“Last week’s ambush of Zarqawi was a model of military efficiency,” reported Newsweek, “a triumph of patient intelligence gathering and high-tech snooping.”
Newsweek’s cover package goes on to do some snooping of its own — revealing, for instance, the fact that in the aftermath of the bombing, soldiers on the scene found a “a skimpy leopard-print nightie, possibly belonging to one of Zarqawi’s three wives, and the May 2 issue of the Arabic edition of Newsweek (which featured a cover story on the Iraq war entitled ‘No Exit’).” The coy editors at Newsweek presented this detail about Zarqawi’s reading habits without explanation, but we’re eagerly awaiting the day when some amateur pundit, trolling for anecdotes about how the U.S. media is giving hope to the insurgency, concocts some over-arching theory about this.
Time also visited the bombsite, and uncovered a fresh nugget of tough-talking, wanted-dead-or-alive rhetoric, which has recently fallen out of favor in Washington. According to Time, in the aftermath of the bombing, an American representative summed up the events thusly: “It’s been a long, long effort. But we finally got the bastard.”
Anyone looking for a more nuanced portrait of Zarqawi should turn to the current issue of The Atlantic, in which Mary Anne Weaver travels to Jordan and retraces Zarqawi’s career path from video-store clerk, to jihad reporter, to jihadist, to jailhouse heavy, to stubborn Bin Laden competitor, to reluctant Bin Laden associate, to America’s most wanted terrorist in Iraq, to the guy appearing on the cover of a U.S. newsweekly under a big, red “X.”
Weaver’s timely article lands in a particularly rich issue of The Atlantic. Elsewhere in the magazine, Nadya Labi writes about an ambitious cyber-jihadist nicknamed Irhabi 007 who rose to prominence in the aftermath of September 11.
“Irhabi was part of a new and growing terrorist vanguard,” writes Labi. “After 9/11 and the American bombing campaign in Afghanistan, al Qaeda lost much of its infrastructure. No longer able to recruit in plain sight, its strategists recognized that the Internet could become a vast global recruiting ground — in effect, a new, borderless Afghanistan.”
From the scary new world of cyber terrorism, writer Douglas Preston takes Atlantic readers to the scary, old world of the secluded hills outside of Florence, Italy — where, over the period of about a decade, a serial killer ritually murdered more than a dozen young lovers.
In “The Monster of Florence,” Preston, who writes fictional murder mysteries, recounts how he became obsessed with this real-life crime story — and how his investigation of the murders eventually lands him on the bestseller list in Italy and on the lam from Italian police.
Elsewhere in the world of Italy-related mystery stories, the current issue of Vanity Fair uncovers some suspicious activity in the well-traversed pages of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. In “The Da Vinci Clone,” writer Seth Mnookin investigates the myriad similarities between Brown’s 2003 bestseller and Daughter of God, a novel by Lewis Perdue published in 2000.
“Neither book is a work of high literature,” writes Mnookin. “Equally apparent was the fact that The Da Vinci Code contained a plot, pacing, and structure that were very similar to Daughter of God’s.”
Along the way, Mnookin also turns up a couple of other writers who similarly feel that Brown borrowed some of their work without attribution — including David Morrell, author of First Blood, the inspiration for the movie Rambo.
“The feeling I got, and what I’ve heard from a lot of people in the community, was that [Dan Brown] was a kind of literary vacuum cleaner: he went through the literature and stuff got sucked up and blended together into a kind of mélange,” Morrell tells Mnookin. “I get emails, I guess about once a week, from someone asking, ‘Was Dan Brown a student of yours?’”