Military denies exaggerating Zarqawi role in Iraq

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Military denies exaggerating Zarqawi role in Iraq

Postby MK » Mon Apr 10, 2006 7:33 pm

Gee whiz, what a fucking surprise.

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US military denied it exaggerated the importance of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, as part of a propaganda campaign to turn Iraqis against the insurgency.

The Washington Post reported that some military intelligence officials believe the campaign has overstated Zarqawi's importance and helped the Bush administration tie the war to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

The Post cited internal military briefing documents that discussed the campaign as an attempt to turn Iraqis against the insurgency by playing on their perceived dislike of foreigners.

One document from 2004 listed "PSYOP," or psychological operations, as one of three methods to "Villainize Zarqawi/leverage xenophobia response," the Post said.

The other two methods listed were "Media Operations" and "Special Ops (626)," a reference to the special operations task force assigned to the hunt for Zarqawi and fugitive leaders of the former regime.

"There is no propaganda campaign," said Colonel Barry Johnson, a US military spokesman in Iraq.

"Zarqawi is real. Al Qaeda in Iraq is real. The violent acts he and AQI inflict on this country are real. This is not stuff we make up," he said in an email.

"He and the organization he heads are key elements of the conflict, trying to drive a sectarian wedge between the people in order to stop political progress and establish an extremist state," he said.

The Washington Post story quoted Colonel Derek Harvey, who served as a military intelligence officer in Iraq and as a top officer handling intelligence on Iraq for the Joint Staff, as saying that Zarqawi and other foreign insurgents remain "a very small part of the actual numbers."

"Our own focus on Zarqawi has enlarged his caricature, if you will -- made him more important than he really is, in some ways," Harvey said at an army meeting last summer at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, according to a transcript obtained by the Post.

"The long-term threat is not Zarqawi or religious extremists, but these former regime types and their friends," Harvey said.

The Post said that military's propaganda campaign in Iraq has been largely aimed at Iraqis, but appears to have spilled over into the US media as well.

One briefing slide prepared for General George Casey, the US commander, lists the "home audience" as one of six major targets of the American side of the war, it said.

A slide in the same briefing noted a "selective leak" about Zarqawi to a US reporter based in Baghdad, the Post said.
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