Much has been made of the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq, with reporters and politicians calling it great news.
Clearly, al-Zarqawi was a mad terrorist, though in body-count terms, he couldn’t hold a candle to the destruction wrought by the US/UK illegal invasion and subsequent killing spree. The twistedness of one set of international warlords crowing over the death of an opportunist who had galvanised support for his mad behaviour out of the perfectly logical opposition of the Iraqi people to the presence of the US/UK troops is hard to watch. It makes a little more sense of what George Galloway said last week. I still think Galloway phrased it in a stupid way (though it depends on how edited the quote was by the GQ writers), but his point about the equivalence of someone killing Blair vs. the blowing up of innocents in Iraq was a point that needs to be made. The point isn’t that killing Blair would be a good thing – of course not – but that ALL the killing is wrong. Bad guys getting killed isn’t a good thing. It’s occasionally understandable if it’s an attempt to prevent further killing (cf. the role of Deitrich Bonhoeffer in the plot to assassinate Hitler), but rejoicing over death is a perilous activity (I’ll reserve final judgement til I see my own reaction to the eventual demise of Margaret Thatcher… the desire for a street-party will definitely be bubbling below the surface, but I do hope she dies peacefully…)
Anyway, none of that was the point of this blog. The point is how the world leaders’ comments on the death of al-Zarqawi reflect their appalling understanding of the nature of anti-western sentiment across the Arab world. They keep referring to a-Z as the al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, ignoring the number of correspondents who say that al-Qaeda hardly exists at all as a hierarchical structure, and clearly not getting that the killing of a leader leading to a collapse of the resistance is a distinctly old war way of looking at things. If the plot to kill hitler had succeeded, it’s quite plausible that the second world war would not have happened. He was very strongly the driving force and ideological brains behind the Third Reich.
al-Zarqawi holds no such power. He was a new war leader. He was a fire-brand and a loud mouth, but he didn’t invent anti-western sentiment in Iraq or anywhere else. He didn’t invent suicide bombing or car bombing. His are not the only resistance army at work in Iraq. Much has been made of his Jordanian birth, to try and suggest that the resistance is a foreign thing, not an Iraqi thing. I think the former residents of Falluja might have something to say about that.
And before any of you hawkish readers get on your high horse – no, I’m no fan of al-Zarqawi. I’d have liked to see him tried in a war-crimes court, alongside Bush, Blair, Rumsfeld, John Reid, Condoleeza Rice, Saddam Hussein and any other psychotic war-mongering nutter engaged in killing people across the planet. He’s an easy target for a government desperately looking for some ‘good news’ in a worsening situation, but the death of one dude isn’t going to change the state of play in Iraq – it’s more likely to strengthen the resolve of those opposed to the occupation – and it certainly doesn’t provide any kind of counterbalance to horrific atrocities happening in the name of ‘enduring freedom’.
The mad thing about all of this is that I wish they were right – I wish the killing would stop, it’s a shame that taking out a-Z isn’t going to be the end of journalists being kidnapped and beheaded. But it’s an even bigger shame that the western troops are still there, still provoking, still giving footholds to murdering loons looking for an excuse to kill more westerners. All the presence of the army does is prove them right. All the killing of a-Z does is provide reason to ‘avenge his death’.
As the magical Franti says, ‘you can bomb the world to pieces, but you can’t bomb it into peace’. When will they stop trying?by