Monday, April 10, 2006

Zarqawi Was Propaganda?

I believe we are supposed to be shocked by this: U.S. military plays up role of Zarqawi; Jordanian painted as foreign threat to Iraq’s stability.

The U.S. military is conducting a propaganda campaign to magnify the role of the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, according to internal military documents and officers familiar with the program. The effort has raised his profile in a way that some military intelligence officials believe may have overstated his importance and helped the Bush administration tie the war to the organization responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The documents state that the U.S. campaign aims to turn Iraqis against Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian, by playing on their perceived dislike of foreigners. U.S. authorities claim some success with that effort, noting that some tribal Iraqi insurgents have attacked Zarqawi loyalists.

So, which part are you shocked by? Anything? First thing this fellow does is continue the meme that the administration has been lying to the American public in order to get support for the war. However, the actual reason for the "propaganda" campaign is in paragraph two, "The documents state that the U.S. campaign aims to turn Iraqis against Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian, by playing on their perceived dislike of foreigners."

Note that neither the author of this piece nor the US military says that Zarqawi isn't there. The point is, we focused on him in order to bring internal strife into the insurgency and hopefully convince the others that their best bet is not to align with this character and commit the kinds of attrocities that he is known for, but to join the Iraq government. The military and the administration has repeatedly said (since the end of 2004 I believe, but I will search to find the links) that the Islamist are a "small but vicious" part of the insurgency. They have also regularly informed reporters through press conferences and we have separate reporting from Iraq which indicates that the ex-regime and other malcontents make up the largest part.

But now, supposedly, we are dupes of a propaganda campaign (or the Iraqis are or we all are):

For the past two years, U.S. military leaders have been using Iraqi media and other outlets in Baghdad to publicize Zarqawi's role in the insurgency. The documents explicitly list the "U.S. Home Audience" as one of the targets of a broader propaganda campaign.

But, speaking of propaganda campaigns, this fellow participates in his own version. While his first paragraph talks about the US trying to link Iraq to the War on Terror making it out as a purposeful disinformation campaign, he commits a serious error and deliberately re-enforces his own conclusion by leaving out an important date in this next paragraph:

There has been a running argument among specialists in Iraq about how much significance to assign to Zarqawi, who spent seven years in prison in Jordan for attempting to overthrow the government there. After his release he spent time in Pakistan and Afghanistan before moving his base of operations to Iraq.

In what year did Zarqawi move his "base of operations" to Iraq? This fellow leaves it out, but the year is 2002, October of. At least five months prior to the US invasion. From other intelligence, it's possible he had other visits or contacts there well before his official arrival.

And, with bloggers and freepers going all out on the translation of documents captured from Saddam's Iraq, it's clear that we do not need Zarqawi any longer to put Saddam and Iraq right in the middle of the terror war:

Origins Of War: The latest in a stream of eye-opening Iraqi documents shows Saddam Hussein's regime was planning suicide attacks on U.S. interests six months before 9-11. Why won't Washington get the word out?

Last month the Pentagon began releasing records captured during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Among the documents is a letter dated March 11, 2001, written by Abdel Magid Hammod Ali, one of Saddam's air force generals.

According to an unofficial translation, Page 6 of the letter asks for "the names of those who desire to volunteer for suicide mission to liberate Palestine and to strike American interests."

Where can you find this information? On Captain's Quarters.

The top secret letter 2205 of the Military Branch of Al Qadisya on 4/3/2001 announced by the top secret letter 246 from the Command of the military sector of Zi Kar on 8/3/2001 announced to us by the top secret letter 154 from the Command of Ali Military Division on 10/3/2001 we ask to provide that Division with the names of those who desire to volunteer for Suicide Mission to liberate Palestine and to strike American Interests and according what is shown below to please review and inform us.

(Europe and Middle East countries write the date dd/mm/yyyy for clarification)

The Captain paid two translaters on different sides of the planet who did not know that the other was also paid to translate the document and they came up with the same translation. Free Republic has had a Lebanese member translating the same and came up with the same translation. Yet, we do not hear a peep from the MSM and certainly, it did not make any appearance in the original article about Zarqawi and propaganda meant to convince the American public of Iraq's terror connections.

Unlike that fellow though, I wouldn't want to conflate the two to mean the same though other documents translated have indicated that Saddam and Al Qaida had many more contacts than previously noted even by Steven Hayes. Still, Zarqawi being in Iraq does not have to be the same as Saddam searching for volunteers to commit suicide activities. It could be the convergence of coincidence. In either case, it totally blows Mr. Ricks supposition that the administration needed to or needs to link Zarqawi to Iraq to make it part of the war.

