The "Lion" Sleeps Tonight
The world's press bids farewell to Zarqawi.
Posted Friday, June 9, 2006, at 5:48 PM
How did the papers in France and the Middle East respond to the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi? The World Cup gets top billing in the French press, but papers across the political spectrum provide solid—and similar—coverage of Zarqawi's death. Papers also ran detailed profiles and warnings that his killing won't stop the violence in Iraq.
Le Monde shows its love of hyperbolic adjectives in this useful piece, a profile of Zarqawi that traces "the unbelievable and dazzling metamorphosis of a petty criminal from the suburbs of Amman, Jordan, into the bloodthirsty and elusive 'Lion of Mesopotamia.' " In a feisty editorial, the usually staid paper calls Zarqawi the victor because he managed to start a civil war in Iraq. What's more, Iraq now faces the challenges of "sovereignty and governance, the American occupation, Iranian interference, economic destruction, and the Islamicization of society."
Lefty Libération gets IP's gold star for best coverage. In addition to recounting the story of Zarqawi's death, the paper provides both brief and in-depth profiles of him. An editorial observes that "Zarqawi's death came just in time for the Americans, bogged down in Iraq in a war without end." Despite the success of the air raid and the completion of Iraq's new government, the United States isn't "crowing," the paper says, because it knows that the decentralized insurgency did not come close to dying with Zarqawi. Conservative Le Figaro also agrees that Zarqawi's death won't stop the insurgency.
If you're expecting biting commentary from the usually rabid Communist newspaper l'Humanité, you'll be surprised by this measured piece, which sticks to just the facts, ma'am, and provides more background on the man from Jordan.
Catholic La Croix has a lengthy article helpfully divided into a series of useful questions and subsections: Who will succeed Zarqawi? (Possibly the Egyptian Abou al-Masri.) What are the consequences for the Iraqi government? (His death, plus the completion of the Cabinet, highlights the new administration's increasing strength.)
The must-read piece of the French-language press is an excellent editorial in Le Temps of Geneva, by Alain Campiotti. He writes about the civilians—including children—killed in the attack and wonders how military force can ever help Iraqis choose between democracy and jihadism.
The Jordan Times presents a local perspective. One article reveals that Jordanian intelligence services helped do in Zarqawi: "We had sworn to avenge the victims of the November triple suicide attacks and we did it. We will also avenge each Jordanian who was the victim of a terrorist operation, anywhere in the world," says one government official. This piece reports that Jordanian police prevented Zarqawi's brother-in-law from cashing in on his 15 minutes of fame on Al Jazeera. It also runs the obligatory—but not very illuminating—"world leaders relieved" piece.
The Jerusalem Post offers serviceable, if predictable, coverage. Its editorial analyzes Zarqawi's death through the prism of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. It lambastes a statement by PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar: "By calling Zarqawi's death an 'assassination' and his activities 'resistance,' Zahar was clearly lamenting Zarqawi's demise and siding with al-Qaida's actions—at least in Iraq and presumably elsewhere." The paper concludes "that all the branches of jihad are connected, and the successes of one are cause for celebration for the others." The publication also takes the opportunity to urge the West to deal with Iran: "The epicenter of the terror network is Teheran. Eliminating individual terrorist kingpins is an important part of the fight, but victory will only come when the handful of remaining governments that support terror are either driven out of power or forced out of the terror and WMD business." This article assesses the Palestinian reaction: It's mixed. An analysis predicts that the news may bum out al-Qaida, but it gives Americans and Iraqis a badly needed morale boost. It also includes a report that al-Qaida is in the first stage of mourning—denial.
Look for a whopping helping of anti-Americanism served with a smile over at Pakistan's Nation. The editors call Zarqawi's death "a PR victory for the bigwigs in Washington." The paper's suggestion for how to stop the madness: Appease the insurgents. The editorial declares: "[T]he US occupation forces must withdraw and leave the Iraqi people to run their own country. There is no guarantee that that would end the insurgency, but there is also no denying the fact that it is the foremost demand of everybody in Iraq, including the people and the insurgents." Children in the United States are told that one day they can grow up to become president, but the Nation provides the jihadist kiddie version: The Taliban's Mullah Omar is quoted as declaring, "[A]ny youth can become Zarqawi."
Zuzanna Kobrzynski is Slate's executive assistant.
Amanda Watson-Boles, a former Slate copy editor, teaches at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Fla.