Robert Fisk: Zarqawi's end is not a famous victory, nor will it bring Iraq any nearer to peace

Share
Related Topics

So, it's another "mission accomplished". The man immortalised by the Americans as the most dangerous terrorist since the last most dangerous terrorist, is killed - by the Americans. A Jordanian corner-boy who could not even lock and load a machine gun is blown up by the US Air Force - and Messrs Bush and Blair see fit to boast of his demise. To this have our leaders descended. And how short are our memories.

"They seek him here, they seek him there.

"Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.

"Is he in heaven? Is he in hell?

"That demned elusive Pimpernel?"

Sir Percy Blakeney, of course, eluded the revolutionary French. But the Baroness Orczy - unlike Mr Bush - would scarcely have bothered with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian thug whose dubious allegiance to al-Qa'ida turned him in to another "Enemy Number One" for those who believe they are fighting the eternal "war on terror". For so short is our attention span - and Messrs Bush and Blair, of course, rely on this - we have already forgotten that our leaders' only interest in Zarqawi before the illegal 2003 Anglo-American invasion of Iraq was to propagate the lie that Osama bin Laden was in cahoots with Saddam Hussein.

Because Zarqawi met Bin Laden in 2002 and then took up residence in a squalid valley in northern Iraq - inside Kurdistan but well outside the control of both the Kurds and Saddam - Messrs Bush and Blair concocted the fable that this "proved" the essential link between the Beast of Baghdad and the international crimes against humanity of 11 September 2001. The date on which this fictitious alliance was proclaimed - since it is far more important, politically and historically, than the date of Zarqawi's death - was 5 February 2003. The location of the lie was the United Nations Security Council and the man who uttered it was the then Secretary of State, Colin Powell.

What a sigh of relief there must have been in Washington that Zarqawi was dead and not captured. He might have told the truth.

Yesterday, with an inevitability born of the utterly false promise that the bloodbath in Iraq is yielding dividends, we were supposed to believe that the death of Zarqawi was a famous victory. The American press dusted off their favourite phrase: "terrorist mastermind". No one, I suspect, will be able to claim the $25m on his head - unless he was betrayed by his own hooded gunmen - but the American military, stained by the blood of Haditha, received a ritual pat on the back from the Commander-in-Chief. They had got their man, the instigator of civil war, the flame of sectarian hatred, the head chopper who supposedly murdered Nicholas Berg. Maybe he was all these things. Or maybe not. But it will bring the war no nearer to its end, not because of the inevitable Islamist rhetoric about the "thousand Zarqawis" who will take his place, but because individuals no longer control - if they ever did - the inferno of Iraq. Bin Laden's death would not damage al-Qa'ida now that he - like a nuclear scientist who has built an atom bomb - has created it. Zarqawi's demise - and only al-Qa'ida's killers would have listened to him, not the ex-Iraqi army officers who run the real Iraqi insurgency - will not make an iota of difference to the slaughter in Mesopotamia.

Messrs Bush and Blair slyly admitted as much yesterday when they warned that the insurgency would continue. But this raised another question. Will the eventual departure of Bush and Blair provide an opportunity to end this hell/ disaster? Or have the results of their folly also taken on a life of their own, unstoppable by any political change in Washington or London? Already we forget the way in which the same American forces credited with Zarqawi's death had proved only a few weeks ago that he was a bumbling incompetent. The Beast of Ramadi - or Fallujah or Baquba or wherever - had produced a videotape in which he fired a light machine gun while promising victory to Islam. Days later, the Americans showed the rough cuts of the same video - in which Zarqawi could be seen pleading for help from his comrades after a bullet jammed in the breech of the weapon.

In prison in Jordan, back in the days when he was a mafiosi rather than a mahdi, Zarqawi would drape blankets around his bed, curtains that would conceal him from his fellow prisoners, a cave - a Bin Laden cave - from which he would emerge to stroke or strike the men in his cell. Possessive of his wife, he left her with so little money that she had to go out to work in his native Zarqa. When his mother died, Zarqawi sent no condolences.

Like Bin Laden - the man of whom he was both beholden and intensely jealous - he had already transmogrified, undergone that essential transubstantiation of all violent men, from the personal to the immaterial, from the uncertainty of life to the certainty of death. Zarqawi's videotape was an act of extreme vanity that may have led to his death and he may have made it, subconsciously, to be his last message.

That the intelligence services of King Abdullah of Jordan - descendant of the monarch whom Sir Winston Churchill plopped off to the Hashemite throne - might have located Zarqawi's "safe house" in Baquba was a suitably ironic historical act. The man who believed in caliphates had struck at the kingdom - killing 60 innocents in three hotels - and the old colonial world had struck back. A king's anger will embrace a duke or two. Even an ex-jailbird. Which, in the end, is probably all that Zarqawi was.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Children of a bygone era  

Kids these days aren't what they used to be — they're a lot better. So why the fuss?

Archie Bland
A suited man eyes up the moral calibre of a burlesque troupe  

Be they burlesque dancers or arms dealers, a bank has no business judging the morality of its clients

John Walsh
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star