The myth of Al Zarqawi and the legitimization of the war in Iraq

A translation of an article about a mythical figure from the Iraq War with lessons applicable beyond the Middle East

The myth of Al Zarqawi and the legitimization of the war in Iraq
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The following is a translation of an essay by Laurent Bonnefoy (original article in French here)

In the early hours of March 20, 2003, the first bombs were dropped on Baghdad by the American air force. This attack completes a campaign of disinformation begun in the fall of 2001. For many months, world opinion has been thoroughly prepared for the necessity and inevitability of war. The propaganda orchestrated from Washington, relayed by various institutions and by the international media, is doing its job and aims to justify the military campaign led by the United States and its allies against Iraq. All the elements converge to demonize the power of Saddam Hussein and to legitimize, in the eyes of the world, an armed intervention in Iraq. Faced with this "rogue state" which threatens global security, diplomacy is, we are told, ineffective, demonstrating a posteriori the usefulness of the preventive war theorized by the American neoconservatives. Since Saddam is threatening the world, this time around we should act proactively and decisively.

To justify this preventive military intervention, the American administration and its allies will develop strong rhetoric that is designed to persuade even the most skeptical. But it is on the figure of Abu Moussab al-Zarqawi that the propagandist efforts will gradually be concentrated: first in a subtle way to legitimize the entry into the war, then intensively to legitimize the occupation of Iraq.


From the "rogue state" ...

In the months preceding the military campaign in Iraq, most of the legitimation apparatus developed by the American administration revolves around three axes developed for several years by numerous conservative research centers such as the Hudson Institute and the Project for the New American Century.1 Deployed by the American administration in the winter of 2001 through the condemnation of the "axis of evil," this argument will gradually be distilled in the American and international media, and will constitute the basis of Colin Powell's speech to the UN Security Council on February 5, 2003.

The first line of propaganda, intensely relayed by media relying almost exclusively on information provided by governments, concerns the programs building weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, biological and chemical), which the Iraqi government is supposed to have started in the late 1990s. The ability of the Baathist regime to circumvent the embargo imposed by the United Nations since 1990 would lead to its rearmament, risking (in the medium or even short term) nuclear proliferation or even the construction of "dirty bombs” which could be detonated in the urban centers of the Allied countries. Thanks to a crude manipulation of scientific sources and against the advice of international experts—starting with Hans Blix who heads the UN inspection mission,2 which actively monitors Iraqi industrial and military sites—the British and American governments tried to accredit the thesis of an imminent threat. With exaggerated and dishonest official reports, dire speeches and alarmist reporting, Iraq is demonized, accused of taking advantage of the laxity that would prevail on the international scene.

United Nations

The second argument developed by Washington and its allies concerns the moral necessity of "liberating" the Iraqi people from the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. Thus, the blitzkrieg led by the coalition would be legitimate because it is part of a larger project of democratization and liberalization of the Middle East. Thus, the fall of Iraqi power would lift this region of the world into virtuousness, benefitting not only to global security but the Iraqis themselves. This argument is designed to illustrate the shift from a realpolitik driven by interests to ethical international relations where dictators are stigmatized and opposed by the great powers.

Completing and crowning these first two arguments, the third axis refers directly to the "global war on terror" declared in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. The governments in favor of armed intervention in Iraq tried to demonstrate the link between the country's government and the al-Qaida network. Despite the former hostility displayed by Bin Laden towards Baathist power,3 the disinformation focuses in particular on a purported meeting in Prague in April 2001 between an Iraqi diplomat and Mohammed Atta, future “suicide bomber” of September 11, 2001. Iraq would thus have been aware of and directly participated in financing the terrorist attack. But the links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida is not just a thing of the past, the official speech continues. Baghdad is apparently supporting al-Qaida forces who supposedly found refuge in Iraq after the Western operation in Afghanistan. Based in Kurdistan (therefore evolving outside of any control of Baghdad due to the establishment of de facto independence of these northern provinces), a group called Ansar al-Islam focuses the attention of the American services which insist in particular on the determination of these terrorists to attack Europe.

