Thursday, June 15, 2006

This just in: Abu Musar al-Zarqawi is still dead

Jumping like a bug on the hot griddle of the morning news:

NPR reported the death of Abu Musar al-Zarqawi the day the death was announced, by only naming him, among the 15 people killed by two 500lb bombs.

Also killed, they note, was a “lieutenant in Al-Qaeda,” perhaps Zarqawi’s “second in command,” a woman and child, and “11 others.” I noted that number at the time, but I must have misunderstood. CNN reported 5 bodies, not 15. Apparently, in the realm of celebrity, these dead merit no recognition, no notice in passing. Only one death matters to the press; and his death dominated news coverage all day.

It is a sign of our celebrity obsessed culture, perhaps; or an indication that, still, only "named" people's deaths matter. The unnamed, the "unknown unknowns," as our Secretary of Defense might say, are of no importance to us, and we pass over their passing as we might pass by a swatted fly or a crushed cockroach.

They were, after all, "collateral damage." I'm sure we can say "the mission had 'positive effects on the target.'" Besides, DNA testing will be conducted to be sure we killed Zarqawi. The others who died? Well, who cares, really?

One other point: apparently even with the dropping of 2 500lb. bombs, they still missed. No, I don't mean to be glib; I mean to be honest:

Al-Zarqawi died 24 minutes after coalition forces arrived, he said.

Jones said the autopsy conducted Saturday showed that al-Zarqawi died from injuries to his lungs.

"Blast waves from the two bombs caused tearing, bruising of the lungs and bleeding," he said. "There was no evidence of firearm injuries."
But I doubt any such concern will be shown for identifying the others quite as positively. Even if it is, will we hear?

But it isn't even an issue of status, really. "Collateral damage" is the preferred passive voice for "not my problem, not my responsibility." As James Hefferman points out, when you are flying bombers from 6 miles up, accuracy really isn't a critical concern.

From that altitude--about six miles up--you can't make sharp distinctions, least of all worry about the distinction between insurgents and civilians. Your first duty is to protect American planes and the men who fly them. That's what justified our indiscriminate bombing of civilians.
And about Zarqawi's status; well, this report went rapidly down the memory hole:

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.

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.

Some senior intelligence officers believe Zarqawi's role may have been overemphasized by the propaganda campaign, which has included leaflets, radio and television broadcasts, Internet postings and at least one leak to an American journalist. 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.
Link that to this report on Guantanamo this morning on NPR. It turns out we had Chinese "insurgents" in Guantanamo, and didn't want to return them to China (but neither had they violated US laws). Bush claimed again, yesterday, that we cannot release detainees at Gitmo because they are dangerous. Isn't that precisely why we have a court system and a prison system in this country? Or, in keeping with the NSA wiretapping program (and what's happened to that, by the way?), are we all guilty until proven innocent? But the NPR story isn't about Bush's excuse; it's about the tangle of diplomatic problems Gitmo keeps producing. Bush's hands aren't tied by the Supreme Court, or the "bad men" in Gitmo; they are tied by his own Administration's bumbling incompetence and stupidity. And lies; the whole thing is about the lies.

When documents show the US public are the target of a psyops campaign, why does everyone simply reach for the morning coffee, or the remote, to see who Katie is giggling to?

And if that weren't enough, as Holden points out, the Prime Minister of Iraq wants to pardon those in Iraq who attack US and multi-national troops, because their actions are seen in Iraq as "patriotic."

Oh, and following up on Ambassador Bolton's point (and, more pointedly, olzvl's comment), the death of al-Zarqawi and Bush's "victory lap" in Baghdad this week, didn't pay much in political dividends.

President George W. Bush's job approval rating is at 37 percent, up 1 percentage point, in a NBC News and the Wall Street Journal poll taken after the death of terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the formation of a new government in Iraq.

Approval for Bush's job performance remains less than 40 percent for the seventh straight survey, NBC reported. The approval of the job of Congress was 23 percent, the poll found.
Which, when you consider the number of dead in Afghanistan or Iraq, is an horrific calculus to use at all.

"Ammonas [a Desert Father] said that for fourteen years in Scetis he had been asking God day and night to give him stength to control his temper."

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