This is my first blog post at Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum that I'm honored to direct. We're making some changes to the web site soon, so please check back for ongoing updates and improvements.
News of the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has been greated with cheers in most of Iraq and around the world. But from the relief that accompanies the knowledge that one of the world's most brutal killers has met a just end, there arises an ever-present voice of world-weary cynicsm. And it belongs, quite unsurprisingly, to Juan Cole of the University of Michigan.
Writing today at his blog, Informed Consent, Cole makes a claim that few others share: "There is no evidence of operational links between his Salafi Jihadis in Iraq and the real al-Qaeda; it was just a sort of branding that suited everyone, including the US. Official US spokesmen have all along over-estimated his importance."
Cole's rather desperate claim rests on the assertion that Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia is somehow unrelated to Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda, which merits the designation "real"--surely a distinction without a difference if ever there was one. To boot, Cole is charging the world's most prestigious news organizations with naivite, mendacity, or incompetence. Here are a few of the news organizations that state unequivocably that al-Zarqawi was the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which was and, sadly, is quite real:
BBC; The Washington Post; The New York Times; Time; CNN; Reuters; AP (via CBS); National Public Radio; Christian Science Monitor; Euronews; Ireland On-line; The Daily News and Analysis (India); Y-Net News (Israel); The Wall Street Journal; MSNBC; The Boston Herald; The Melbourne Herald-Sun (Australia); The National Post (Canada); and The Scotsman.
Cole's talking, but the media don't seem to be listening.