Relying on photographic documentation and reliable sources, the US Secretary of State presents this dangerous terrorist. "I want to draw your attention today to a ... sinister connection between Iraq and the al-Qaida terrorist network, a connection that links classic terrorist organizations and modern methods of killing," he explains. Iraq is now home to a murderous terrorist network headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a collaborator of Osama Bin Laden and his lieutenants of Al-Qaida. “The missing link between Al-Qaida and Baghdad," al-Zarqawi is also described by Colin Powell as a formidable individual, with expertise in both conventional and biological weapons (especially ricin), with connections to the heart of the Western world: “Zarqawi's terrorism is not limited to the Middle East. He and his network are preparing terrorist attacks against different countries, including France, Great Britain, Spain, Italy, Germany and Russia."4

Not especially credible and often crude, the Bush administration's campaign of disinformation, of which Powell's speech constitutes the climax, is soon confronted with an impassioned counter-narrative. Hundreds of critical works, reports from NGOs or international institutions and the millions of pacifist demonstrators marching across the world highlight the illegality of military intervention, the invention of weapons of mass destruction, the lack of evidence of a connection between Saddam and Bin Laden, and the idea of bombing a country to impose “democracy.” The lies of the Washington hawks are transparent. They will be even more so when the Bush administration is forced to acknowledge them once the mission is officially "accomplished," in the words of George Bush, and the government of Saddam Hussein is overthrown. While weapons of mass destruction remain elusive and the democratization of Iraq remains uncertain, the official discourse is refocusing on the issue of the fight against terrorism. The war may have been illegal under international law, but the military and administrative occupation of Iraq must remain legitimate in the eyes of the international public. The figure of al-Zarqawi, largely unknown and relatively secondary until then, therefore becomes an essential element of American propaganda.


... to the "jihadi thug"

If the link established at the beginning of 2003 between Saddam Hussein and the attacks in New York and Washington is discredited, including by American institutions (CIA reports in 2004 and the Senate 2006), there is a gradual shift involving groups from initial resistance to the US occupation to "al-Qaida terrorism." It is the figure of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi that allows this link to be personified.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's spectacular debut in the international media and political scene is a textbook case. In fact, the appearance of this figure undoubtedly tells us less about the situation and the strategy of the insurgents in Iraq than about the mechanisms of our information and propaganda system. Rarely has an enemy been so “constructed” to personify the threat so perfectly, and to caricature a political situation that is in reality particularly complex. In the span of a few months in 2004, a mythological discourse has developed around this figure of “jihadi thug,” taken up at will by a large number of actors with different objectives: journalists, experts, researchers, decision-makers and… insurgents.

The creation of the "al-Zarqawi myth", originally forged by the Kurdish and Jordanian secret services in 2002, and magnified by Colin Powell's speech to the UN in February 2003, is largely the product of a lack of contradictory and independent sources of information. Much of the information that concerns al-Zarqawi comes from those who point to him as their enemy, starting with the American services, and all are disseminated to the public through a media filter that tends to blindly trust official sources and produce stories devoid of any ambiguity. It is under these conditions that al-Zarqawi, whose real name is Ahmad Fadil Nazal al-Khalayla, became "the new face of Al-Qaida" through texts disseminated on the internet and fragmented information and intelligence service reports leaked through the media. It is therefore necessary to distinguish the person of al-Zarqawi from the myth that surrounds the one who will become in the coming months "the most barbaric extremist that radical Islam has produced."5

Indicative of the politico-media manipulation that surrounds the character, his alleged expertise in biological weapons and his supposed involvement in the attempted castor oil plant in Europe at the end of 2002, affirmed with vigor and in great detail by Colin Powell in 2003, evaporates after the invasion of Iraq and as the "castor oil plant" turns out to be smoke and mirrors.6 7  But the character's brutality remains intact. This is what the Internet broadcast of the assassination in May 2004 of the young businessman Nicholas Berg, who came to Iraq at the end of 2003 to sell his telecommunications expertise, aims to demonstrate. This despicable act appears to revitalize al-Zarqawi in the media. A second life all the better "channeled" by the services of the American army as the Iraqi conflict becomes a civil war as barbaric beheadings and kidnappings multiply and Western observers (journalists, aid workers, UN personnel) leave Iraqi territory.

