Abu Musab al-Zarqawi: Mastermind AND numbskull?

by May 5, 20060 comments

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
was in the news again yesterday when Multi-National Force-Iraq released outtakes of his recent propaganda video. Coalition officials held a news conference during which Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch ridiculed Zarqawi’s weapons-handling skills and footwear.

Here are a couple of quotes from an AP story:

“It’s supposed to be automatic fire. He’s shooting single shots,” Lynch said. “Something is wrong with his machine gun. He looks down, can’t figure out, calls his friend to come unblock the stoppage and get the weapon firing again.”

“His close associates around him … do things like grab the hot barrel of the machine gun and burn themselves,” Lynch said. “Makes you wonder” about their military skills.


The mockery is interesting because, prior to yesterday, the Bush administration had portrayed Zarqawi as a fearsome adversary. An April 10 Washington Post story, “Military Plays Up Role of Zarqawi,” reported that the Pentagon has been pouring money into a propaganda campaign which enhanced the Zarqawi legend far beyond reasonable proportions:

One internal briefing, produced by the U.S. military headquarters in Iraq, said that [Brig. Gen. Mark] Kimmitt had concluded that, “The Zarqawi PSYOP program is the most successful information campaign to date.”

So why the sudden about-face? By unmasking Zarqawi as an incompetent buffoon, what is Maj. Gen. Lynch saying about our intense and costly efforts, over several years now, to stop him?

Zarqawi, remember, is the terrorist link to which the Bush administration points in justifying the entire war. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld singled him out by name when, also yesterday, he was confronted by former CIA analyst Ray McGovern (Editor & Publisher, “Q-and-A Gets Rough for Rumsfeld“):

QUESTION: Well we’re talking about lies and your allegation there was bulletproof evidence of ties between al Qaeda and Iraq.

RUMSFELD: Zarqawi was in Baghdad during the prewar period. That is a fact.

QUESTION: Zarqawi? He was in the north of Iraq in a place where Saddam Hussein had no rule. That’s also …

RUMSFELD: He was also in Baghdad.

This is the defense secretary’s premise for the war? A man who wears silly sneakers and can’t operate a machine gun?

The messages the Pentagon is sending seem to be mixed at best.