In the last few years, the Jordanian Abu Musab al Zarqawi planned and carried out several bloody attacks that horrified civilians across the globe. During that time, the self-styled leader of “al Qaeda in the Land between the Two Rivers” did not appear in public. He was content with provocative audio recordings broadcast, for the most part, on the internet.
Last week, al Zarqawi decided to appear in the flesh and face his supporters and detractors. The video was broadcast on Arab and international television and analyzed at length, given that it featured unique footage of al Zarqawi. It demonstrated that the mythical halo surrounding the most-wanted terrorist did not correspond to reality.
Al Zarqawi was unable in his video to present a picture of himself different from the one we had created based on his life, as a young man who experienced much disappointment in Jordan before joining al Qaeda’s jihad and specializing in killing and throat slitting.
Al Zarqawi and tried to present alternative images of himself from different angles. Clearly, more than one camera was used to film the footage and a special logo was used, in addition to religious anthems in the background. Despite all these efforts, the man appeared a poorer version of the man who inspired him and countless others, Osama bin Laden.
His seating position, the way he spoke, his turban, the watch he wore on his right hand, the gun in the background and other details were imitated earlier footage of bin Laden. Al Zarqawi wanted to give the impression that he was as qualified to wage war against infidels as he was inspired by his spiritual mentor.
In the videotape, al Zarqawi dissipated the myths that had accompanied his life stories and criminal operations. Imagination is no longer mixed with reality in his case. He appeared exactly as stories had reported, a man renowned for being a hooligan in his Jordanian hometown of Zarqa.
Perhaps al Zarqawi sought to transmit coded messages to his supporters, as some analysts said. Or, he might have wanted to prove that his leg had not been amputated and that he has not been injured as previously reported.
Without a doubt, al Zarqawi failed to realize that his severed leg or his injury or his blurred facial features has played a major part in creating his mythical image. Denying them by appearing on our television screens has only made us seen him for what he really is: a terrorist like many others.