The execution of Nicholas Berg allegedly by al-Zarqawi (ABC News)

The CIA having identified al-Zarqawi as the perpetrator of the beheading of Nicholas Berg, the Jordanian terrorist becomes, through his statements on the internet, the sermons he records, the ultimatums he issues, but also through the narrative crafted by the American services and many international media, the ultimate embodiment of the Iraqi insurgency. Through him, the insurgents are no longer considered as resistance to the foreign occupier but as barbarians, sectarians and bloodthirsty—and themselves foreigners—whose main mode of operation is the attacks against Shiite civilians and the masses they accuse of collaborating with the enemy. 8 Worse, the nuisance of these groups would not be limited to Iraqi territory but would also affect the stability of the entire region as well as the security of Western countries through the planning of terrorist attacks. Al-Zarqawi was then held responsible for the attacks perpetrated both in Madrid in March 2004 and in London in July 2005. 9

Despite the many uncertainties, the individual and psychological trajectory of al-Zarqawi is dissected down to the finest detail, from the outskirts of the Jordanian city of Zarqa, where he is from, to the famous “Sunni triangle” in Iraq where he opposes attacks and US military bombing. Unable to travel to Iraq due to the insecurity that reigns there, many journalists in need of scoops travel to Zarqa to interview al-Zarqawi's siblings, neighbors and others from the community. Discovering that the family home was built in front of a cemetery, these journalists draw the conclusion that al-Zarqawi has harbored a fascination with death from childhood. 10 A biography is thus constructed with a strong psychological or psychoanalytic character, in which no gray area seems to exist. "Gangster addicted to drugs and with a penchant for sexual assault" 11 In his youth, a tattooed, aimless alcoholic devoid of secondary or religious education, he would have found his redemption in the jihad in Afghanistan. Jean-Charles Brisard, a financial expert who had become an all-around “specialist” on “al-Qaida,” wrote about him: “Zarqawi does not intend to make a career, he seeks to take his revenge on life. He obeys no logic, except that of a violence that would almost make the Taliban look like a cheerful bunch of turbaned gentlemen. Zarqawi gives lessons to hell, to use André Malraux's expression, and is emulated. Iraq could be his tomb, but he himself sees it as a springboard. It is time to realize this." 12


Thanks to an unprecedented media and editorial boom, al-Zarqawi's biographical story quickly went around the world. Delivering a course apparently coherent and free of any uncertainty, he tells how after a period of imprisonment for acts of terrorism and the amnesty from which he benefited in 1999, he would have, at the end of the 1990s, put in places its own networks in Jordan, Syria, Afghanistan then in Kurdistan (with the Ansar al-Islam and Tawhid wa al-jihad groups) but also in Germany, Spain and Great Britain. He would then have, we are told, taken his independence vis-à-vis the "flagship" al-Qaida before being dubbed in July 2005 by Ayman al-Zawahiri, considered as "number 2" and "intellectual leader" of al-Qaida.13

Al-Zarqawi is therefore “the obsession of the occupying forces."14 The daily attacks in Baghdad and elsewhere are attributed to him, the dozens of candidates for suicide operations are in fact posited under his command and a bounty of $25 million dollars is placed on his head—as much as that of Osama bin Laden. His past as a "petty thug" in the city of Zarqa, his villainous face and his supposed expertise in chemical weapons make him, after that of the Saudi billionaire Bin Laden and the Egyptian "aristocrat"15 al-Zawahiri, a new prototype of transnational terrorist which represents better than anyone "the new generation of al-Qaida." More violent and dogmatic than the previous one but also less educated on the religious level.6 If one believes Jean-Charles Brisard, it was not al-Zarqawi who submitted to Bin Laden, it was Bin Laden who adopted the line of the Jordanian “super-terrorist.” A "ruthless psychopath" and "vicious deviant," according to the popular British newspaper The Sun, al-Zarqawi is undoubtedly "the most bloodthirsty of all the apocalyptic warriors who clash in Iraq since the American invasion in 2003," affirms the leading French daily Le Monde. 17

Manipulated image

As the myth of al-Zarqawi grows, until his death in June 2006, questions multiply about the character's reality. Noting that al-Zarqawi's objectives coincide with those of American propaganda, conspiracy theorists—already very active since September 11, 2001—are quick to turn the Jordanian “arch villain” into a CIA agent.18 But the thesis of a direct instrumentalization of al-Zarqawi by the American administration is not the simple stuff of "conspiracy." The hypothesis was raised by certain experts, not necessarily more reputable but clearly more committed to the systematic stigmatization of any form of “Islamism.”19 The distortion between the surplus of discourse and the scarcity of reliable information from independent institutions, as well as the proven—and even claimed—will of the American administration to intoxicate opinion20 give rise to these kinds of theories. Or, at the very least, healthy skepticism about “news” that concerns al-Zarqawi.


The questions are not baseless. For example, the newspaper Le Monde notes in June 2005: “How does a former petty thug from the Jordanian countryside, without money, unemployed and without intellectual guidance, in less than three years, become public enemy number one of the superpower in Iraq? How do we manage so quickly, with a few hundred fanatics, to create ungovernability in a significant part of a vast country at war, patrolled night and day by 160,000 foreign soldiers and at least 130,000 other soldiers and national police? How does one obtain at the age of 39, without title or religious background, the almost mythical notoriety which is that of Zarqawi in Islamists circles and beyond? Many Iraqis believe that it was America itself that somehow 'made' Zarqawi." 21

The Washington Post

While no video of al-Zarqawi has yet been released and the only representations available to the public of the new "public enemy number one" are the photos released by the American services of a man with many faces, one day clean-shaven and in a tie, the next bearded and in a keffiyeh, the journalist Robert Fisk, of the British daily The Independent, expresses considerable skepticism, and a certain dismay. "I don't know if al-Zarqawi is alive or if he exists as I speak to you," he confessed on March 2, 2006 on Australian channel ABC. "I don't know if he's not some sort of creature invented to fill a narrative void, so to speak. What is happening in Iraq right now is extremely puzzling."22

At the beginning of 2006, in fact, it is very difficult to know who and what we are talking about when we say "al-Zarqawi." And when a video of al-Zarqawi was finally released on April 26, 2006 on the internet and on television channels all over the world, General Rick Lynch, spokesman for the US military in Iraq, found nothing better than to ridicule him, mocking his American sneakers and his visible inability to properly use a gun. The "super-terrorist" who makes the world tremble is therefore only this little pot-bellied man who burns his hand while seizing the smoking barrel of his weapon? Here again, questions arise. “The problem is this,” explains Robert Fisk, who the images have finally convinced of the existence of al-Zarqawi: "is it we who create these creatures to stir up our own hatred or are they created themselves?"23

If the theories of a direct manipulation of al-Zarqawi do not uncover, in the current state of our knowledge, the slightest trace of solid proof, the idea of ​​an intensive instrumentalisation of the image of al-Zarqawi, as Robert Fisk suggests, is indeed worthy of consideration. Based on American military documents, the Washington Post reported on April 10, 2006 that "the American army is carrying out a propaganda campaign to inflate the role of the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq." This “al-Zarqawi program,” started in 2004, aims to “turn the Iraqis against Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is Jordanian, by playing on their supposed resentment towards foreigners.” But the Iraqis are not the only "targets," continues the Washington Post, the psychological operation also targets the American public and the international media. In the words of a senior American official in the summer of 2005, al-Zarqawi has become a “caricature.” 24

The Washington Post

But the caricature is not just that of al-Zarqawi, it is also that of the conflict with which he came to be wholly identified. We can therefore understand the utility of the death of  "public enemy number one" on June 7, 2006, during an American air raid near the Iraqi city of Baqouba, which was celebrated as a tremendous victory by an American administration still incapable of capturing Bin Laden or avoiding a military and political stalemate in Iraqi territory. It does not matter under these conditions that the disappearance of al-Zarqawi does not correspond to a decrease in the intensity of the violence on the ground, the myth has allowed the American administration to impose its perspective of the conflict on a permanent basis.

NBC News

A critical reading of the Iraqi conflict

Why was al-Zarqawi so strongly identified as the key player in the Iraqi conflict? Why him rather than someone else?

