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

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

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Outgunned by a lack of military knowledge

Guy Keleny
Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Tiny Tim’s tea shop while canvassing in Rochester this week  

General Election 2015: What on earth happened to Ukip?

Matthew Norman
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions