In its Sunday Editorial today, Slaying a Myth, (about the death of Abu Musab al Zarqawi) the Philippine Daily Inquirer is trying hard to create and pass off its own myths about Iraq and the war on terror. Right in the lead paragraph one gets the feeling they are actually sorry that Zarqawi was killed...though they instantly snap back...
THE killing last week of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian jihadist behind many abductions and suicide bombings in strife-torn Iraq, is certainly a military feat of a high order. But it is not—and cannot be—the political and historic milestone the Bush administration would like to think it is.What bitter old Sour Grapes! Next, PDI claims that the Yanquis made it all up anyway so getting Zarqawi was no big deal...
The myth of al-Zarqawi as the leader of the anti-American insurgency in Iraq, a foreigner who symbolized al-Qaida’s engagement in the country, was exactly that: a myth. And it was a myth created, in large part, by the American government he had sworn to fight.Gee, and here I thought he was the real Butcher of Bagdadi Shia-dom, but PDI informs us he's just America's invention. Just like Osama Bin Laden! But look, says PDI further, Zarqawi wasn't really all that bad, the Americans just inflated his evil, murderous ways:
It is true that he had taken part in or masterminded the kidnapping of foreign nationals in post-Saddam Iraq; it is believed—and US officials have repeatedly said—that he is responsible for the death of dozens in Iraq; it is likely that he had even personally beheaded two American hostages.Dozens? Dozens? I think the FACTS will bear me out that Zarqawi was directly and intentionally responsible for the death of thousands of innocent Iraqi men, women and children, killed twenty to one hundred twenty at a time in their mosques, police recruiting stations, government offices, homes and offices. As for those beheadings, they were certainly a part of the political theatre he practice, macabre and disgusting as it was. Ah but seen through the concavely thick anti-Western ideological lenses worn by PDI editorial writers, you see, Zarqawi was not a real flesh and blood killer, but a symbol of resistance to Satan-Bush himself...
But while he served as a symbol of violent resistance to American occupation, he was not, and never was, its leader. As a must-read report (already available online) in next month’s Atlantic Monthly magazine also reveals, he was not—and never was—Osama bin Laden’s deputy in Iraq either.See even an American monthly magazines says "This is confirmed!" Here is our proof, you see it is further confirmed by this snippet from the Washington Post...
Only two months ago, the Washington Post revealed that the Pentagon had been pursuing a strategy to inflate al-Zarqawi’s reputation. The lead paragraph in that story read: “The US military is conducting a propaganda campaign to magnify the role of the leader of (al-Qaida) in Iraq, according to internal military documents and officers familiar with the program. The effort has raised his profile in a way that some military intelligence officials believe may have overstated his importance and helped the Bush administration tie the war to the organization responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.”I see now where this is really headed. According to PDI, the US invented Zarqawi, inflated his daily bombings and murder spree in trying to foment sectarian violence between Shia and Sunni in Iraq, as a way of proving that there was a connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. In fact according to PDI, the $25 million dollar reward offered for Zarqawi was just a big show, and the editorial is not beyond taking certain American media reports out of context and grafting onto their little Sunday Fairy Tale about Zarqawi
How did he “tie the war” [the invasion of Iraq] to Osama? The Atlantic Monthly report drily notes one example: “One can only imagine how astonished al-Zarqawi must have been when [US Secretary of State] Colin Powell named him [in February 2003] as the crucial link between (al-Qaida) and Saddam Hussein’s regime. He was not even officially a part of (al-Qaida), and ever since he had left Afghanistan, his links had been not to Iraq but to Iran.”Here is where PDI claims that even the $25 million dollar reward money put up for Zarqawi's capture was done just to prove how important and dangerous he was. Well never mind that he was sending victims and suicide bombers to Allah so fast they once ran out of vestal virgins, given that 70 odd are promised to each of the recently canonized jihadis. (Surely, Allah is not filling the shortage from the victims. That would be the Abu Sayyaf's fantasy since they "marry" the women they rape and carry off, or vice versa.) So did the Americans "create" Zarqawi? PDI says...
But making him out to be more than he really was did not only help the White House make that tenuous connection between Osama and Saddam; it also helped US forces meet operational objectives in post-invasion Iraq.
The Post story notes: “The documents state that the US campaign aims to turn Iraqis against Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian, by playing on their perceived dislike of foreigners. US authorities claim some success with that effort, noting that some tribal Iraqi insurgents have attacked Zarqawi loyalists.”
One of the documents obtained by the Post, the transcript of a meeting, quotes one key military intelligence officer telling Army officials: “Our own focus on Zarqawi has enlarged his caricature, if you will—made him more important than he really is, in some ways.”