The sudden emergence of this figure on the media and political scene between 2003 and 2004 is not accidental. Its success appears to be explained by its particular ability to provide a reduced and simplifying explanation of reality, on the one hand, and to satisfy, point by point, the constitutive elements of the apparatus of legitimation for the American-British occupation of Iraq on the other. The construction of the “al-Zarqawi” myth by decision-makers and the media made it possible to impose a certain framework on the conflict. From this point of view, because it plays the role of boogeyman, this figure of enmity is useful. This function was shaped by various manipulations concerning its course, as well as by the unfolding of events on the ground. Al-Zarqawi, until his death, does play a significant role in the Iraqi resistance, at least because it is erected by propaganda as "public enemy number one" and as the perfect embodiment of the insurgency. It is for this reason that it cannot only be considered as an invention orchestrated by the various intelligence agencies and other security actors.

By focusing on al-Zarqawi, exaggerating his role and ignoring the various manipulations to which it has been subjected, the dominant media discourse responds to a certain extent to a need for simplification inherent to its modus operandi. In the context of a war whose psychological character is obvious, it makes it possible to present a readily identifiable personalized image of the threat, making it less abstract and more effective. Rather than a diffuse danger, highlighting an individual is moreover almost reassuring on the ability of intelligence services and "terrorism experts" to play their role and identify the public enemy. "We needed a bad guy, someone identifiable by the public so that they could identify him and we found one," admits an agent of the American services to a journalist of the British daily The Telegraph in 2004.25  When Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defense, compares the Jordanian rebel to "Hitler who, in his bunker, [is] unable to achieve his political goals but now appears determined to destroy everything around him," he tries to shape a very particular representation, appealing to cultural references familiar to his audience. In the same speech, he equates the attacks of supporters of al-Zarqawi with acts of desperation similar to those of Japanese kamikazes at the end of World War II. Moreover, using the plural as if to erect them as archetypal symbols and figures, he adds: “The Zarqawis and the Bin Ladens, like the tyrants and fascists who came before them, try to destroy the things they are unable to build and kill those they can't convince."26 Relaying more or less voluntarily this type of statement and the information provided by governments, journalists participate, with headlines, editorials or reports focused on al-Zarqawi, in the dissemination of this reductive and biased speech.

Rand Corporation

More generally, if al-Zarqawi emerges as a central figure in the official discourse of the occupying powers, it is in particular because his specific characteristics convey a distorted image of the Iraqi insurgency which effectively satisfies war propaganda. For the American administration, the insurgency led by the Jordanian terrorist is triply illegitimate: it is first carried out by foreign fighters against the will of the Iraqi people, it then gives rise to indiscriminate and nihilistic violence and it is finally marked by anti-Shiite religious rhetoric.

Within the framework of the propaganda apparatus actively relayed by the Iraqi government set up by the United States, the Jordanian nationality of al-Zarqawi has a fundamental importance. Around this specificity the identity of the resistance and the terrorist was defined, condemning them with illegitimacy because he is an exogenous figure. It also makes it possible to exaggerate the role played by foreign jihadists in the insurgency. Resistance, we are told, is therefore only the embodiment of an imported conflict, massively rejected by the Iraqi population, whose aspirations for peace and prosperity are subverted by an active minority of foreigners. It is therefore necessary to better control the borders in order to avoid infiltration.

Radio Free Europe

Evaluating the "positive" effects of the war in Iraq for international security, George Bush affirms: "We have killed or captured hundreds of foreign fighters in Iraq who came from Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Libya or elsewhere. They found common cause with the Iraqi insurgents and those nostalgic for Saddam Hussein's regime. They fight because they know that the survival of their hateful ideology is at stake."27 The figure of al-Zarqawi precisely makes it possible to link the Iraqi resistance to global terrorism and to the al-Qaida network, and thus to accredit a posteriori the discourse that has characterized American rhetoric since September 11, 2001. The criticisms addressed to the “myth” of foreign fighters, whose proportion does not exceed 4 to 10% of insurgents,28 do not affect the potency of such a framework to reduce the events in Iraq to a confrontation between an army and a terrorist group without ideology or expression of any true political message.

