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Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Why Zarqawi is Screwed

Well, the government is doubting that Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi was killed in that raid on Sunday. However, let me pass on a story to help put Zarqawi's perilous situation in context:

"Joe" is a soldier who spends his days guarding a gate at an undisclosed U.S. base within the Sunni Triangle in Iraq. Everyday the Iraqi laborers enter and leave the base. The U.S., likes to employ locals for labor - doing anything from picking up trash to installing power, etc. Kellogg Brown & Root like to do this, but locals are also hired directly by military units.

In this case, it was men from Baghdad who were hired, and given the task of putting in plumbing and other services. They in turn brought in the necessary workers from their local area, undoubtedly extended family members and whomever else. In the evening when the Iraqis left the base an elderly man often thanked Joe for coming to his country and ridding it from Saddam, smiling and shaking his hand.

Now Iraqi families/clans are very "tight" after decades under tyranny when a mistake by an individual can bring serious wrath down upon the whole clan, sometimes resulting in systematic killing and maiming as punishment. Thus, these families will handle many problems internally. There is little in the way of the individualism there, they only live for the family/clan.

Now it came to pass that the soldiers figured out that some of the Iraqi workers were stealing soldiers' personal items out of the tents at the base. They caught three of the younger men in the act, and threw them out of the base. Joe, not fully understanding the dynamics of the Arabic Muslim concept of honor (and out of boredom) decided to give one of the Iraqis a bit of hard time about it.

"You brought in Ali Baba!", Joe told one of the senior Iraqi men (in his 40's). This was in reference to the old movie Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves, which the man understood (apparently calling an Iraqi "Ali Baba" to his face is a good way to start a fight). The man denied it at first, but Joe explained what had happened. The man understood and replied that the young men had violated their code of honor, and that they would be killed.

Joe was suprised. It was a major lesson in how "honor-killing" worked in Arab society. Nothing else he said could change what the man had decreed.

Joe never saw the three men again. He asked the older man later if the three thieves were killed, and indeed they had been according to the Iraqi.

Now this story is heavily paraphrased, but hopefully it gets the point across. Zarqawi's family has disowned him for killing fellow Muslims. This may be as good as a death sentence.


Since I wrote this post in a rush, I want to compound upon it. I don't know how the Jordanian concept of family honor compares to the Iraqi one. However, honor-killings do happen throughout the Arab world and even within their immigrant communities in Europe and elsewhere. I also don't know if Zarqawi's family would rat him out to the Americans, or if they would keep any retaliation within Muslim lines. One can only hope. Ol' Abu really screwed the pooch when he sent his bombers into that wedding party.