Who’s afraid of the big, bad, ghost terrorists?

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is now, or was once, in Iraq, say official U.S. reports.

Our government is offering $10 million for his capture because, officials say, he is behind a series of violent outbreaks in Iraq. Al-Zarqawi is the “against us” in the familiar “with us or against us” mentality.

Secretary of State Colin Powell’s address to the United Nations Security Council in February 2003 confidently told the world that al-Zarqawi had “deadly toxins” at a “terror camp” in northeast Iraq. Powell said “the deadly toxins” were cyanide, VX and ricin. The evidence now shows nothing relating to “chemical weapons production.” Powell also “proved” al Zarqawi was dangerous with a satellite picture of the “terror camp.” But in the days following the address, journalists found only a radio station and residential quarters at the specified coordinates (Inter Press Service).

The world knew al-Zarqawi was evil because, worst of all, Powell said that al Zarqawi was given refuge by Saddam Hussein-proof that he really was “against us.” But there was again no proof-this time, of al-Zarqawi taking rest and relaxation in Hussein’s Baghdad.

London’s Financial Times reported that until Powell diffused the disinformation, “the assertion of a link based on al-Zarqawi’s presence in Baghdad [was regarded] as an ‘inferential leap’…UK officials, whose conclusions are based on the same intelligence as that available to the CIA, remain unconvinced that links are more than circumstantial.”

But what about the most recent accusations? Must not there be a reason that U.S. occupation forces have doubled the bounty to a luxurious $10 million? Available evidence is inconclusive at best. When 109 people were murdered in Arbil, Iraq, on Feb. 1, U.S. occupation forces immediately blamed al-Qaida and Ansar al-Islam (organizations al-Zarqawi is sometimes involved with or leads). Two days later, an Iraqi-based resistance group called Jaish Ansar al Sunna claimed responsibility for the atrocities, and U.S. occupation forces then accused Jaish Ansar al Sunna of being related to al-Qaida and Ansar al-Islam. Proof” finally came when U.S. occupation forces found a letter al-Zarqawi allegedly wrote to bin Laden, inviting him to Iraq. But according to The Washington Post, there has been no independent authentication of the letter.”The al-Zarqawi letter,” Exeter University’s Professor Youssef Choueiri told the BBC, “is discounted in many Arab circles.” And IPS states that if, as we have heard so often, al-Qaida is already active in Iraq, why would they need a formal invitation for re-entry?

The answers to these questions are slow in coming. But what is clear is that the United States believes al Zarqawi is still “masterminding” attacks. Al-Zarqawi was blamed after the letter was found and more violence erupted. U.S. Brigadier Gen. Mark Kimmett calls him “one of the chief suspects” of the carnage which came during the holy Ashura rituals on March 2. At least 271 Shiites died from violence that day-the bloodiest day for civilians since the U.S. occupation began-and many more were injured. The results of the mounting violence, which al-Zarqawi may or may not be involved in, are multifaceted and complex. One possible political outcome is that five Shiite members of the U.S. appointed Governing Council who agreed to the interim constitution before the violence now refuse to sign it.

Analysts believe that the ultimate goal of the opposition-which may or may not be al-Zarqawi-is to foment internal Iraqi violence and delay the June 30 power giveaway. It seems to be working.

If al-Zarqawi is responsible for the violence, I sincerely hope he will be brought to justice in the international legal system. But if he is not, the greatest danger the people of Iraq face is not from al-Qaida or Ansar al Islam or other “foreign terrorists” (who are “against us”), but the U.S. government itself. As long as our government continues chasing ghost “terrorists” who “hide in the shadows” instead of a meaningful pursuit of justice, the real “democracy building” is left undone.

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