After admitting that operation "Villainize Zarqawi" had been too effective for its own good, the military is now seeking to throw the propaganda machine into reverse, tearing down the "terrorist mastermind" whose image they boosted with such cold calculation.
Once again, The New York Times appears to be the preferred vessel to disseminate the Pentagon's agitprop. On its front page this weekend, the Times reports on the zany "outtakes" of a Zarqawi terror video that the Pentagon claims American "troops had discovered amongst a trove of information about Mr. Zarqawi last month in the dangerous town of Yusifiyah, just south of Baghdad."
In the video Zarqawi is seen sporting white New Balance sneaks and fumbling with an automatic weapon, which one of his handlers burns himself on by holding its barrel. The Times parrots the Pentagon's preferred line:
The message Mr. Zarqawi wants to deliver has always been clear: That Shiites —or "apostates" —and anyone who helps the new Iraqi government or the American military faces a horrible death...But with the release of the out-takes today the American military sought to send a very different message: That Mr. Zarqawi is a poseur who can't even fire a basic infantry weapon and walks around in comfortable shoes.
As the Washington Post story from two weeks ago makes clear, however, the Pentagon itself had sought to villainize Zarqawi and make him the face of anti-American terror and sectarian violence in Iraq. It quotes one high ranking military officer as saying: "Our own focus on Zarqawi has enlarged his caricature, if you will —made him more important than he really is."
Something about this counter-propaganda campaign is incredibly fishy. In particular because Zarqawi is seen walking around on his own two feet, when the reason he'd been reported to have entered Iraq in the first place was to seek medical treatment for an injured leg, which many reports said was amputated.