets distributed in Iraq, and signed by members of twelve insurgent groups, claimed Zarqawi was killed by US bombing campaigns. His artificial leg apparently prevented him from fleeing in time [3].

In the spring of 2004, Zarqawi was miraculously resurrected with apparently two fully functional legs and announced his return to the world by personally beheading journalist Nick Berg [4]. President Bush specifically named Zarqawi as Berg�s killer at a press conference in mid-May of 2004 [5].

By October of 2004, Zarqawi was rumored to have been killed again, in similar fashion to the first time, by failing to escape a US attack quickly enough. This, of course, contradicts rumors circulating at the same time that he had been captured by the US military [6]. The US military denied Zarqawi had been captured.

Despite possibly being dead or captured already, in May of 2005, Colonel Fouad Hani Hassan of the 5th division of the Iraqi Armed Forces, claimed that Zarqawi was �seriously injured, possibly dead� after a major offensive, Operation Matador, by US forces [7]. Some reports at that time had Zarqawi being shot in the chest, not necessarily as the result of combat [8].

By June of 2005, Zarqawi had apparently died and been buried in a Fallujah cemetery. There were reports of gunfights with insurgents allegedly protecting Zarqawi�s grave. These reports came only a few days after the release of a tape, said to be of Zarqawi, telling his followers that he was safe and only lightly injured [9].

In fact, Zarqawi was doing pretty well for a man who had reportedly been killed at the beginning of the US invasion of Iraq, as claimed by an imam of a Baghdad mosque [10]. These reports in fall of 2005 seem to back up the March 2004 reports about leaflets claiming Zarqawi�s artificial leg hampered his escape from US bombing campaigns.

Now, it seems as though Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has been killed once again by US bombs, possibly because his artificial leg prevented him from escaping (though no reports seem to specifically mention it). Now, I know it can�t just be me who finds this story just a little bit familiar sounding. Even the most credulous person would have to wonder: how many times can you kill someone before they�re finally dead?

The more informed person however, might ask: How many times can you kill a dead man?

The answer to both questions could be: As long as people will believe it. With an Emmanuel Goldstein type figure of myth and mystery, like Zarqawi, it�s easy to control people�s opinion. When the people start questioning the reasons for being in Iraq (or focusing on a damaging political scandal), out comes a new tape. When the people complain of ineffectiveness in Iraq and nothing to show for the losses incurred by our men and women in uniform, kill the bad guy and everyone�s happier.

So I, for one, congratulate the US government and media on what looks to be another successful PR campaign. You managed to get a lot of people to believe your latest addition to the Zarqawi myth, even though it�s full of holes and rather sloppy. Don�t worry though, I�m sure you�ll do better the next time you kill him.


[1] Major blow to Iraq insurgency, Christian Science Monitor, 06/09/06

[2] Zarqawi - Bush's man for all seasons. Asia Times, 09/14/04

[3] Leaflet Says Extremist Al-Zarqawi Killed, Washington Post, 03/04/04

[4] The execution of Nick Berg. Ronald Hilton at, Date Unknown

[5] Bush says Zarqawi killed Berg; Cites Saddam ties, Free Republic, 05/15/04

[6] Zarqawi killed in Iraq?, India Daily, 10/16/04

[7] Al-Zarqawi seriously injured says Iraqi official. Adnkronos International, 05/11/05

[8] Zarqawi "injury" attracts prayers, BBC, 05/25/05

[9] Fallujah Sheikh says al-Zarqawi died on Friday, Adnkronos International, 06/02/05

[10] Cleric says al-Zarqawi died long ago, Al-Jazeera, 09/17/05

Matt McCollow is a Freelance Writer from Hamilton, Ontario.

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