One of the most transparent and persistent lies of the Iraq War is that Egyptian Islamic Jihad leader Ayman al-Zawahiri sent a letter to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in June 2005, telling Zarqawi to chill out with the sectarian warfare against Shi’ites and also stressing how great the American war effort was going. You can read an alleged transcript of this letter at Global When you open the letter, you’ll see this at the top:

Translated version of a letter between two senior al Qa’ida leaders, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, that was obtained during counterterrorism operations in Iraq. The letter from al-Zawahiri to al-Zarqawi is dated July 9, 2005. The contents were released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on October 11, 2005, only after assurances that no ongoing intelligence or military operations would be affected by making this document public.

If you scroll all the way down to the bottom of the letter, you’ll see that Zawahiri signs off by writing this (emphasis mine):

My greetings to all the loved ones and please give me news of Karem and the rest of the folks I know, and especially:

By God, if by chance you’re going to Fallujah, send greetings to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

In closing, I ask God entrust you all with His guardianship, providence and protection, and bless you all in your families, possessions and offspring and protect them from all evil and that He delight you all with them in this world and the next world, and that He bestow upon us and you all the victory that he promised his servants the Believers, and that He strengthen for us our religion which He has sanctioned for us, and that He make us safe after our fear.Peace, God’s blessings and mercy to you.

Your loving brother
Abu Muhammad

Abu Muhammed just means ‘father of Muhammad’ which probably applies to more than half of all Muslim fathers in the Arab world. It is customary, although not necessary, to name your first born son ‘Muhammad’. So, Abu Muhammad could very well be Ayman al-Zawahiri. And Zawahiri is known to use numerous aliases. But this letter was obviously not written to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi because whoever the intended recipient was is told to give a big old hello to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi if he happens to run into him in Falluja. That’s basic unassailable logic. You don’t write a letter to your Mom that says ‘say hello to Mom if you see her in Denver.’

At the time this letter was released CNN noted drily:

Others cite instances of bad grammar, a plea for money by the author to send 100,000 (it doesn’t say what), and the almost-chatty mention that he is the father of a new daughter named Nawwar, as out of character for al-Zawahiri.

And even though the letter is supposed to be addressed to al-Zarqawi, the last line says, “By God, if by chance you’re going to Fallujah, send greetings to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi,” another puzzling inconsistency.

Puzzling? The only thing puzzling is why the Director of National Intelligence had the gall to tell us that this letter was addressed to Zarqawi in the first place when it is such a transparent lie. CNN didn’t have the balls to come out and say that. The explanation was easier to find in foreign press like the Sydney Morning Herald, which reported on April 11, 2006 (emphasis mine):

THE US military is conducting a propaganda campaign to magnify the role of the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, according to internal military documents and officers familiar with the program.

The effort has raised his profile in a way that some military intelligence officials believe may have overstated his importance and helped the Bush Administration tie the war to the organisation responsible for the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The documents say that the US campaign aims to turn Iraqis against Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian, by playing on their perceived dislike of foreigners. US authorities claim some success with the effort, noting that some tribal Iraqi insurgents have attacked Zarqawi loyalists.

For the past two years US military leaders have been using Iraqi media and other outlets in Baghdad to publicise Zarqawi’s role in the insurgency. The documents explicitly list the “US home audience” as a target of a broader propaganda campaign.

This wasn’t a sophisticated psychological operation. For two years Zarqawi was blamed for every bomb that went off in Iraq. It was obvious to almost anyone that was paying close attention and understood the Middle East even a little, that the Pentagon was dumbing down the conflict and personalizing the civil war onto a composite semi-fictional personality. They even called his group ‘Al-Qaeda in Iraq’ to maximize domestic support for the war. I wrote about this extensively at the time, and even before documents were unearthed that corroborated my theory.

Yet, today, Tom Friedman, in writing about a supposed Iraqi backlash against radical extremists, quotes this damn Zawahiri letter as if it had not been debunked:

Oddly enough, the person who best saw this backlash coming and warned how it could backfire on Al Qaeda was Osama bin Laden’s sidekick Ayman al-Zawahiri. Remember the famous letter dated July 9, 2005, that Zawahiri sent to the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi? Zawahiri warned Zarqawi to stop murdering so many Shiites, and even Sunnis, with his campaign of suicide bombing and kidnapping.

“Many of your Muslim admirers amongst the common folk are wondering about your attacks on the Shia,” Zawahiri said in his letter.

Tom Friedman is still quoting this letter as something authentic. It’s authenticity was immediately called into question when it was released. Then we learned that the Pentagon was targeting the home audience with a psychological operation to overstate “[Zarqawi’s] importance and help the Bush Administration tie the war to the organisation responsible for the September 11 terrorist attacks.” And then there is the fact that the letter was clearly not written to Zarqawi, which we can learn from a plain reading of the text.

Tom Friedman, ladies and gentlemen. No credibility.