Lee P Butler

Iraq: A Moment of Transcendentalism In History

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Abu Musab al-Zarqawi Dead
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BAGHDAD, Iraq  — Abu Musab al-Zarqawi rose from the life of a street thug in Jordan to become the symbol of "holy war" in Iraq, masterminding the bloodiest suicide bombings of the insurgency, beheading hostages and helping push Iraq into a spiral of sectarian violence with vicious attacks against Shiites.

The 39-year-old Zarqawi, slain in a U.S. air strike Wednesday night, was instrumental in turning the swift U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 into a grueling counterinsurgency fight, helping draw Arab militants into what he depicted as a war for Islam against the American "crusaders" and Shiite "infidels."

Click here for complete coverage of Zarqawi's death.

Zarqawi was not the only insurgency leader. Homegrown Sunni Iraqi guerrillas — believed to have tense relations with Zarqawi — are thought to have had an equal or even greater role in deadly attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces and Shiites.

Still, Zarqawi became the symbol of the jihadi — or "holy war" — movement, nicknamed the "slaughtering sheik" by his supporters across the Arab world. He is believed to have personally beheaded at least two American hostages, Nicholas Berg in April 2004 and Eugene Armstrong in September 2004. Grisly videos of the slayings were posted on the Internet, part of the revolutionary Web-based propaganda campaign that was key to Zarqawi's movement.

Zarqawi vowed fealty to Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden in October 2004 and had the same bounty on his head from the U.S. military — $25 million — as bin Laden.

But he played a dramatically different role: While bin Laden was the hidden leader, issuing statements from hiding in Pakistan's border region with Afghanistan, Zarqawi portrayed himself as the warrior on the front lines.

In the past year, Zarqawi moved his campaign beyond Iraq's borders, carrying out a Nov. 9, 2005, triple suicide bombing against hotels in Amman that killed 60 people, as well as other attacks in Jordan and even a rocket attack from Lebanon into northern Israel.

He also sought to spread Sunni-Shiite strife across the Middle East. In an audiotape posted on the Web last week, he lectured his fellow Sunnis to stand up against Shiites and railed against Shiites for four hours, calling them enemies of Islam.

In April, he released a videotape showing his face for the first time in an apparent attempt to reinforce his image as the leader of Iraq's insurgents and a hero to Sunni extremists. The video emphasized dramatic, iconic images of Zarqawi, showing him in a desert landscape firing a machine gun.

The U.S. military tried to undermine that image, issuing what it said were "out takes" of that video captured in a raid, showing Zarqawi fumbling with the machine gun.

Born Ahmad Fadhil Nazzal al-Khalayleh on Oct. 20, 1966, in Jordan, Zarqawi grew up in the industrial town of Zarqa, from which he eventually took his nom de guerre. He was one of 10 siblings in a poor branch of the prominent Bani Hassan Bedouin tribe, which publicly renounced all ties to him after the hotel bombings in Amman.

As a teenager, he was known as a thug, drinking alcohol and getting in street fights. He was jailed for six months for raping a girl, according to Jordanian security officials.

He then embraced Islamic militancy, making his first trips to Afghanistan in the 1980s before returning to Jordan, where he was arrested in the mid-1990s.

It was in a Jordanian prison that he solidified his radical ideology. He shared a cell block with militant cleric Isam Mohammed al-Barqawi, known as Abu Muhammed al-Maqdisi, who became his spiritual mentor in "takfir" — an extremist strain of Islam that brands its enemies "kafirs" or "infidels" worthy of death.

After being released in an amnesty, Zarqawi went in 1999 to Afghanistan, where he formed links with bin Laden. He fled Afghanistan during the U.S.-led war that ousted the Taliban in late 2001, passing through Iran to Iraq, according to U.S. officials and militant biographies of Zarqawi posted on the Web.

His followers' first operations may have been in his homeland: Jordan has sentenced him to death in absentia for masterminding the October 2002 slaying of Laurence Foley, a diplomat and administrator of U.S. aid programs in Jordan.

Soon after, his movement carried out two major suicide blasts in August 2003 — four months after Saddam's fall — that many see as marking the start of the insurgency in Iraq.

The first hit the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, killing 22 people, including the top U.N. envoy to Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and prompting the United Nations to pull its personnel out of the country.