It is also this apparent lack of substance or clear objective in al-Zarqawi that explains his position in the apparatus of legitimizing the occupation in Iraq. Reducing resistance to the Jordanian terrorist is proving to be very useful from the point of view of military officials. By basing itself on the image of the “jihadi thug,” of an “outlaw” without faith or morals, the propaganda discourse manages to obscure the fundamentally political demands of the insurgents, and in particular their anti-imperialist nature.29 Violent and nihilistic, their only goal, in Manhattan as in Baghdad, would be destruction and death.30 Thus, by the pathological dimension of his personality and the ultra-violent mythos that he embodies, al-Zarqawi manages to delegitimize and criminalize any challenge to the foreign presence on Iraqi soil. In a less obvious but equally significant way, al-Zarqawi's sordid past itself illustrates the inanity of the insurgents. It also indirectly amounts to maintaining the analogy with the “thugs” in disadvantaged American and European neighborhoods. A continuity is established between delinquency and terrorism.

Finally, the anti-Shiite dimension of the rhetoric attributed to al-Zarqawi31 plays a central role in his designation as the key instigator in Iraq. While bin Laden and al-Zawahiri themselves seem to express reservations about attacks against Shiite civilians, highlighting the sectarian dimension of the Iraqi conflict helps reduce the political scope of the protest by shifting the boundaries of dissent. Rather than anti-imperialist, the conflict becomes cultural, religious and irrational. A large part of violence is then conceived as internal, an opposition between Iraqis, between Muslims and between Arabs, which allows the occupiers to be absolved from their responsibility. Faced with the Shiite insurgency led by Muqtada al-Sadr, a Sunni counterpart is formed, the leadership of which is given to al-Zarqawi and is associated with al-Qaida. Using theological references and scholarly texts, experts and the media then explain why terrorists fight each other and to what extent this fight is part of an ancient enmity which traces its roots to the first centuries of Islam. From a secular perspective, this rivalry is therefore irreducible to foreign occupation. Without the latter, on the contrary, the violence would be even more unconstrained. By relying on the fringe represented by al-Zarqawi, the United States and its allies can present themselves as the bulwarks preventing civil war.

Council on Foreign Relations

In retrospect, it appears that the highlighting of the figure of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the sectarian stigmatization of the insurgents by propaganda played a perverse role. The centrality of the character on the ground turned out to be ultimately dependent on his media and political value maintained in Washington. By seeking to criminalize and illegitimate a priori armed resistance, the dominant discourse has functioned as a self-fulfilling prophecy accompanying or promoting the radicalization of the resistance. Continually talking about al-Zarqawi, shaping his myth and putting a price on his head have arguably been the most effective ways of actually getting him to play a role in the insurgency. The latter could then be tailored according to the desired effect: if it was not already sufficiently violent and sectarian, it became so. Without even needing to directly instrumentalize al-Zarqawi, the American administration has given reality to the phantom threat condemned prior to the invasion by Colin Powell before the UN in February 2003.

The effectiveness of this caricatured representation of the situation in Iraq does not seem to have been affected by the death of al-Zarqawi in June 2006. Around this individual, a particular interpretative framework of the conflict has been permanently imposed which obscures the complexity of the dynamics at work, especially those concerning the legacy of Baathist power, tribal, regional and sectarian issues or even economic issues. The "success" of this figure of enmity, symbol of the "new generation of al-Qaida," can then be explained by the fact that many participants have an interest in maintaining the framework that he personifies. To perpetuate itself, the new Iraqi government in particular is keen to permanently criminalize its opponents by locking them into nihilist barbarism. The violent groups are themselves led to appropriate the authorship of the attacks, thus reducing the conflict to a dispute between them, the occupying powers and their collaborators. Thus, the figure of al-Zarqawi, to the extent that it was largely constructed and maintained by propaganda, lives on beyond its demise.

Brookings Institution

Still, some questions remain: what was really behind the al-Zarqawi myth? Who was this character really? And how far has the instrumentalization of his image gone?

1 Voir en particulier Kenneth Pollack, The threatening Storm : The Case for Invading Iraq, Random House, New York, 2002, xii-494 p.

2 Hans Blix, Irak, the untraceable weapons , Fayard, Paris, 2004.

3 In 1990, when Iraqi troops installed in Kuwait threatened Saudi Arabia, Osama bin Laden, back from Afghanistan, offered his services to the Saudi monarchy. According to him, rather than calling on "godless" American troops for protection, it is more legitimate to call on the Arab mujahedin to fight the secular Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein. Jason Burke, Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror , IB Tauris, London, 2003.

