You’ve all seen the recently captured video of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as he clumsily fumbles with an M-249 machine gun and requires help from a cohort. The U.S. military gave his performance a resounding thumbs down, mostly in an attempt to ridicule him and downplay the idea that he’s some kind of superhuman Arab warrior. In other words, they were trying to damage the image of one of our biggest enemies. That’s what you do in a time of war, especially when presented with such a plum opportunity.

But not so fast, says the New York Times, which managed to dig up some military personnel who downplayed Zarqawi’s seeming incompetence. In an article entitled “Not All See Video Mockery of Zarqawi as Good Strategy,” the Times explained it this way:

“The weapon in question is complicated to master, and American soldiers and marines undergo many days of training to achieve the most basic competence with it. Moreover, the weapon in Mr. Zarqawi’s hands was an older variant which makes its malfunctioning unsurprising. The veterans said Mr. Zarqawi, who had spent his years as a terrorist surrounded by simpler weapons of Soviet design, could hardly have been expected to know how to handle it.”

Oh! Well, okay, then, if you put it like that. Gee whiz, sure, sorry about the misunderstanding, our mistake, what were we thinking? Wouldn’t want to impugn the reputation of a valiant terror warrior, the George Washington of Sunni extremism.

But getting back to the real world . . .

“Mr.” Zarqawi? By all means, give this mass murderer a title of respect. I guess if it was World War II, it would be “Mr.” Hitler in the New York Times. But the larger point is, why would anybody on our side of this conflict against terrorism (if indeed the Times is on our side) cut this guy any slack about anything?

Let’s say that the Times is correct in its assessment that Zarqawi couldn’t really be expected to be proficient with that particular weapon. So what? Would it inconvenience the Times too much to let the U.S. military have this relatively minor propaganda victory over a vicious and depraved terrorist whose aim is to keep killing innocent Iraqis until they give up on their aspirations to be free? Why would the Times go out of its way defend Zarqawi’s image?

The Old Gray Lady ain’t what she used to be and her motivations truly constitute a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma – and that’s putting it mildly.

Greg Strange provides conservative commentary with plenty of acerbic wit on the people, politics, events and absurdities of our time. See more at his website:


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