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The U.S. is the real source of terror in Iraq
"There are many more Hadithas"

June 16, 2006 | Page 5

ERIC RUDER exposes Washington's hypocritical claims about the assassination of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

THE DEATH of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was greeted with giddy enthusiasm by the Bush administration and media alike. But keen to avoid the boasting that backfired after the capture of Saddam Hussein, the administration tried to keep its self-satisfaction to itself, and let the media do the crowing.

The New York Times got the message, noting Bush's caution, but capturing the jubilant mood. "Mr. Bush's top aides--Karl Rove, Dan Bartlett, Nicolle Wallace, Joel Kaplan--were clearly buoyed by the announcement, all smiling and jovial as they gathered for the president's announcement [of Zarqawi's death]," reported the Times. "It was the most purely good news out of Iraq in months."

Hear Eric Ruder speak at Socialism 2006, a political conference scheduled for June 22-25 at Columbia Univerisy in New York City. For more information, go to the Socialism 2006 Web site at
Every war needs a villain--an enemy to motivate the troops and win support at home. For nearly three years, Zarqawi neatly satisfied the Bush administration's need for a bogeyman in Iraq.

But if it weren't for the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the world would never have known Zarqawi.

Prior to the U.S. invasion, Iraq was one Middle Eastern country where al-Qaeda could gain no foothold, where suicide bombings never took place and where "sectarian violence" was almost unknown.

Six weeks before Operation Shock and Awe commenced, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell appeared before the United Nations to make the U.S. case for war. Not only did he make the charge that Iraq had huge stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, but he also claimed that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi represented the critical link between Iraq's Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda's Osama bin Laden.

Over time, both claims were exposed as lies advanced for the purpose of building support for the U.S. war effort. But Powell's mention of Zarqawi nevertheless had a significant impact, instantly transforming him from an unknown Jordanian street criminal with a devotion to fundamentalism into a high-profile symbol of resistance to the U.S.

Zarqawi came to lead an estimated several hundred fighters, mostly from countries other than Iraq, who staged many of the most deadly attacks targeting Iraqi civilians and police, but which caused very few casualties among U.S. troops.

"The U.S. Zarqawi campaign was largely aimed at the American public and, above all, the American voter," wrote journalist Patrick Cockburn on the CounterPunch Web site. "It was intent on hammering in the message that the invasion of Iraq was a reasonable response to the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. This meant it was necessary to show that al-Qaeda was strong in Iraq and to play down the fact that this had only happened after the invasion."

When the U.S. captured Saddam Hussein in December 2003, Zarqawi became the new public enemy number one, portrayed by the media as looming behind every resistance attack and used by the Pentagon as a convenient excuse for any "collateral damage" its forces caused in Iraq.

An errant bomb killed 22 Iraqis, mostly women and children? We regret the error, but we had credible intelligence that placed Zarqawi at the scene. (Actually, in 2004, when the U.S. fired two missiles at a house in Falluja--on the suspicion that Zarqawi was inside--and killed 22 Iraqis, mostly women and children, it offered no regret whatsoever.)

The particularly fanatical strain of Salafi Islam that Zarqawi adhered to sees Shia Muslims as dangerous collaborators with the U.S. Zarqawi's many attacks on Shia civilians were designed to spark a sectarian war, in which he hoped Sunni Muslims would eliminate the Shia.

This is why Zarqawi was condemned by Iraq's legitimate resistance--both Sunni and Shia--who considered him counterproductive to the goal of expelling U.S. forces.

But that didn't stop Pentagon officials and the media from treating Zarqawi as the chief leader of the Iraqi resistance--even though his tiny group of followers is dwarfed by the estimated 20,000 to 40,000 who make up the active resistance in Iraq, and the hundreds of thousands more who lend support in one way or another.

Naturally, when Zarqawi was eliminated, the Bush boosters who believed the administration's rhetoric met the news with open jubilation. "It's like replacing Mickey Mantle or George Washington," said Rep. John McHugh (R-N.Y.)--remarkably finding a way to insult both the Founding Fathers and Major League Baseball in a single stroke. "It's hard to have someone step in who had the charisma, who had the fundraising attractiveness that Zarqawi did."

Of course, warmongers like McHugh have it upside down and backwards. The U.S. created the conditions in which Zarqawi could thrive. Thus, the removal of the U.S. occupation, not the removal of Zarqawi, is the only hope for ending Iraq's spiral of violence.

From the beginning of the occupation, the U.S. put sectarian logic at the center of its intervention, seeking to pit Shia Muslims against Sunnis in order to maintain its grip on Iraq. For the first time in the country's history, ethnic and religious differences have been turned into central organizing principles of political power.

"[T]he U.S. occupation authorities--in an apparent effort of divide-and-rule--encouraged sectarianism by dividing up authority based not on technical skills or ideological affiliation but ethnic and religious identity," according to Stephen Zunes of Foreign Policy in Focus. "As with Lebanon, however, such efforts have actually exacerbated divisions, with virtually every political question debated not on its merits, but on which group it potentially benefits or harms. This has led to great instability, with political parties, parliamentary blocs, and government ministries breaking down along sectarian lines."

This fit Zarqawi's aims perfectly. His indiscriminate attacks on Shia civilians were one side of a conflict that the U.S. occupiers are responsible for stoking.

The similarity of the goals pursued by both the U.S. and Zarqawi was given eloquent--and courageous--expression by Michael Berg--the father of Nick Berg, the U.S. contractor who was taken hostage and beheaded in Iraq, supposedly by Zarqawi himself. He passionately defended his antiwar activism and Green Party campaign for a House seat from Delaware on CNN, Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! and elsewhere.

"[Zarqawi's] death will incite a new wave of revenge," said Berg. "George Bush and al-Zarqawi are two men who believe in revenge."

But when it comes to assigning blame for the violence and death in Iraq, Berg thinks it's clear who bears a greater responsibility. "George Bush is more of a terrorist than Zarqawi is," Berg said. "Zarqawi is attributed to the deaths of a couple hundred people, including my son. George Bush is responsible for 150,000 deaths [in Iraq]--and another one every 12 minutes."

Zarqawi's death came at a convenient time for the administration, which had been reeling after the confirmation of a U.S. war crime at Haditha last year and new evidence of other massacres emerging in the press. "There are many, many, many cases like Haditha that are still under cover and need to be highlighted in Iraq," Dr. Salam Ismael, of Doctors for Iraq and a former chief of junior doctors at Baghdad's Medical City Hospital, told the Inter Press Service.

This underlines the gross hypocrisy of the U.S. celebration of Zarqawi's murder. Even if Zarqawi was responsible for the all the violence attributed to him by the U.S. media, his record would pale compared to the long list of war crimes committed by the U.S. government as it carries out its occupation for oil and empire.

The real source of violence and terror in Iraq isn't Zarqawi or al-Qaeda. It is the U.S. government.

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