Maddow Howler: Zarqawi 'Not All That Well Known' - Until US Killed Him

May 6th, 2011 7:17 PM

I have to wonder if someone spiked that White House-brewed Kool Aid for MSNBC with hallucinogens.

Either that or the network's apologists suffer from pathological dishonesty.

How else to explain one of the most blatantly deceitful claims on MSNBC in memory, when Rachel Maddow on Wednesday dutifully cited the reasons why she agreed with Obama's decision against releasing photos of a deceased bin Laden.

After all, Maddow said, many Iraqis refused to believe that Saddam Hussein's sons were no longer alive after the US military released photos of them upon their deaths.

Not only that, Maddow argued, look at what happened after our military unveiled a photo of deceased terrorist Zarqawi (video after page break) --

Three years after the Uday and Qusay photos were released, the US government did something like that again after they killed the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The Iraq war has been a war that's had a lot of strange press conferences, a lot of strange, made-for-TV moments, whether it be the made-for-TV tearing down of the Saddam Hussein statue in Baghdad's Fardus Square or the really well-choreographed tours of Saddam's former palaces that were offered by the United States military, there have been some strange scenes out of the Iraq war beamed to American televisions.

But one of the strangest made-for-TV moments of the entire Iraq war was this one --  do you remember this visual? Remember this? This was the press conference back in 2006 when the US made a huge show of revealing the photo that was taken of Zarqawi's face after he was killed. Somewhat inexplicably, officials there chose to put the close-up picture of Zarqawi's dead face in kind of an ornate, gold-colored frame. All of the pageantry and puffery around the importance of Zarqawi's death essentially had the effect of making him a much more well-known figure in death than he had been in life. The triumphalist unveiling of the big, gold-framed, we-got-him photo was followed very shortly thereafter by this.

Maddow then cut to an NBC reporter's story on Iraqi reaction to Zarqawi's death, from June 8, 2006 --

REPORTER: The sign here says, the wedding of the martyr. For the people here, Zarqawi is a hero who has gone to paradise. Children chased us away from the mourning tent with stones and rocks, chanting God is great. Here at least, Zarqawi is a hero.

Here at least, playful Iraqi children are capable of scaring off war-hardened Western reporters. Followed by this from Maddow while she managed to keep a straight face --

The martrydom celebration for the previously  not all that well known Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

That being the case, let's take a look at the following day's New York Times, a newspaper we can safely assume was not following Bush administration marching orders.

How about that -- turns out Zarqawi was really well known, at least at the Gray Lady.

Not only was Zarqawi's death the paper's lead story on June 9, 2006, it covered nearly all the front page above the fold with a huge photo and one of three stories out front.

"Mr. Zarqawi had become an almost mythic, if widely hated, figure among American troops," wrote Times reporter John F. Burns, "still more so among Iraqi Shiites who were his main victims."

Inside, three full pages of additional coverage of Zarqawi's death were provided -- eight stories altogether, plus a timeline and nine photos. For someone Maddow wants you to believe was barely known.

Did I mention the op-ed coverage in the Times that day? The lead editorial was about Zarqawi's death. As was a lengthy column atop the op-ed page written by Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, fellows at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Council on Foreign Relations, respectively.

Here's what Benjamin and Simon wrote of this virtual non-entity --

With the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi outside Baghdad, the United States has struck the most important blow in the war on terrorism since driving al Qaeda out of Afghanistan. Easily the deadliest terrorist at work over the last three years, Mr. Zarqawi was probably responsible for more deaths than Osama bin Laden and leads behind a jihadist movement that has been drastically changed in no small part by his actions.

Go figure, Times columnist Tom Friedman also wrote about Zarqawi that day, as if the guy had been well known or some such nonsense. Here's what Friedman wrote --

Al Qaeda can talk all it wants about replacing Zarqawi, but he is not so easily replaced, because he was a world-class, first-team all-star terrorist.

Albeit a widely unknown world-class, first-team all-star terrorist, at least in Maddow's razor-sharp recollection. And she's the really bright one at MSNBC, right?

Then again, it's not as if terrorism got nearly the attention it deserved over the last decade -- just as the media yawned in response to the killing of that gangly jihadist in Pakistan a few days back. Help me with his name, I'm drawing a blank.

Zarqawi was, in fact, the second most notorious terrorist in the world at the time of his death -- after bin Laden. Which, if you work at MSNBC, is hardly reason to believe that this makes a person all that well known. At least not in retrospect several years later when ideology demands otherwise.

This wasn't Maddow's only insipid claim on her show Wednesday. She also offered this house-of-cards revisionism --

After al Qaeda attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, the United States started one war within weeks of that attack, in Afghanistan, and another war a year and a half later in Iraq.

Right -- just as after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the United States started a war in the Pacific.

Back then, making claims like that would get you duly ridiculed. Nowadays, it lands you a gig at MSNBC.