They certainly did. Judging from the iconic economics of reward money, al-Zarqawi was deemed by the US government equal in importance to Osama himself; he, too, had a $25-million bounty on his head.Alhough PDI resolutely ignores the murderous, terrifying reality that Abu Musab Al Zarqawi truly was, belittling their numbers to dozens let it not be said that they are insensitive to the loss of human life. The editorial (mercifully and mercilessly) ends with this...
But that same intelligence official quoted in the Post also described al-Zarqawi’s operation as resolutely small-scale, “a very small part of the actual numbers.” On the other hand, Osama, who actually masterminded the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, continues to inspire anti-American, anti-Western violence around the world. He has invented something new: franchise terrorism. His terrible network is impossibly wide, reaching even the hills of Basilan, the streets of Toronto—or the alleys of Baghdad. In fact, it was in the cities of Iraq that al-Zarqawi found his calling: as a franchisee terrorist.
Will al-Zarqawi’s death (the US air strike also killed a woman and child, among others) lead to the collapse of the insurgency in Iraq? The short answer is “No.” But, perhaps, now that he’s dead, the White House will finally be forced to face reality in Iraq, not myth.They are mourning the death of Zarqawi's (latest) teenage wife and their infant.
FIGHTING TERROR: I think PDI just hit mental bottom with the above editorial, but it isn't all a nadir of nuttiness in the Philippines. I caught the excellent program on ANC Friday afternoon featuring Maria Ressa (ABSCBN Network's head of news and public affairs, formerly with CNN, author of Seeds of Terror). She was interviewing Rohan Gunaratna, an expert on al Qaeda, whose work I've been following since around 2003 whose book Inside Al Qaeda has been highly praised. His remarks bear paraphrasing:
Regarding the death by intelligence-and-air strike of ABU MUSAB AL ZARQAWI in Iraq, Mr. Gunaratna said that Zarqawi was a Master of the Media and the World Wide Web. (Judging by his hypnotic effect on the Philippine Daily Inquirer, he's got that right! Throughout his murderous rampage in Iraq (including beheadings in which he was personally the executioner) Zarqawi knew how to make the most of both Western and Iraqi media, especially by using TV and the Internet. (Zarqawi ran a video store when he lived in Jordan.) But he really made a name for himself after turning Iraq into the "epicenter of international terrorism, being a magnet for jihadis and a lightning rod for the global war on terror." Zarqawi, according to Rohan, was apparently not liked by Osama bin Laden when he was just a thug starting out in the career of a professional jihadi. After the US invasion of Iraq and the toppling of the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein, Zarqawi renamed his growing band "Al Qaeda of the Two Rivers" or Al Qaeda of Mesopotamia (the ancient name of Iraq). Zarqawi's basic formula was to viciously attack the Shiites of Iraq with Sunni suicide bombers, in order to foment sectarian violence causing over 6,000 deaths there, mostly from indiscriminate and inherently cruel "improvised explosive devices." He new how to recruit followers, raise money and terrorize his targets through the media. Zarqawi was able to convince people to join his jihad as sympathizers or as recruits. Zarqawi was a very dangerous and ruthless terrorist. He once planned and nearly executed a biochemical attack in Jordan that might have killed thousands of people.
MAPHILINDOSTAN: One particularly disturbing thing Rohan Gunaratna and Maria Ressa discussed is the Philippines situation, in particular with respect to Mindanao. Rohan says that over the years, the global jihad advocated by Al Qaeda has become ideological. Al Qaeda has had a profound impact on many local groups who've taken up the call and example of Al Qaeda. He cites the particular case of the Jemaah Islamiyah, which is actively trying to establish something I have called "Maphililindostan" -- a Jihadi State much like Taliban-dominated Afghanistan in the nineties, but incorporating portions of Malaysia, Indonesia and the southern Philippines. In the Philippines Mr. Gunaratna says the biggest threat is from the Abu Sayyaf, which has transformed itself largely into an adjunct of the Jemaah Islamiyah, many of whose fighters and top operatives have been using Mindanao as a base since at least 1994. A rudimentary biochem weapons manual has been found in Mindanao. Mr. Gunaratna said, and it appears to have been written by an Indonesian terrorist. Speaking of which, here is a link to the US Rewards for Justice Program offering up to TEN MILLION DOLLARS for Dulmatin (aka Amar Usman). He is a prime suspect in the first and second Bali Bombings, which I fear may actually have been planned, prepped and even launched from camps within the Philippines. During the last few days there have been disturbing indications of a deepening involvement of elements in Mindanao with Jemaah Islamiyah and Al Qaeda. The emergence of the Rajah Sulaiman Movement as having been responsible for the "worst maritime terrorist attack" in the Super Ferry 14 bombing which killed over 110 people in February, 2004 (but which President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo actually ascribed "to pranksters" as she dismissed the incident which came at a critical moment early in the 2004 election campaign season.
