Saturday, November 27, 2004

The Zarqawi Personality Cult on LBC-TV: LBC TV started as a TV station for the right-wing Christian-oriented Lebanese Forces militia in Lebanon (the death squads of the Lebanese Civil War and the Sabra and Shatila massacres) in the 1980s. For commercial and political reasons, it later evolved politically. It had to change its tune in order to appeal to the commercially lucrative Arab market. All the right-wing reporters and editors are still there, but they try to feign a certain Arab orientation. The station (the satellite LBC as opposed to the Lebanese broadcasting LBC) is owned by a variety of Lebanese politicians and Arab interests that include AlWalid bin Talal. Pierre Dahir (the founder of LBC and the right-wing fellow) still owns the non-satellite LBC. Their news on Lebanon is very slanted toward the right-wing and Maronite Patriarch side, and they rarely employ non-Christians. In their Arab news, they are very close to US (US officials now favor it along with AlArabiyya), Saudi Arabia, and Allawi puppet government in Iraq. So I did not know what to expect when I was subjected for an entire week to promos about an LBC "exclusive documentary" on Abu Mus`ab Az-Zarqawi, of all people. I was curious about the timing, especially that LBC, which is better known for their silly, fluff, and sleazy materials (which makes it popular among the sleazy and polygamous royals of the region) is not in the habit of airing "documentaries" of any kind. So I have just watched the Zarqawi documentary, and was shocked to watch a piece that will undoubtedly contribute to a Zarqawi personality cult. What was the reason for this documentary except to present an image of a Zarqaqi "mystique." Every one who was interviewed was a former prison comrade or cellmate or comrade-in-arms of Zarqawi. Even the director of the prison where Zarqawi spent 5 years in, did not have negative things to say about the man who we have seen cutting off people's heads, and who takes pride in setting off car bombs against mosques. Even the music and the editing appeared as if it was almost part of a Zarqawi propaganda apparatus. I waited to see the names of he writers and editors, and at that particular moment, the broadcast mysteriously ended without the usual running of credit. Several things we learn from the documentary, especially if you have only been reading about Zarqawi in the official US press (NYT and WP). First, we should put to rest the allegation that Al-Qa`idah and Zarqawi's group are the same. They never were. Zarqawi served time in Jordan as a leader of his own group known as Bay`at Al-Imam. To be sure, Zarqaqi later moved to Afghanistan, but he started a new group, which was also separate from Al-Qa`idah (it was known as Jund Ash-Sham). His training camps and basis in Hirat were entirely separate from Al-Qa`idah. But Bush's propaganda interests (and deep ignorance) require that we confuse all those names and blur all those distinctions so that Saddam is linked to Al-Qa`idah and Al-Qa`idah is linked to Zarqawi and Zarqawi is linked to Chavez and Chavez is linked to Hitler, etc. In Afghanistan he met Bin Laden and Sayf Al-`Adl (the latter is chief-of-security of Al-Qa`idah and Bush will never tell you that he is still at large), but had ideological disagreements with Bin Laden. Apparently, Zarqawi believed in the takfir (declaring the infidelity of) of Arab governments while Bin Laden and Zawahiri focused on US in their February 1998 declaration. Zarqawi considered the overthrow of Arab governments to be a priority. Secondly, Zarqawi has to be the leader of whatever organization he is a member of, which may explain his split from the widely read fanatic Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi who inspired many of the fanatics in Saudi Arabia, including those who were behind the bombing in Khubar. I did not understand why the "documentary" told us about how much Zarqawi loved and respected his mother, although in one letter he requested that his mother never meets or shakes hands with other men. He signed his letters as "gharib" (the stranger). He met a guy in Afghanistan and he liked him, so he offered him his own sister for marriage (his sister back in Jordan was not even consulted of course). His father-in-law (of his first wife) may have been involved with the car bombing that killed Muhammad Baqir Al-Hakim among scores of innocent people. I do not understand why the
"documentary" did not interview any of the relatives of the victims of Zarqawi or even an analyst who can talk critically or at least objectively and non-fawningly about his misdeeds. The picture that was drawn was favorable and may cultivate a cult around this man; a cult that US official propaganda unwittingly has helped create. The documentary also aired the only known video footage of Zarqawi (from his Afghanistan days) and there was no evidence of the wooden leg. And no piece on Zarqawi is complete without covering his deep anti-Shi`ite bigotry, but that is where the "documentary" so abruptly ended.