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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    The death of an Iraqi scapegoat

    Andrew McGheecolumnist
    Andrew McGhee

    According to an article written by Sheldon Alberts of the Canadian news service CanWest, unsubstantiated rumors regarding the death of Iraqi insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi reached the White House as early as the 3:45 in the afternoon on June 7. Military officials confirmed the death of Zarqawi at about 9:10 p.m. but didn’t find it prudent to communicate the news to the American public until 7:30 a.m. on June 8.

    Knowing these things, one wonders why White House officials were so reticent. Why, having obtained the confirmation of this figure’s death prior to the broadcast of the ten o’clock evening news on June 7, did the Bush administration decide to deliver it the following morning, at 7:30, when most Americans were eating breakfast, showering, preparing for and driving to work or watching inane post-dawn programming such as “”Good Morning America””?

    According to an article by Jeffery Gettleman of the New York Times, “”as the Iraqi insurgency increased, American military officials blamed Mr. Zarqawi for the bloodshed”” in the war-afnflicted nation. In light of this information, the reluctance of the White House to deliver the news, in addition to the stolid and unenthusiastic manner in which it was ultimately delivered, starts to make sense.

    For the U.S. government, the loss of Zarqawi is tantamount to the loss of a scapegoat. Of the numerous figures appropriated by the government for propagandistic purposes, Zarqawi was an old stand-by. Judging by information provided in the Gettleman article, his image as conveyed by the media has been repeatedly altered on a scale that rivals David Bowie or Madonna.

    In 2001, officials asserted that he had been wounded in Afghanistan. They also asserted that he had lost a leg at some point; nevertheless, his body was ultimately found with both appendages in tact, in spite of the bomb blast that killed him.

    Now that Zarqawi is a corpse, he loses his value to the government and media.

    In the summer of 2003, Zarqawi was no longer sufficient for the government’s propagandistic purposes: Afghanistan was passǸ; Iraq was the posh new locus of the terrorist threat.

    Accordingly, Zarqawi relocated to Iraq, conveniently around the time when Colin Powell was presenting his case for war to the United Nations, citing Zarqawi’s purported relations with al-Qaida as an incontroverible link connecting bin Laden to Baghdad.

    Sadly, this claim was ultimately proven false, but not until American troops were already engaged in the Iraqi conflict.

    Though Zarqawi may not have been involved with the al-Qaida of bin Laden, the U.S. government was still committed to making him seem like a villain by imputing a rash of Iraqi suicide bombings to him and his cohorts in 2003. Zarqawi was also said to be Palestinian, but later revelations disclosed that he was actually Jordanian. All of these changes of image were used to market the war across the sea.

    Now that Zarqawi is a corpse, he loses his value to the government and media. Dead men can’t be vilified; the military can’t attribute its strategic difficulties to the symbol of a dead man, which is precisely what might explain the lack of enthusiasm on the part of the White House in announcing his demise.

    Andrew McGhee is a sophomore majoring in physics. He can be reached at

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