Manufacturing a Terrorist Leader

From Holden:

Gee, thanks alot, Colin.

The United States created the myth around Iraq insurgency leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and reality followed, terrorism expert Loretta Napoleoni said.


Napoleoni, the author of “Insurgent Iraq,” told reporters last week that Powell’s argument falsely exploited Zarqawi to prove a link between then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida. She said that through fabrications of Zarqawi’s status, influence and connections “the myth became the reality” — a self-fulfilling prophecy.

“He became what we wanted him to be. We put him there, not the jihadists,” Napoleoni said.

Iraq’s most notorious insurgent, Napoleoni argues, accomplished what bin Laden could not: “spread the message of jihad into Iraq.”


The grand claim that al-Zarqawi provided the vital link between Saddam and al-Qaida lost its significance after it became known that al-Zarqawi and bin Laden did not forge a partnership until after the war’s start. The two are believed to have met sometime in 2000, but al-Zarqawi — similar to a group of dissenting al-Qaida members –rebuffed bin Laden’s anti-American brand of jihad.


By perpetuating a “terrifying myth” of al-Zarqawi, the author said, “The United States, Kurds, and Jordanians all won … but jihad gained momentum,” after in-group dissension and U.S. coalition operations had left the core of al-Qaida crippled.

In her article, Napoleoni says, “[Zarqawi] had finally managed to grasp bin Laden’s definition of the faraway enemy, the United States.” Adding that, “Its presence in Iraq as an occupying power made it clear to him that the United States was as important a target as any of the Arab regimes he had grown to hate.

“… The myth constructed around him is at the root of his transformation into a political leader. With bin Laden trapped somewhere in Afghanistan and Pakistan, al-Zarqawi fast became the new symbolic leader in the fight against America and a manager for whoever was looking to be part of that struggle,” she wrote.