From the Asia Times:
Before January 2003, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was little known. Zarqawi stopped being a non-entity on February 5, 2003, when he was spectacularly catapulted onto the global stage - six weeks before the start of the Iraq war - by US Secretary of State Colin Powell's weapons of mass destruction speech at the United Nations. Powell used Zarqawi to link Saddam Hussein's secular Ba'athist regime to the "Islamic terror network", and thus partly justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
In Amman, Jordan in February 2003 practically nobody knew Zarqawi outside of Jordan - even though in 2002 he had been the target of a CIA disinformation campaign tying him to the theocratic regime in Tehran. But soon the Bush administration was to invest him with the aura of an "international man of mystery" - the world's most dangerous man after Osama bin Laden.
Soon Zarqawi started being characterized simultaneously as al-Qaeda's top operative in Iraq, and the number one promoter of civil war in that country.
Although the full weight of the Bush administration described Zarqawi as "a very senior al-Qaeda leader", strangely enough there was no meaningful Zarqawi connection whatsoever when one sifted through the terror information in the global media between September 11 and Shock and Awe in March 2003.
Senior former CIA agents say that Vice President Dick Cheney "blew up" when a report proved no links between Saddam and Zarqawi. No wonder: it was always a propaganda stunt.
The truth is more straightforward. Zarqawi had no connection either with bin Laden or with Saddam. Secular Saddam hosting an Islamic radical, of all people, at a time when the American campaign against the "axis of evil" had reached a fever-pitch is a ludicrous proposition.
In a suspect email allegedly found by the US Army in a raid of "an al-Qaeda safe house" in Baghdad in early 2004 - which immediately showed up at the website of the ultra right-wing Project For a New American Century - Zarqawi allegedly writes to bin Laden asking for his help in detonating a civil war between Sunnis and Shi'ites in Iraq.
The email - good timing - was found exactly at a juncture when the Bush administration could not disguise any more the lack of evidence linking Saddam and al-Qaeda. There's only one problem - or several, for that matter. Al-Qaeda was actually encouraging total cooperation among all factions of the Iraqi resistance, Sunni and Shi'ite, secular Ba'athist and Islamic. The email could not possibly have been written by a mujahideen like Zarqawi. The characteristic, elaborate Islamic phraseology was not there. No mujahideen in his right mind would complain of his imminent martyrdom, as it's implied in the text. And to top it all, for the many different strands of the resistance, Allawi's administration is just a temporary nuisance in the long road of a national liberation struggle. So the plot didn't fly, and it was scrapped after a few days.
So, first Zarqawi was used as a justification for the Iraqi war; then he became the reason for why there was no peace. Instead, what sources close to the resistance tell Asia Times Online, is that Zarqawi is a minor player: most Iraqis, Shi'ite and Sunni alike, reject his brutal methods, and even Islamic clerics who support the resistance but criticize Zarqawi's methods are routinely denounced by Zarqawi as "collaborators".
One American psy-ops operative recently leveled with the Australian newspaper The Age: "We were basically paying up to US$10,000 a time to opportunists and criminals who passed off fiction and supposition about Zarqawi as cast-iron fact, making him out as the linchpin of just about every attack in Iraq."
But not a single source, anywhere, claims to have actually seen "Zarqawi" since late 2001 in Afghanistan. Ask the Pentagon. Ask the CIA. Ask the Federal Bureau of Investigation. No one, on the record, is able to independently verify that "Zarqawi" actually exists. There are no photos - only that same CIA-owned black and white. The CIA doesn't even know how tall or how fat "Zarqawi" is. All the literature on "Zarqawi" since late 2001 springs from dubious "confessions" by prisoners and "statements" by all sorts of people claiming to be "Zarqawi".
Even more extraordinary is that everybody and his neighbor is after Zarqawi: the Pentagon; the CIA; the Mukhabarat-lite intelligence services of Allawi; the Mehdi Army of Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr; the bombed residents of Fallujah, where he apparently is hiding; not to mention millions of Iraqis who would bless the heavens above for a shot at laying their hands on a $25 million bounty. Just like bin Laden, nobody can find Zarqawi. Why?
The truth may be that the real one-legged, squat, tattooed thug Zarqawi is dead, but a composite Zarqawi lives. He may have been created by a faction, or factions of the Iraqi resistance as a mobilizing factor, a dashing neo-Saladin rousing the masses against the infidel occupiers.
Or better yet, he may have been created by US military intelligence. This American "Zarqawi" is definitely a Hollywood improvement on the original: tall, urbane, highly articulate, and with agile legs.
Zarqawi was extremely useful to defuse attention from the Abu Ghraib scandal: the Berg video showed up at the height of Abu Ghraib. The "Zarqawi" in the video does not speak Arabic with a Jordanian accent. His legs seem pretty normal. And crucially, he wears a golden ring, which for an authentic jihadi would be the ultimate affront.
If multi-purpose "Zarqawi" did not exist, he would have to be invented. The "Zarqawi" myth straddles pre-invasion and post-invasion, so the neo-cons can use it to justify just about anything. Cheney and Rumsfeld may keep exhuming Iraq's "long established ties with al-Qaeda" and may justify the de facto occupation because "Zarqawi", "linked to al-Qaeda", is still there.
Read the entire article at Asia Times Online.