The letter argued that al-Qa'ida, which is a Sunni network, should attack
the Shia population of Iraq: "It is the only way to prolong the duration of
the fight between the infidels and us. If we succeed in dragging them into a
sectarian war, this will awaken the sleepy Sunnis."
Later that day, at a regular US press briefing in Baghdad, US General Mark
Kimmitt dealt with a string of questions about The New York Times report:
"We believe the report and the document is credible, and we take the report
seriously... It is clearly a plan on the part of outsiders to come in to
this country and spark civil war, create sectarian violence, try to expose
fissures in this society." The story went on to news agency wires and,
within 24 hours, it was running around the world.
There is very good reason to believe that that letter was a fake - and a
significant one because there is equally good reason to believe that it was
one product among many from a new machinery of propaganda which has been
created by the United States and its allies since the terrorist attacks of
For the first time in human history, there is a concerted strategy to
manipulate global perception. And the mass media are operating as its
compliant assistants, failing both to resist it and to expose it.
The sheer ease with which this machinery has been able to do its work
reflects a creeping structural weakness which now afflicts the production of
our news. I've spent the last two years researching a book about falsehood,
distortion and propaganda in the global media.
The "Zarqawi letter" which made it on to the front page of The New York
Times in February 2004 was one of a sequence of highly suspect documents
which were said to have been written either by or to Zarqawi and which were
fed into news media. . . .
Arguably, even worse than this loss of credibility, according to British
defence sources, the US campaign on Zarqawi eventually succeeded in creating
its own reality. By elevating him from his position as one fighter among a
mass of conflicting groups, the US campaign to "villainise Zarqawi"
glamorised him with its enemy audience, making it easier for him to raise
funds, to attract "unsponsored" foreign fighters, to make alliances with
Sunni Iraqis and to score huge impact with his own media manoeuvres.
Finally, in December 2004, Osama bin Laden gave in to this constructed
reality, buried his differences with the Jordanian and declared him the
leader of al-Q'aida's resistance to the American occupation.
Robert Fisk, "Saddam Statue Scene
Staged," Independent, April 11, 2003
Don Melvin, "BBC Questions U.S.
Version of Lynch Rescue," Toronto Star, May 17, 2003
Patrick Cockburn, "Destruction of
Holiest Shia Shrine Brings Iraq to the Brink of Civil War,"
Independent, February 23, 2006
John Pilger, "Propaganda
Disguised as Journalism," johnpilger.com, June 16, 2007
Stephen Lendman, "Harvard Study Documents Media Bias and
Misreporting," sjlendman.blogspot.com, July 18, 2010