An article posted on CNN’s website last week exemplified the glaring disconnect between the mainstream media’s reporting on the war in Iraq and the reality on the ground.
The title of the piece—which was attributed to CNN Producer Arwan Damon—blared, “Falluja ‘a horror’ after U.S.-led offensive,” with the subhead warning, “Long road ahead for residents of shattered city.”
Judging by these dire proclamations from CNN, you’d think that Fallujah was a paradise prior to the recent American-led assault, rather than the brutal, mini-Islamist state it had become over the past year.
All U.S. and Iraqi forces have done in Fallujah has been to kill or capture thousands of Islamist terrorists—many of whom had taken to publicly executing Fallujans who didn’t embrace their Stone Age ideology—while giving hope to a city that had descended into chaotic violence long before the Coalition’s offensive began on November 8.
The fact that terrorist attacks against U.S. and Iraqi troops have decreased dramatically ever since was no coincidence. By early November, the terrorists who ruled Fallujah had amassed enough weapons to take over all of Iraq.
To date, U.S. and Iraqi troops have found at least 650 homemade bombs in Fallujah, as well as shoulder-fired rocket launchers, rocket-propelled grenades, an anti-aircraft artillery gun and thousands of mortar rounds, according to the Pentagon.
In addition, last week, Iraqi Minister of State Kassim Daoud said that Iraqi troops had “found a chemical laboratory” in the city “that was used to prepare deadly explosives and poisons” and possibly even anthrax, news which the New York Times, Washington Post and their ilk have been less than enthusiastic to report.
Perhaps nowhere is the U.S.’s resounding success in Fallujah more evident than in the recent statements of terrorist kingpin Abu Musab al-Zaraqwi, who had made the city his own personal killing field before beating a hasty retreat in early November.
On November 24, in an audiotape posted on an Islamist web site, al-Zarqawi bitterly condemned Sunni Muslim clerics for not supporting the insurgency in Iraq, saying “Hundreds of thousands of the nation's sons are being slaughtered at the hands of the infidels because of your silence.”
Admitting that his forces were being “surrounded and hurt” by American troops, al-Zarqawi added that Iraq had been handed over to “the Jews and Crusaders” under “the darkest circumstances.”
The desperate tone of al-Zarqawi’s recent statements echoed that of a letter he sent to Al-Qaeda leaders last January in which he fretted, “our enemy is growing stronger day after day,” and “our field of movement is shrinking and the grip around the throat of the mujahedeen has begun to tighten.”
Clearly, al-Zarqawi is feeling the heat in Iraq, and has been for some time. Even his fellow terrorists are turning against him: in a November interview with the London daily Al-Hayat, Nu’man ibn ‘Uthman, a former jihad fighter in Afghanistan, said that al-Zarqawi’s group—al-Tawhid Wa-al Jihad—was not part of Al-Qaeda.
‘Uthman added that al-Zarqawi’s bloody tactics in Iraq “damage Islam,” and “will eventually lead to the isolation of al-Zarqawi's group.” As for al-Zarqawi’s recent oath of allegiance to Osama bin Laden, ‘Uthman believes that “it will have a very negative effect” because Iraqi citizens “are not interested in Al-Qaeda’s plan.”
If ‘Uthman’s analysis is correct, al-Zarqawi’s days in Iraq are clearly numbered. If he is indeed in the area in and around Mosul, as has been reported in recent weeks, he won’t be able to stay there very long. Coalition forces are committed to mopping up various trouble spots throughout the Sunni Triangle region—places like Mosul and Ramadi—in the run-up to the January 30 Iraqi elections.
Despite calls from some Iraqi political parties to postpone the elections, President Bush insisted last Thursday that “it’s time for the Iraqi citizens to go to the polls.”
And he’s right: free elections would not only help stabilize Iraq, but would also further discredit al-Zarqawi and his minions in the eyes of the Iraqi people. Come late January, with the Sunni Triangle pacified and Iraqi citizens repudiating terror by electing a democratic government, al-Zarqawi—if he is still alive—will have little recourse other than to perhaps flee into neighboring Syria or Iran.
He certainly won’t be welcomed in his old stomping grounds. While you aren’t likely to hear about it from the mainstream press, Fallujah has once again become a “no go” zone—this time, for terrorists.
Erick Stakelbeck is senior writer at the Investigative Project, a Washington, D.C.-based counter-terrorism research institute.