After the air strike that killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, comes the inevitable downpour of analytical stories. Here’s one from the Washington Post.
Until he was killed Wednesday by U.S. forces, the Jordanian-born guerrilla served as Osama bin Laden’s proxy in Iraq, attracting hundreds if not thousands of foreign fighters under the al-Qaeda banner. At the same time, Zarqawi had grown into a strategic headache for al-Qaeda’s founders by demonstrating an independent streak often at odds with their goals.
But the Atlantic Monthly has a terrific report on the jihadist, in a special edition rushed for the Web (the story comes out in the July-August issue). This may be the best place to start.
The Washington Post story that disclosed the Pentagon policy to "magnify" al-Zarqawi’s reputation a full two months ago can be found here.
Some senior intelligence officers believe Zarqawi’s role may have been overemphasized by the propaganda campaign, which has included leaflets, radio and television broadcasts, Internet postings and at least one leak to an American journalist. Although Zarqawi and other foreign insurgents in Iraq have conducted deadly bombing attacks, they remain "a very small part of the actual numbers," Col. Derek Harvey, who served as a military intelligence officer in Iraq and then was one of the top officers handling Iraq intelligence issues on the staff of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told an Army meeting at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., last summer.
In a transcript of the meeting, Harvey said, "Our own focus on Zarqawi has enlarged his caricature, if you will — made him more important than he really is, in some ways."
A deadly cartoon.