Better Late Than Never
After letting Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi escape in the run-up to the Iraq invasion, only to see him coordinate an insurgency that has killed and injured thousands of American troops, the US military killed al-Zarqawi late Wednesday in an air attack north of Baghdad. To the extent that taking out the leading Al Qaeda figure in Iraq helps suppress the insurgency, this is a welcome, albeit way-too-late development. But instead of killing al-Zarqawi back in 2002 when he should have, before giving him the chance to set up Iraq as Al Qaeda’s new training ground, President Bush’s mismanagement of the war on terror contributed to the needless deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis in the intervening period. That won’t stop the right wing from crowing about this legitimate accomplishment, but Al Qaeda has been allowed to morph into such a decentralized mass of cells in Iraq and throughout the Islamic world that the killing of one key figure means less today on the ground than it would have back in 2002. Add to this the failure of Porter Goss's and John Negroponte's efforts in Somalia over the last year, and Bush's war against terror has failed to date.
Having said that, there will be two direct outcomes of this killing. First, there are already reports that al-Zarqawi’s killing will now allow a refocus and redirection of assets committed to finding him towards finding Bin Laden. Why the White House wouldn’t have already had assets separately going after Bin Laden is a mystery, unless you were waiting for a politically good time to encircle Bin Laden, like the months before a midterm election. Secondly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bush actually uses the success in finding al-Zarqawi as a reason for drawing down troops in Iraq before the midterm, especially with the naming of the final ministry positions today in the Iraqi government. And in the end, all that matters is getting more and more of our troops out of Iraq and back home, especially our reserves and the National Guard.
One day, maybe the administration will explain to the families of those Americans killed in Iraq as a result of al-Zarqawi, like Nick Berg's father Michael, why he was allowed to roam free these last four years.