In my research into the origins of the Worse-Than-Al-Qaeda "Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham" (a/k/a IS, ISIL) I noticed something interesting. I’ll leave a more thorough analysis for later but for now, I wanted to share a truly fascinating piece of recent history that seems to have gone entirely unnoticed in our current run-up to war: that the first iteration of “the Islamic State in Iraq” and its previous leader named “Abu al-Baghdadi” (Abu Omar al-Baghdadi as opposed to the current Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) was said by US military officials in 2007 to be a PSYOPS fabrication of al-Qaeda that, despite being featured in dozens of media accounts, never actually existed.
According to the Times' Michael R. Gordon:
For more than a year, the leader of one of the most notorious insurgent groups in Iraq was said to be a mysterious Iraqi named Abdullah Rashid al-Baghdadi.
As the titular head of the Islamic State in Iraq, an organization publicly backed by Al Qaeda, Baghdadi issued a steady stream of incendiary pronouncements. Despite claims by Iraqi officials that he had been killed in May, Baghdadi appeared to have persevered unscathed.
On Wednesday, a senior American military spokesman provided a new explanation for Baghdadi's ability to escape attack: He never existed.
He goes on:
The ploy was to invent Baghdadi, a figure whose very name establishes his Iraqi pedigree, install him as the head of a front organization called the Islamic State of Iraq and then arrange for Masri to swear allegiance to him.
Not to get into "conspiracy" territory - again, it supposedly wasn't the US who fabricated this iteration of "al-Baghdadi" and the "Islamic State" but rather al-Qaeda - but given all the Psychological Operations and counter-Psychological Operations going on around that time, it certainly should sow doubt into any thinking person whether or not the image we're being presented is the entire truth - regardless of who's pulling the strings of information. The Abu Omar al-Baghdadi persona, however, would persist beyond the 2007 Pentagon claims that he was fictional, mysteriously resurfacing again after being arrested in 2008 and then ultimately "killed" in 2010 - the same year, our current "al-Bagdadi" first appeared on the scene. This incongruence of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi's "life" - from initial death to fabrication to born-again to final death - is never explained, either on his Wikipedia page or elsewhere. As it stands he is both real and fake.
This is not, at all, unusual or limited to al-Qaeda. Indeed, a 2006 Washington Post expose revealed how the Pentagon "played up" (read: lied) about the scope and threat of ISIS's predecer group "al-Qaeda in Iraq" and it leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi:
The U.S. 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..
As the Post makes clear, the US military, in concert with checkered New York City-based PR firm Lincoln Group, would plant stories in the Arabic-language media ascribing "terror attacks" and violence they knew weren't done by Zarqawi to Zarqawi in order to discredit him and the Sunni militants working against the US occupation. And while it's technically a violation of the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 for the Pentagon to propagandize American audiences, US officials did acknowledge there was "bleed-over" into US media in its attempts to amplify the myth of Zarqawi:
With satellite television, e-mail and the Internet, it is impossible to prevent some carryover from propaganda campaigns overseas into the U.S. media, said Treadwell, who is now director of a new project at the U.S. Special Operations Command that focuses on "trans-regional" media issues. Such carryover is "not blowback, it's bleed-over," he said. "There's always going to be a certain amount of bleed-over with the global information environment."
Indeed, even the name "al-Qaeda in Iraq" was never actually used by any militants in Iraq or elsewhere - it was a term the Bush State Department gave to an "umbrella affiliation" of Sunni insurgents in Iraq in order to tie an increasingly unpopular war with the broadly popular war against al Qaeda. The only evidence of a connection between the admittedly hyped up Zarqawi and bin Laden? A letter from Zarqawi "pledging alligence" to bin Laden "incercepted" by US intelligence and transcribed onto the Coalition Provisional Authority's website.
Does any of this call into question the validity of the current "al-Baghdadi" or the current "Islamic State in Iraq" in terms of scope and purpose? Who knows? But we can be assured that when assessing the reality of what's going on 6,000 miles away in Iraq, the US Military and foreign al-Qaeda agents are historically suspect sources.
Updated 9/22/14 12:30pm EST
I missed this the first time around and have since linked to it above: a CNN article from March of 2007 - five months before the US military called IS a total fabrication - about the Islamic State executing "Shia guards". This article includes a video screencap purportedly showing men lined up to be executed and a random guy waving a Black Standard flag in the background. The video was supposedly "discovered" by the always ubiquitous IntelCenter:
It makes clear:
"al-Baghdadi, whose name means "from Baghdad," is the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq. The Sunni insurgency group has claimed responsibility for many attacks against the United States and Iraqi forces in Iraq, including the downing of U.S. helicopters."
And the video?
The authenticity of the three-minute video, posted Saturday on a Web site previously used by the Islamic State of Iraq, could not be immediately verified, but it was posted on sites that typically carry the group's messages and videos.
But then, six months later, the Pentagon says al Baghdadi and the "Islamic State" were entirely fake? (Incidently, how come these "jihadi websites" are never cited or linked to by name? Are they too scary to primary source?)
Also possible the Pentagon lied about IS being fake but one of two things has to be true:
1) Either the media was duped (by who, doesn't matter) for over a year about an entirely fabricated "Islamic State"
2) The Pentagon lied about them being fabricated in the first place.
One of these things is true. They cannot, by definition, both be true. This incongruence ought to be rectified.