The second targeted a Shiite shrine in Najaf that killed more than 85 people, including Shiite leader Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim.

For more than two years, Zarqawi wreaked mayhem across Iraq, his strikes targeted not only to inflict maximum casualties but also to weaken Iraq's fledgling security forces, cause political damage, or enflame sectarian violence.

His group claimed responsibility for the bloodiest single attack of the insurgency: the February 2005 suicide bombing against Iraqi security recruits in Hillah that killed 125 people.

His fighters are believed to be behind a string of suicide bombings against Shiites in the holy city of Karbala and a police station north of Baghdad on Jan. 5, 2006, that killed at least 130 people — only weeks after a landmark parliament election.

A May 18, 2004, a car bomb detonated by Zarqawi's fighters assassinated the president of the now disbanded Iraqi Governing Council, Izzadine Saleem.

The string of kidnappings of Westerners by his followers terrorized foreign workers in Iraq, forcing them to limit movements and take up costly security precautions.

Among the other hostage slayings claimed by Al Qaeda in Iraq were American Jack Hensley, British engineer Kenneth Bigley, Kim Sun-il of South Korea and Shosei Koda of Japan, whose decapitated body was found dumped and wrapped in an American flag.

Al Qaeda in Iraq also kidnapped and killed the top Egyptian diplomat in Iraq and two Algerian diplomats, part of a campaign aimed at scaring Arab nations from sending full ambassadors to Baghdad in support of the new, Shiite-led government.

But in the last months of his life, there were signs Zarqawi's attacks on civilians were eroding his support. The triple hotel bombing in Amman — which killed mostly Sunni Muslims — outraged many in Jordan and even brought criticism from other Islamic militants.

In January, Zarqawi announced that his group was joining an umbrella organization of Iraqi insurgents called the Shura Council of Mujahedeen. The move was seen as an attempt to give an Iraqi face to Zarqawi's movement, which was believed to be mainly made up of non-Iraqi, Arab fighters.

Confirming Zarqawi's death, his deputy, known as Abu Abdel-Rahman al-Iraqi, vowed to continue the fight.

"The death of our leaders is life for us," he said in a Web statement. "It will only increase our persistence in continuing holy war so that the word of God will be supreme."

Iraqi Chemical Stash Uncovered Post-Invasion Cache Could Have Been For Use in Weapons

BAGHDAD, Aug. 13 -- U.S. troops raiding a warehouse in the northern city of Mosul uncovered a suspected chemical weapons factory containing 1,500 gallons of chemicals believed destined for attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces and civilians, military officials said Saturday.

Monday's early morning raid found 11 precursor agents, "some of them quite dangerous by themselves," a military spokesman, Lt. Col. Steven A. Boylan, said in Baghdad.

The suspected chemical weapons lab was the biggest found so far in Iraq, Boylan said. A lab discovered last year in the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah contained a how-to book on chemical weapons and an unspecified amount of chemicals.

Democrats Split Over Position on Iraq War 

Democrats say a long-standing rift in the party over the Iraq war has grown increasingly raw in recent days, as stay-the-course elected leaders who voted for the war three years ago confront rising impatience from activists and strategists who want to challenge President Bush aggressively to withdraw troops.

Amid rising casualties and falling public support for the war, Democrats of all stripes have grown more vocal this summer in criticizing Bush's handling of the war. A growing chorus of Democrats, however, has said this criticism should be harnessed to a consistent message and alternative policy -- something most Democratic lawmakers have refused to offer.

The wariness, congressional aides and outside strategists said in interviews last week, reflects a belief among some in the opposition that proposals to force troop drawdowns or otherwise limit Bush's options would be perceived by many voters as defeatist. Some operatives fear such moves would exacerbate the party's traditional vulnerability on national security issues.

"The conclusion we have drawn is that the Afghan people want a long-term relationship with the United States," Karzai said. "They want this relationship to be a sustained economic and political relationship and most importantly of all, a strategic security relationship to enable Afghanistan to defend itself, to continue to prosper, to stop the possibility of interferences in Afghanistan."

