Another bogeyman falls without a thud
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is dead — for real this time, it would seem. Good. It would have been even better, of course, if Bush had allowed him to be taken out before the war, when doing so might actually have saved some lives. But still, a mass-murderer has been brought to justice, which is a good thing.
Will al-Zarqawi’s death slow the violence in Iraq? Not according to the people who know what they’re talking about.
Here’s what Juan Cole has to say at his extraordinarily valuable blog Informed Comment:
Zarqawi had been a significant leader of the Salafi Jihadi radical strain of Islamist volunteers in Iraq, and had succeeded in spreading his ideas to local Iraqis in places like Ramadi. He engaged in grandstanding when he renamed his group “al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia,” even though he had early been critical of al-Qaeda and had a long rivalry with it. For background, see the Zarqawi file.
There is no evidence of operational links between his Salafi Jihadis in Iraq and the real al-Qaeda; it was just a sort of branding that suited everyone, including the US. Official US spokesmen have all along over-estimated his importance. Leaders are significant and not always easily replaced. But Zarqawi has in my view has been less important than local Iraqi leaders and groups. I don’t expect the guerrilla war to subside any time soon.
Zarqawi was an example of what might fairly be described as the bogeymanization of American foreign policy — the tendency of American political and pop culture to reduce complicated ethnic, ideological, religious and political conflicts into the comic book simplicity of a few evil people. Not surprisingly, this in turn gives rise to the equally simplistic assumption that if only we can “get” that one evil leader the problem will solve itself.
Thus, the capture of Saddam Hussein was hailed as a turning point toward ending the insurgency, but, of course, it wasn’t. In fact, in retrospect his capture doesn’t appear to have put so much as a dent in the violence in Iraq. Now it’s Zarqawi’s turn: George W. Bush quickly described his killing as “a severe blow to al-Qaeda and it is a significant victory in the war on terror.” Except that as Professor Cole points out above, it won’t be.
So another bogeyman falls without a thud, and still the dying goes on and on.
June 8th, 2006 at 7:30 pm
Well, I was as glad as most everyone else to know that Zarqawi was out of here, but imagine my surprise when I learned that he was the same age as my only child. I just had not expected that, and it took me aback.
I don’t know if it made him more human or if it made my child more unpredictable…but what I do know is that it kind of shook me up a bit.
June 8th, 2006 at 9:01 pm
I don’t believe the death of Zarqawi will make much difference. There is someone else who will take over for him. The WH can spin this any way they want. Only time will tell if his death made things better or worse.
June 8th, 2006 at 11:36 pm
I tuned in to the wrong station today when I was trying to get Air America. Some fathead was jubilantly declaring that we (I guess he meant the gang in Washington) are winning in Iraq, and this was proof positive. Now everything was going to be just ducky from now on. The poor sap can’t see what’s right in front of his nose, that is that we’ve already lost and it’s time to get the hell out while we’re behind. This kind of mass delusion is sad to contemplate.
June 9th, 2006 at 7:31 am
I’m glad that Zarqawi is history.
But when I saw them put on an easel that picture of him …dead…enlarged…and framed. It made me sick.
I hate this war, it’s costing us our soul.