But Mr. Gunaratna thought that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was sincere in its participation in the peace talks, and stressed the importance of a comprehensive settlement of the century old Muslim insurgency in Mindanao. He thought that unlike Abu Sayyaf Group, the MILF have largely shunned close ties with the Jemaah Islamiyah (except of course for individuals and "rogue commands" which easily and undetectably switch fealty and identification.) Meanwhile he believes that the capabilities of the ASG and the RSM to sow terror and conduct attacks must be reduced and eliminated.
Finally, when asked what he considered to be the most important ingredients to a successful war on terror, he said that what every country needs is one, leadership, two leaderhip, and three, leadership! YIKES! We've got Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
GLORIA'S PORKASAURUS-REX: For the fifth time in six years, the Philippines Congress has failed to pass a National Government Budget, resulting in the re-enactment of the 2005 Budget. They should all be fired, then commit hari-kiri, as a matter of honor. But that would be too much to ask of the Kongress of Moral Dwarves (with apologies to the Dwarves, of course!). However, there is this: Instead of reducing the President's budget by around P30 billion pesos, the Senate has effectively enforced a 134.7 billion peso reduction, going by this very useful table from the Congress Budget Planning Office.
|BUDGET ALLOCATION BY DEPARTMENT||2005 (BILLIONS)||2006 (BILLIONS)||Increase/Decrease|
|Department of Education a/||112.0||119.1||7.0||6.3|
|Department of Public Works and Highways||49.5||62.3||12.9||26.0|
|Department of National Defense||46.2||46.6||0.5||1.0|
|Department of Interior and Local Government||43.9||45.6||1.7||3.9|
|State Universities and Colleges||16.9||16.7||(0.2)||(1.2)|
|Department of Agriculture b/||14.3||15.7||1.3||9.3|
|Department of Transportation and Communications||8.0||14.3||6.2||77.3|
|Department of Health||10.3||10.6||0.3||2.5|
|Department of Finance||6.8||6.9||0.1||1.7|
|Department of Agrarian Reform b/||14.7||6.5||(8.3)||(56.0)|
|Department of Environment & Natural Resources||5.9||6.3||0.4||7.1|
|Department of Foreign Affairs||5.1||5.3||0.2||4.7|
|Department of Justice||5.1||5.3||0.2||4.0|
|Other Executive Offices||5.1||4.7||(0.4)||(7.8)|
|Department of Labor and Employment||4.5||4.6||0.1||2.9|
|Congress of the Philippines||4.7||4.6||(0.1)||(2.3)|
|Commission on Audit||4.0||3.9||(0.0)||(0.4)|
|Office of the President||3.5||3.6||0.1||2.7|
|Commission on Elections||1.4||3.3||1.9||134.8|
|Department of Science and Technology||2.5||2.9||0.3||12.7|
|National Economic and Development Authority||1.3||2.8||1.5||114.0|
|Department of Social Welfare and Development||2.3||2.6||0.3||12.3|
|Department of Trade and Industry||2.1||2.0||(0.1)||(3.4)|
|Department of Energy||1.0||1.7||0.7||67.3|
|Department of Tourism||1.1||1.4||0.3||24.5|
|Office of the Ombudsman||0.7||0.9||0.3||38.6|
|Office of the Press Secretary||0.9||0.8||(0.0)||(5.7)|
|Department of Budget and Management||0.4||0.6||0.2||44.8|
|Civil Service Commission||0.5||0.5||(0.0)||(0.0)|
|Commission on Human Rights||0.2||0.2||(0.0)||(9.3)|
|Office of the Vice-President||0.1||0.1||0.0||55.0|
|Special Purpose Funds||528.6||634.1||105.5||20.0|
EDUCATION POST-SCRIPT: Pia Hontiveros had Butch Abad and Mike Luz on last week on her TV talk show Strictly Politics (Wednesday, ABSCBN ANC). It was very interesting to hear Butch Abad mention an interesting little statistic: it costs the government only P4,000 per child on average, to send a kid to a private school under the GASTPE (Govt Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education) program, while the public schools are spending P7,000 per child on average in the free public schools. I believe this reflects the overall bloated cost structure under the Deped system. It is information that dovetails neatly with something that outgoing Senate President Frank Drilon said last week: how private building contractors can build school houses for half or less of what the Dept. of Public Works and Highways charges to build them for Deped. The public debate on the classroom shortage takes a silly turn when it is blamed on a lack of funds. It is really a lack of funds allocated for the purpose of putting a roof over the heads of the students because the employment plantilla of Deped is a Sacred Cow if there ever was one. Sometimes the hardest thing to see is what is right in front of our nose.