Zarqawi Does Know Better

Well, in response to that quibble,” by Mark, Zen Pundit,, 24 January 2005.

‘What fuels this difference?’,” by Praktike, Zen Pundit,, 24 January 2005.

Earlier I argued that Zarqawi’s last message gives us hope. That is true. Praktike on Zen Pundit goes one step farther, wondering if he is insane

Indoctrination, time spent in prison, experiences in Afghanistan … I dunno. Zarqawi seems like the craziest mofo of them all. What tipped him into violence where another adherent of salafism might merely advocate separation from the West? If I knew the answer, I wouldn’t be just another blogger.

He is echoing an opinion by Mark

Well, in response to that quibble that I would say that while a Salafist or Hanbali scholar might hold the same opinion of Democracy as a form of government as Zarqawi does – he probably lacks the desire to go out and kill fellow Muslims who differ or believes that would be an appropriate response. What fuels this difference ? ;o)

Critical thinking and will fuels the difference. Zarqawi is an evil villian who must be killed. But that doesn’t change that fact that he does know better. He is not insane. He is acting rationally and deliberately to build a future he believes his worth creating. The odds are against him, and he realizes this. While he may be ignorant and not realize the depravity of his Ba’athi brothers-in-arms, he is not stupid. Unlike idle scholars who share his views but not his courage, he knows that he has to /work/ to build a future worth creating.

Zarqawi views the present as a nightmare not worth living. It is clear that the Arab and Muslim worlds are backward, disunited, and corrupt. The governments of the region are naturally weak, and are part of a globalized system of (to him) dubious morality.

His diagnosis of this is apostasy. The fall of the Caliph was a symptom of this, but not a cause. So long as Muslims turn their back on God and worship false idols (socialism, nationalism, capitalism, democracy) they will be weak. In his view, the Muslim world is in a vicious cycle. Corrupt governments promote weakness promote dependency on foreign infidel powers promote corruption. He sees globalization as possibly the final blow. Not only are Muslims to live under corrupt, weak, and depdendent governments, but these governments themselves are losing power to outside forces. I doubt he has heard of Friedman’s thesis of a “global herd,” but he feels the trampling stampede.

Compounding this is that these forces work to destroy freedom (as he sees it). A truly free man is infinitely free to walk in the path of the Prophets, in the shade of the Koran, and personally know God. But “freedom of religion” means that a man will be tempted to walk a differen path. What Zarqawi wants is not “freedom of religion” as much as “freedrom from wrong religions,” not “freedom of speech” so much as “freedom from wrong speech.” He knows that the people chose “freedom of speech” over “freedom from wrong speech” every chance they get, so the will of the people is just another force to be destroyed, not reasoned with.

Zarqawi wants to move the world away from this confusion back to its right place. But in this vicious cycle every force is forever corrupting Muslims. Therefore he has to destroy every power. He has to destroy the status quo. Doing nothing guarantees failure. Shaking up the world at least gives a chance for success.

Zarqawi sees his limitations. He has no conventional army or air force. He has no money, and does not have the charisma of Osama bin Laden. He doesn’t even have popularity. But he has the will to violence.

He will continue to use his will to violence to destroy the powers that be until he has a chance of winning in peace. This is a far way away, but remember that if his violence stops know, he knows he loses.

He will rationally work with the Ba’athis to destroy the government, because he knows under the government he would lose. If the Ba’athis win and seize the government, he will try to destroy them with violence. If the Iranians invade, he will try to destroy them. If al Qaeda (an organization he admires, which is why he rechristed “Monotheism and Jihad” as “al Qaeda in Iraq”) can attack New York, Washington, Madrid, surely someone it can attack Teheran and Qom. If mujahideen can assassinate people in the Netherlands, surely they could get to the Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.

Eventually, his movement might prevail. Communism sure did. The Czar was overthrown. The Last Emperor of China was reeducated to be a gardener. It might take a century, but his preferred future is creatable. And he does not need an army. He does not need charisma. He only needs small cadres, and the will to violence.

(Though having faith in God and a promise of an eternal reward sure helps!)

Zarqawi is not crazy. He is only the salafist who does know better.

One thought on “Zarqawi Does Know Better”

  1. Hi Dan,

    I agree with parts of your analysis.

    Zarqawi is certainly on record with the belief in the seductive power of liberal democracy. He also does seem to represent a ” Leninist ” model for Islamism, absolutely rejecting non-extremist positions as non-Muslim ( putting him in the much despised Khawarijist tradition). He has gone much further than bin Laden who has adopted a pose as a guardian and protector of the Ummah – bin Laden speaks of ” apostate regimes” but most often called Saddam a ” bad Muslim” and not usually a ” Kufr”. al Qaida uses that potent charge very sparingly against Muslims while Zarqawi condemns broad swaths of believers.

    My view of Zarqawi as unbalanced comes from his longstanding attachment to a ritualistic mode of killing ( complete with videotaping – a ” trophy” of the deed) when more cataclysmic operations would serve to make his point far better. Nor would Salafists usually sanction such beheadings without a proper Sharia court ruling or at least a Fatwa condeming someone specific to death.

  2. Mark once again brings an insightful clarity to the discussion. He explains the situation well and argues his point effectively.

    I differ with him only slightly. Zarqawi might not have the ability to pull off a catastrohpic attack. Killing a series of innocent hostages is a lot easier than hijacking airlines, say. bin Laden's strikes are the result of years of careful planning and a significant cash investment. Instead of charisma and organizational capacity, Zarqawi brings a will to violence. If bin Laden symbolizes “fourth generation warfare,” then Zarqawi seems to be 4GW+.

    The appeal of nostalgia to many of our enemies is striking. For example, in Algeria “Preaching and Combat” is a major terror organization ( I think Zarqawi's retro mode of execution is similar. He wants to create a simpler future. Harkening back to a simpler time in how he kills people is part of that.

    (Tangentially related is the modes of suicide for Imperial Japan's elite in 1945. Tojo was harshly criticized by many Japanese for attempting to take his life with a gun, as a sword would be more “Japanese.” Perhaps Zarqawi believes kill with western technology is itself western, and should be avoided when possible?)

    Another benefit of Zarqawi's individualized, service-sector mayhem (as opposed to bin Laden's indiscriminate industrial style) is that there is no ambiguity who he is targeting. He wants to kill this person, and that person, and that person, etc. In his eyes, no “innocent” Muslims will ever be killed by the executions (unlike the WTC attack, which quite possibly killed many people who were sympathetic to OBL).

    Finally, Zarqawi doubtless believes that even most salafists jurists have been corrupted, and as such “extraordinary” courts presided over by him may be legally necessary.

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