4 Speech by Colin Powell, United Nations Security Council, February 5, 2003.

5 “Zarkaoui, death of a killer”, Le Monde, June 10, 2006.

6 On the ricin affair, see the text by Naïma Bouteldja, p.

7 Loretta Napoleoni, Insurgent Iraq. Al-Zarqawi and the New Generation, Londres : Constable, 2005, p. 115-116.

8 See in particular the program: "Zarkaoui, the planned horror", C dans l'air , France 5, 23 September 2004.

9 For a questioning of al-Zarqawi's supposed links with the Madrid and London attacks, see: “Madrid train bombings probe finds no al-Qaeda link” (Associated Press in USA Today, September 3, 2006) and “ Leak reveals official story of London bombings ” (The Observer, April 9, 2006).

10 See for example the documentary by Mohamed Sifaoui, “On the trail of Zarkaoui: the new face of terror”, M6, September 11, 2005.

11 « Special Issue on Zarqawi », Terrorism Monitor, vol. 2, n°24, 2004, p. 1.

12 Jean-Charles Brisard, Zarkaoui. The new face of Al-Qaida , Fayard, Paris, 2005, p. 10. On this author and anti-terrorism experts, see the chapter by Thomas Deltombe in this book.

13 See: Henry Schuster, “Al-Zawahiri letter under scrutiny”,, October 20, 2005 and Stephen Ulph, “Is al-Zawahiri's Letter a Fake? », Terrorism Focus , Volume 2, n ° 19, 2005, p. 4-5. For a translation of this letter, see: Jean-Pierre Milelli, “A letter from Al-Zawahiri to Al-Zarqawi”, Maghreb-Machrek , n ° 186, 2006, p. 95-111.

14 Jean-Pierre Filiu, Les frontières du jihad , Paris: Fayard, 2006, p. 235.

15 Muntasar Al-Zayat, Ayman al-Zawahiri kama arafatahu [Ayman al-Zawahiri comme je l'ai connu], Dar Misr al-mahrusa, Le Caire, 2002.

16 Fuad Husayn, Al-Zarqawi al-jil al-thani lil-Qaida [Al-Zarqawi : la deuxième génération d'al-Qaida], Dar al-khayal, Beyrouth, 2005.

17 “Portrait of an ultraterrorist”, Le Monde, January 7, 2005; "Al-Zarkaoui, a route of blood", Le Monde, June 3, 2005; "Al-Zarkaoui: death of a symbol", Le Monde, June 9, 2006.

18 For such an approach, see the article by Romanian journalist Vladimir Alexe, “Abou Moussab al-Zarqawi, super hero of evil” on the site directed by Thierry Meyssan, famous author of L' effroyable imposture ( .

19 The “geopolitologist” Antoine Sfeir, for example, put forward the hypothesis on the plateau of C in the air (reference…).

20 “The war against terrorism is also in the media” , text by Donald Rumsfeld published in the European press (for example Le Figaro, February 24, 2006).

21 “Al-Zarqawi, an itinerary of blood”, Le Monde, June 3, 2005.

22 Interview with Robert Fisk by ABC, Lateline, March 2, 2006 (

23 Interview with Robert Fisk by ABC, Lateline, April 26, 2006 (

24 « Military Plays Up Role of Zarqawi », The Washington Post, 10 avril 2006

25 « Doubt Over Zarqawi’s Role as Ringleader », The Telegraph, 2 octobre 2004.

26 Discours de Donald Rumsfeld, Fort Bragg, 26 mai 2005.

27 Speech by George Bush, Fort Bragg, June 28, 2005.

28 Tom Regan, « The ‘Myth’ of Iraq’s Foreign Fighters », The Christian Science Monitor, 23 septembre 2005.

29 François Burgat, Islamism in the Hour of Al Qaeda , La Découverte, Paris, 2005.

30 For a (over) conceptualization of the “nihilism” of terrorists, see André Glucksmann, Dostoïevski à Manhattan , Robert Laffont, Paris, 2002.

31 For a French translation of one of these texts, see Gilles Kepel, Jean-Pierre Milelli (ed.), Al-Qaida dans le texte , PUF, Paris, 2005, 440 p. Many of the writings are from al-Zarqawi and are also available in Arabic on the website of the al-Tawhid wa al-jihad organization: .

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