WASHINGTON (AFP) -The US military is exaggerating the role of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, possibly to help tie the war to the group blamed for the September 11, 2001 attacks, The Washington Post reported.
Citing internal military documents and unnamed officers, the Post said Zarqawi’s profile had been raised in a way that some military intelligence officials believe may have overstated his importance.
The documents state that the US propaganda campaign aims to turn Iraqis against Zarqawi, a Jordanian, by playing on their perceived dislike of foreigners, the report said.
US authorities claim some success with that effort, noting that some tribal Iraqi insurgents have attacked Zarqawi loyalists, The Post said.
For the past two years, US military leaders have been using Iraqi media and other outlets in Baghdad to publicize Zarqawi’s role in the insurgency.
But the documents explicitly list the “US Home Audience” as one of the targets of a broader propaganda campaign, the paper said.
The campaign has included leaflets, radio and television broadcasts, Internet postings and at least one leak to an American journalist, the report said.
Although Zarqawi and other foreign insurgents have conducted deadly bombing attacks, they remain “a very small part of the actual numbers,” the paper quoted Colonel Derek Harvey, who served as a military intelligence officer in Iraq, as telling an army meeting at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, last summer.
The Post says Harvey pointed out that “our own focus on Zarqawi has enlarged his caricature, if you will — made him more important than he really is, in some ways.”