Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Iraq's Keyser Soze

"The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist." -- Verbal Kint, The Usual Suspects

Independent journalist Dahr Jamail has written an intriguing piece for TomDispatch.com called "The Zarqawi Phenomenon." Jamail's essay recounts his exploits through Amman and Zarqa, Jordan in an attempt to find some corroborating evidence of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's existence while adding some more flesh to his skeletal backstory.

By the end of the story, deep with noirish Arabs of the Jordanian netherworld, Jamail tries to pull fact from fiction.
After discussions with our driver and other Jordanians, the only thing I feel I can say for sure is that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is a real person. Whether or not he is alive and fighting in Iraq or not, or what acts he is actually responsible for there, is open to debate. On one point, I'm quite certain, however: Reported American claims that Zarqawi has affiliations with the secular government of Syria make no sense. Just as Saddam Hussein opposed the religious fundamentalism of Osama Bin-Laden, the Syrian government would not be likely to team up with a fundamentalist like Zarqawi.

As Bush administration officials have falsely claimed Saddam Hussein had links to Bin-Laden and to Zarqawi, they have also conveniently linked Zarqawi to a Syrian government they would certainly like to take out. Similarly, Bush officials continue to link Zarqawi to the Iraqi resistance -- undoubtedly another bogus claim in that the resistance in Iraq is primarily composed of Iraqi nationalists and Baathist elements who are fighting to expel the occupiers from their country, not to create a global Islamic jihad.

Thus, even if Zarqawi is involved in carrying out attacks inside Iraq and is killed at some future moment, the effect this would have on the Iraqi resistance would surely be negligible. It would be but another American "turning point" where nothing much turned.

Right now, when you try to track down Zarqawi, a man with a $25 million American bounty on his head, or simply try to track him back to the beginnings of his life's journey, whether you look for him in the tunnels of Tora Bora, the ruined city of Fallujah, the Syrian borderlands, or Ramadi, you're likely to run up against a kind of eerie blankness. Whatever the real Zarqawi may or may not be capable of doing today in Iraq or elsewhere, he is dwarfed by the Zarqawi of legend. He may be the Bush administration's Terrorist of Terrorists (now that Osama Bin-Laden has been dropped into the void), the Iraqi insurgency's unwelcome guest, the fantasy figure in some Jihadi dreamscape, or all of the above. Whatever the case, Zarqawi the man has disappeared into an epic tale that may or may not be of his own partial creation. Even dead, he is unlikely to die; even alive, he is unlikely to be able to live up to anybody's Zarqawi myth.
Throughout the back alleys of Baghdad, Ramadi, and Fallujah, a myth, a man, or both stalks the innocent, the secularists, "the collaborators," the occupation's soldiers, he is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Iraq's own Keyser Soze. And while I was no supporter of this war, there are now many Zarqawi's operating throughout Iraq. These are the people who attacked us on 9/11 (maybe not in person, but certaintly in principle) and they need to be taken out wherever they go, because their suicidal fanaticism will come to our shores again and again if we don't wipe out their virulent ideology and infrastructure. If you hold the basic presumptions of Western civilization -- individual liberty, separation of church and state, equality under the law of man -- then the war on Islamic fundamentalism is a war of necessity, not choice. Nevermind what Chomsky, Zinn, or Jamail say or write.