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and President George W. Bush hold a press conference after meeting at the President's Ranch in Crawford, Texas, Monday, April 11, 2005. "I strongly support his courageous initiative to disengage from Gaza and part of the West Bank. The Prime Minister is willing to coordinate the implementation of the disengagement plan with the Palestinians. I urge the Palestinian leadership to accept his offer," said President Bush.White House photo by David Bohrer

President and Prime Minister Sharon Discuss Economy, Middle East
"I remain strongly committed to the vision of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. The Prime Minister and I reaffirmed our commitment to that vision and to the road map as the only way forward to realize it. The road map has been accepted and endorsed by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, along with virtually the entire international community. The Prime Minister and I share a desire to see the disengagement from Gaza and part of the West Bank serve to re-energize progress along the road map."


March 27: President Bush and first lady Laura Bush leave a church service at Fort Hood, Texas.

Bush Salutes Freedom and Democracy


Three Cheers for the Bush Doctrine
History has begun to speak, and it says that America made the right decision to invade Iraq


BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 12 - In the weeks after Baghdad fell in April 2003, looters systematically dismantled and removed tons of machinery from Saddam Hussein's most important weapons installations, including some with high-precision equipment capable of making parts for nuclear arms, a senior Iraqi official said this week in the government's first extensive comments on the looting.

Huge Demonstration in Lebanon Demands End to Syrian Control 

The shadow of Muhammad Al-Amin Mosque, where late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is buried, is cast on hundreds of thousands of Lebanese demonstrators who packed Martyrs Square in downtown Beirut on Monday. (AFP)

Biggest Anti-Syria Protest in Beirut

President Discusses War on Terror
National Defense University
Fort Lesley J. McNair

"Today I have a message for the people of Lebanon: All the world is witnessing your great movement of conscience. Lebanon's future belongs in your hands, and by your courage, Lebanon's future will be in your hands. The American people are on your side. Millions across the earth are on your side. The momentum of freedom is on your side, and freedom will prevail in Lebanon."


Iraq Oil Scam Scandal Investigation 'Must Be Extended'
Iraq has called for a widening of the investigation of the UN oil-for-food program and demanded the immediate return of money in the UN account that paid for ...

U.N. chief orders action against head of Oil-for-Food after scathing report

Raw Data: Read the Report (pdf)
Raw Data: Sevan's Statement (pdf)


BAGHDAD, Iraq  — Iraqi security forces captured Saddam Hussein's half brother and former adviser, government officials said Sunday, dealing a blow to an insurgency that some Iraqi officials claim the most-wanted fugitive was helping organize and fund.

Media's coverage has distorted world's view of Iraqi reality: "All right, I've had enough. I am tired of reading distorted and grossly exaggerated stories from major news organizations about the "failures" in the war in Iraq. "The most trusted name in news" and a long list of others continue to misrepresent the scale of events in Iraq. Print and video journalists are covering only a fraction of the events in Iraq and, more often than not, the events they cover are only negative."

Iraq's Independent Electoral Commission initially estimated that 72 percent of the country's eligible voters had turned out to cast their ballots but an official later said an estimated eight million Iraqis — or 60 percent of eligible voters — turned out to vote. Shazzaam...liberals and most of the media didn't want to hear that... see Kerry statement below. Let freedom ring! "We have defeated the terrorists today," Ahmad Chalabi, a secular Shiite who is running for the National Assembly on the United Iraqi Alliance list said. "The winds of freedom are sweeping across Iraq."
 Photo Essay:
But Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., sounded a note of caution in an interview on NBC's 'Meet The Press.' "It is hard to say that something is legitimate when whole portions of the country can't vote and doesn't vote," Kerry said. 60% of Iraqis voted, yet Kerry is still looking for votes in Ohio!

 "THERE are those out there — and you know who you are — more interested in seeing the Bush administration fail in Iraq than in seeing democracy succeed. Sorry, oracles of doom: You're about to be disappointed."
The media is already beside itself. Success isn't what the American media has invested itself in.


Barbara Boxer attacks Dr. Rice's veracity over Iraq: "You sent them in there because of weapons of mass destruction. Later the mission changed when there were none," Boxer told Rice. "Let's not rewrite history, it's too soon to do that." Well now, just who is trying to rewrite history here?
"Iraq made commitments after the Gulf War to completely dismantle all weapons of mass destruction, and unfortunately, Iraq has not lived up to its agreement." -- Barbara Boxer, November 8, 2002

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