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Zarqawi’s real name: Lieutenant Kije

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Here is a briefing slide prepared for Army General George W. Casey Jr., the top U.S. commander in Iraq:

The slide appeared as an adjunct to the Washington Post’s famous article from April 10, which described the psyop campaign to create a Zarqawi myth. Since that time, we have seen the emergence of a Zarqawi video of questioned authenticity, in which the oft-”killed” terrorist was seen conducting exercises in a landscape that resembled the American southwest.

Previously, I asked a question that remains unanswered: If, in fact, Zarqawi conducted these maneuvers (which included the firing of anti-tank weaponry in open desert beneath a clear sky) within the borders of Iraq, why didn’t American spy satellites catch sight of him immediately? Google Earth has spotted firefights on Baghdad streets. Surely, American overseers must scrutinize Iraq from the sky carefully and routinely.

Shortly after this video hit the net, the American military released outtakes which showed that Z handled his weapon in an amateurish fashion. Everyone was so busy giggling that few thought to ask questions about the source of this convenient footage. Supposedly, American soldiers found it during a raid. Which raid? Why not humor us with a few details?

On second thought, don’t bother. Any details provided by officaldom would never convince, since so many recent events have justified cynicism. The Casey slideshow confirmed what many had already suspected: Zarqawi existed solely because he fulfilled a propaganda function. Once that fact became known, it was necessary to bury the revelation. First came the video. When that ploy failed, Zarqawi lost his value as bogeyman and thus had to die.

Maybe we should put quotation marks around the word “die.” Maybe those gruesome images of his corpse were photoshopped. Maybe they were real. Who can say? The only thing we can know for sure is that the scarecrow no longer performed its intended function and was thus subject to removal.

If you know classical music, you’ve probably heard Prokofiev’s “Lieutenant Kije” suite, which originated as the score for a now-lost Russian film based on an old short story. (The same story inspired an early episode of MASH.) The Lieutenant was the fictional creation of a group of prankster soldiers who wanted to give their unit an heroic and inspiring figure. When the Tsar asked to meet this famed warrior, his “death” became mandatory.

The tale of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is simply the latest variant of the Lieutenant Kije legend.

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