Zarqawi does exist. He did plan and execute many suicide attacks on civilians and US bases. He did take over several cities, including Fallujah and Mosul with his confederation of Mujihadeen, ex-ba'athists and disaffected Sunni (he was even referred to as the Emir -Prince- of Fallujah by captured letters and statements from captured insurgents). He directed attrocious acts on the people of these cities. His own propaganda wing put out statements by him regarding attacks.

This is not a non-existent boogey man made up by the military. This man even misrepresents Colonel Harvey's comments:

Although Zarqawi and other foreign insurgents in Iraq have conducted deadly bombing attacks, they remain "a very small part of the actual numbers," Col. Derek Harvey, who served as a military intelligence officer in Iraq and then was one of the top officers handling Iraq intelligence issues on the staff of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told an Army meeting at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., last summer.

In a transcript of the meeting, Harvey said, "Our own focus on Zarqawi has enlarged his caricature, if you will -- made him more important than he really is, in some ways."

"The long-term threat is not Zarqawi or religious extremists, but these former regime types and their friends," said Harvey, who did not return phone calls seeking comment on his remarks.

In this kind of war that is played out largely through information war (which is how insurgencies are fought when the insurgents do not have the ability to defeat opposing forces militarily) there is always the possibility that, as you paint the foe as a terrible deviant committing all sorts of acts, it will actually lend him the aura of invincible leadership that will actually draw followers to him at the same time that you are hoping to divide him from the general population.

The other thing that you hope to do is to divide the opposition. Whether that is completely in half or peeling off a small part that can be chewed up depends on other factors like political considerations. Obviously, we've been working on a political solution with the Sunni and ex-Ba'athists.

So, those who want to believe that the administration has lied to them and is lying to them, will believe this article confirms, once again, their suspicions. The general public will be confused and those who have been following the war closely will remember that even Rumsfeld has been saying that Zarqawi is only one part of the problem, a small and vicious part responsible for many suicide attacks (spring 2005 epidemic of suicide car bombs for instance), but only one part. And the even smaller group of people who have been studying insurgent warfare will shrug their shoulders because they knew why the focus was on Zarqawi even in the midst of a larger insurgency.

The question may be who you are, what you know and what you want to believe.

He continues to raise an important question throughout the article which he dismisses through sly conjectures that the military, denying that American's were targets of the campaign, is lying although he couches it in less libelous terms. Yet, one military person explains the situation succinctly:

U.S. military policy is not to aim psychological operations at Americans, said Army Col. James A. Treadwell, who commanded the U.S. military psyops unit in Iraq in 2003. "It is ingrained in U.S.: You don't psyop Americans. We just don't do it," said Treadwell. He said he left Iraq before the Zarqawi program began but was later told about it.

"When we provided stuff, it was all in Arabic," and aimed at the Iraqi and Arab media, said another military officer familiar with the program, who spoke on background because he is not supposed to speak to reporters.

But this officer said that the Zarqawi campaign "probably raised his profile in the American press's view."

With satellite television, e-mail and the Internet, it is impossible to prevent some carryover from propaganda campaigns overseas into the U.S. media, said Treadwell, who is now director of a new project at the U.S. Special Operations Command that focuses on "trans-regional" media issues. Such carryover is "not blowback, it's bleed-over," he said. "There's always going to be a certain amount of bleed-over with the global information environment."

You think? Particularly with the media's insistence on "it bleeds it leads" and Zarqawi definitely was linked to a lot of bleeding in Iraq. But, even a barely tentative watcher of the news would be able to tell you that Zarqawi's name has not been so prominent in the lastt 6 months or so. The media has been casting the violence as "Sunni/Shia sectarian strife". The probability that Zarqawi's name has been less famous lately because the military no longer uses it as often in press releases is pretty clear. Thus, its also clear, as I pointed out in yesterday's post, that the media lacks serious ability to report and analyze the situation. They are just as confused as anyone about who is doing what to whom and why.

You may have been propagandized, but the question is, by whom?

I find it funny that the media wants to blame its inherently incomplete reporting on the military as if it was an all powerful, monolithic force that controls the media through mere suggestion.

Must be the same power the Zionists have to control the government of the US.

Update: Speaking of propaganda, I suggest this article on photographs.

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