The Zarqawi Outtakes
Take a look at my latest column, Niche vs. Mainstream. In it, I deal with the latest propaganda material from Bin Laden, Zawahiri and Zarqawi. But I wrote it up last week before the US military released its captured outtakes of the Zarqawi video, where he is seen fumbling with an American-made heavy machinegun.
I thought the way the US military dealt with this treasure trove was a terrible waste of a great opportunity; plenty of mischief could have been sown among the jihadis.
The target audience saw in these bloopers what they wanted to see: the Sunnis said, “Aha! So Zarqawi is a paid actor hired by the Americans after all. He is a fake character drawn up to sully the name of the true resistance to the American occupation.”
The Shias said: “See! The Americans know where Zarqawi is, but they let him run loose to kill more Shias and foment civil war. They captured these files less than two weeks after they were filmed, so they must be able to catch him at will. But they don’t, because they want to weaken the Shias.”
In a conspiracy-minded Middle East, coming out with the facts results in a lose-lose outcome. So give them a conspiracy they can wrap their minds around!
This is how I would have handled it: I would have created a fictional splinter group among the Shura Council of the Mujaheddin, of which Zarqawi is a member. I would have called it the Shura Council of the Iraqi Mujaheddin; a nationalist and religious bunch of hardcore Iraqi jihadists who resent foreigners like the Jordanian-born Zarqawi taking all the credit. Using the same logo, and with a paid actor, they would themselves show the clips to add legitimacy to their claim, and they themselves would mock Zarqawi. Then this same video could be fed to the jihadist websites that propagate this material in the first place. And voila, in the very least, Zarqawi and the Shura Council would have to waste some of their time answering this forgery, and they would have to explain just how these original outtakes leaked to whoever forged the “denunciation”.
But it doesn’t end there. This same Shura Council of the Iraqi Mujaheddin can start putting out a whole series of videos of them targeting US forces. It can all be staged, with Abrams tanks blowing up, and even fighter planes being shot down. They would start badmouthing Zarqawi’s tactics of targeting Iraqi civilians, and we can even see them capturing and interrogating Al-Qaeda’s foreign fighters. This fake group could be turned into the superstars of jihad in Iraq, and at the same time, harsh critics of Al-Qaeda and Zarqawi.
If the US government is too squeamish to produce fake news and counter-propaganda, then they can get the Iraqi government to pay for it, and take full responsibility.
Lights, cameras, ACTION!
I always did want to go to film school…