NYT's Strange Take on Zarqawi's Death -- 'Inspiration and Public Relations'?

Reporter Dexter Filkins has an exceedingly strange take on the death by air strike of terrorist leader Zarqawi, responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Iraqis: “By finally eliminating Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the American military and its Iraqi allies have killed the man who put a face on the Iraqi insurgency. The question now looming over Mr. Zarqawi's death is how large a blow it deals to the guerrilla movement he helped drive to such bloody limits.

And what is this?

“Unlike some terrorist leaders -- like the man he claimed to follow, Osama bin Laden -- Mr. Zarqawi went beyond providing just inspiration and public relations for his movement. He fought on the front lines with his men.”

“Inspiration and public relations”? Is this a terrorist or a self-improvement guru?

And as Nathan Goulding points out in a great catch at National Review Online, Zarqawi could hardly hold a gun.

From AP:

"Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is shown wearing American tennis shoes and unable to operate his automatic rifle in video released Thursday.”

Here's a flashback to a strange article by C.J. Chivers from May 6, “Not All See Video Mockery Of Zarqawi as Good Strategy,” in which he chides the U.S. for "mocking" terrorist Zarqawi's ineptness with the U.S. rifle.

“The weapon in question is complicated to master, and American soldiers and marines undergo many days of training to achieve the most basic competence with it. Moreover, the weapon in Mr. Zarqawi's hands was an older variant, which makes its malfunctioning unsurprising. The veterans said Mr. Zarqawi, who had spent his years as a terrorist surrounded by simpler weapons of Soviet design, could hardly have been expected to know how to handle it.”

Returning to Thursday's online filing, Filkins doesn’t see much changing despite Zarqawi’s death.

“In recent months, American officials have claimed to have decimated large parts of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. At press conferences, they flashed photo after photo of people they said were senior leaders of the group who had been killed or captured. Even so, the organization continued to mount extraordinarily lethal attacks. That suggested that Al Qaeda was rapidly replenishing its ranks; it could do so again."

Here’s another strangely benign-sounding sentence:

“In any event, the fruits [of] Mr. Zarqawi's labors may outlive him. Filled with hatred for Iraq's Shiite majority, whom his group has often referred to as ‘converters,’ Mr. Zarqawi killed thousands of them, mostly civilians struck by one of the suicide bombers that he dispatched to markets and street corners.”

And then another pessimistic Times prediction:

“On the day of Mr. Zarqawi's death, Iraq stood at the brink of all-out civil war, something no one had done more to bring about than he.”

Iraq sure has been on that brink a while, hasn’t it?

Iraq War on Terrorism New York Times
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