Saturday, June 10, 2006

DeYoung and Pincus on al-Zarqawi

No time for much now...gotta get to the farmers' market to snag some of the last strawberries of the season...hey, I got my priorities...

But it just me, or does this Post story by Karen DeYoung and Walter Pincus suggest a level of dishonesty (by the U.S. about Zarqawi's importance) that isn't actually born out by the evidence they cite?

Of course the administration lied about Zarqawi proving a Saddam-al Qaeda link, but that's a different issue.

The crucial paragraphs:

In addition to his indisputably prominent role in the Iraqi insurgency, Zarqawi was always a useful source of propaganda for the administration. Magnification of his role and of the threat he posed grew to the point that some senior intelligence officers believed it was counterproductive.

But the administration also occasionally found it useful to play down Zarqawi's importance and influence. In early 2004, the then-governing Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad triumphantly displayed an intercepted letter from Zarqawi to the al-Qaeda leadership that it said illustrated the terrorist's despair in the face of an increasingly competent U.S.-trained Iraqi security force.

"The exact quote he uses is, and I quote Mr. Zarqawi, 'With the spread of the army and police, our future is becoming frightening,' " CPA spokesman Dan Senor told a Baghdad news conference. Similar publicity was given to a letter intercepted last year in which al-Qaeda's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, humbled Zarqawi with criticism of his public beheading of hostages and attacks on fellow Muslims.

At times, the conflicting messages seemed to overlap. In April, a top U.S. military official cited Zarqawi's failure to disrupt elections for a new Iraqi government as "a tactical admission" of defeat. Zarqawi and al-Qaeda, said Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, XVIII Airborne Corps commander, in a Washington address, "no longer view Iraq as fertile ground to establish a caliphate and as a place to conduct international terrorism."

That same month, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, U.S. military spokesman, told a Baghdad news briefing that more than 90 percent of the suicide attacks in Iraq were carried out by terrorist forces recruited and trained by Zarqawi.

The suggestion seems to be that the U.S. was representing Zarqawi as important or unimportant as it suited their interests...but I'm not sure the evidence here really shows anything like that.

Am I missing something?


Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, just because Zarqawi was losing, it didn't stop him from blowing people up.

I don't see a conflict. (And I do object to the Post presenting this as a "news" story. It's at best a selective analysis, and one, not surprisingly, unfavorable to the administration.)

There might be something to senior intelligence officers thinking too much emphasis was placed on Zarqawi, that he was a bloody sideshow to the real problems. We shall see. He certainly wasn't helping.

5:49 PM  
Blogger Mike Russo said...

I agree that the evidence in this particular post article isn't that convincing -- in particular, I'm not sure that I buy that the military or the administration really engaged in a campaign of de-emphasizing Zarqawi's importance -- however, there was a Post story from a couple of months ago which outlined a military PSYOPS program to emphasize Zarqawi as the face of the insurgency. Looking at the sources and the details it cited, I found it convincing.

7:19 PM  

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