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Tuesday, November 15, 2005


In the ongoing ‘war against terrorism’ the West frequently invokes the ‘evil masters’ of terrorism, Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as being the continual cause of Islamic extremism and violence. To do so fulfils two functions; first, the myth of their existence is perpetuated and, secondly, in perpetuating the myth to the point where western mainstream society continues to accept the existence of these two figures of Western hatred allows the West to then apportion blame to them for the continued and seemingly on-going violence.

At the same time it also allows Western governments to attribute events of ‘suicide bombings’ to an organised structure perceived as ‘international terrorism’. Western governments frequently use the phrase ‘al Qaeda cell’ when discussing a bombing event or series of bombing events. The illusion being sought is one of a chain of command whereby an ‘event’, despite having been carried out locally by local people, would be seen as part of some grander plot organised by an ‘evil mastermind’ whereas in reality it was simply an isolated incident or set of incidents carried out by people who are highly unlikely to have any connections whatsoever to al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. In all likelihood the event would far more likely be a simple ‘copycat’ bombing supposedly carried out by young men eager to ‘join some greater cause’ but to do so independently of any organisation.

The Western powers involved in the ‘war against terrorism’ have for some time seen the merits of maintaining and perpetuating the illusion of their existence but there was a time when the Western powers were inclined to write off bin Laden as being either dead or at least in such poor health that he would not be able to survive very much longer after the first reports of his ill health emerged in late January 2002. One of the first to announce his belief that bin Laden’s had died was Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf.[1] By October 2002 the then newly installed President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, also conceded that bin Laden was probably dead.[2]

One of the reasons that these leaders believed bin Laden was indeed dead was the fact that bin Laden was in need of constant attention to attend to his advanced kidney failure. Such attention included the use of a kidney dialysis machine; a cumbersome piece of apparatus that requires technicians to look after it. Bin Laden would also need the constant attention of a kidney specialist to monitor his condition.[3] Since it would be impossible to provide such services in the Tora Bora Mountains of Afghanistan, bin Laden would have had no alternative but to either find a hospital that would facilitate his requirements, a very unlikely possibility, or to surrender himself to the West who would have provided him with treatment pending his trial.

By December 2001 even the White House was happy to concede that Osama bin Laden was dead. Tony Harnden of the UK Telegraph newspaper wrote:

Osama bin Laden heaped praise on the ‘19 students who shook the American empire’ in the September 11 attacks in a chilling video shown in full last night by an Arab television station. The recording was dismissed by the Bush administration yesterday as sick propaganda possibly designed to mask the fact that the al-Qa’eda leader was already dead.[4]

By October 2002 even a will purported to have been signed by bin Laden and dated 14 December 2001 turned up.[5]

Meanwhile, in March of 2004 reports were coming in that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian extremist said to be heading up ‘al Qaeda in Iraq’ had also been killed. Apparently al-Zarqawi, because of his artificial leg, was unable to escape the American bombing of the Sulaimaniyah mountains in the north of Iraq.[6]

According to reports in Aljazeera, al Zarqawi has become ‘America’s new bogeyman’. “Al-Zarqawi has become the perfect bogeyman. He is a foreigner, so it is the perfect way for the Americans to discredit the resistance and say these attacks are not coming from the Iraqi people”, Abd al-Bari Atwan, an Arab affairs commentator, told Aljazeera.[7]

A ‘bogeyman’ al-Zarqawi indeed is. Besides the advantages to American propaganda about him being the source of foreign Jihadi violence in Iraq, he also serves the neoconservatives in the Bush administration’s assertion that there is a link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein[8], a point that the Coalition of the Willing was very happy to bring to the publics attention just weeks prior to the invasion of Iraq.

Al-Zarqawi’s artificial leg also seems to be no handicap to him when it comes to daring escapes. Jumping from moving vehicles while being chased seems to be no problem.[9] In some commentary I have referred to al-Zarqawi as the ‘Scarlet Pimpernel of Iraq’. He certainly seems to be as elusive.

Despite the US administrations insistence that these men are the root cause of all that is evil in the world today, the $25 million that each has on his head does not seem to have prompted any arrest. Perhaps the reason for that is that they simply do not exist accept in the imagination of the propagandists who believe that the perpetuation of the myth of their existence will allow them to continue perpetual war.

[1] “Pakistan's Musharraf: Bin Laden probably dead.” CNN World News, 18 January, 2002. Available online: Accessed 15 November 2005.

[2] “Karzai: bin Laden ‘probably’ dead.” CNN World News, 6 October, 2002. Available online: Accessed 15 November 2005.

[3] “Dr. Sanjay Gupta: Bin Laden would need help if on dialysis.” CNN World News, 21 January 2002. Available online: Accessed 15 November 2005.

[4] Toby Harnden, “US casts doubt on bin Laden’s latest message.” The Daily Telegraph, 28 December 2001. Available online: Accessed 15 November 2005.

[5] “Magazine runs what it calls bin Laden’s will.” CNN World News, 26 October 2002. Available online: Accessed 15 November 2005.

[6] “Iraq militants claim al-Zarqawi is dead. Al Qaida-linked extremist suspected of planning attacks.” Associated Press via, 4 March 2004. Available online: Accessed 15 November 2005.

[7] Roshan Muhammed Salih, “Al-Zarqawi: America's new bogeyman.” 1 July 2004. Available online: Accessed 15 November 2005.

[8] Ed Vulliamy, Martin Bright and Nick Pelham, “False trails that lead to the al-Qaeda ‘links’.” UK Guardian Newspaper, 2 February 2003.,6903,887439,00.html

[9] Michael Vincent, “Reports US forces came close to capturing Zarqawi”. ABC Australia, 26 April 2005. Available online: Accessed 15 November 2005.