al-Zarqawi Meets Fate: Killed in Airstrike
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has been killed in an air strike along with seven other al-Qaeda in Iraq leaders as they met in a safe house just outside Baquba, Iraq. Proof of his death can be seen in his lifeless photo, likely the diligent work of the special operators of Task Force 145 with local intelligence assistance on the ground from the Jordanian Mukhabarat and its network of local Iraqi contacts.
Security Watchtower provides an excellent summary of events with various links to assorted coverage. There, the question is raised of who will step up to claim the leadership role of al-Qaeda in Iraq? This was the first thought here upon waking to the news of Zarqawi’s fate. While al-Qaeda in Iraq and al-Qaeda globally have suffered a devastating blow, it is far from a death knell for the organization. It is, however, a great relief and certain confidence booster to ordinary Iraqis, amongst whom this monster and his minions prowled.
President Bush said of the death of this monster, “Now, Zarqawi has met his end, and this violent man will never murder again.”
In an e-mail, Stephen Hayes made an excellent point saying, “The administration should release the documents confirming Zarqawi’s medical treatment in Baghdad before the war.” He is absolutely correct. If even for its own self-defense, the administration should release this information, showing another part of Iraq’s support for terrorism and terrorists denied energetically by those opposed to the Iraq invasion.
How capably al-Zarqawi’s fellow travelers will be able to carry on the tradition of car bombings, kidnappings, sectarian instigation and civilian murder is yet to be seen. But the undeniability of the defeat of al-Qaeda in Iraq has just been accelerated. Perhaps the ongoing expansion into Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories has just been accelerated as an after effect.
Newsweek wasted no time in reporting to the world that al-Zarqawi’s relatives view him as a martyr for Islam. Immediately quoted is al-Zarqawi’s uncle who said, “This is a tragedy. We are all sad here.” This is a view surely not held by Iraqi families whose husbands, wives and children have been ripped from their lives by this maniacal madman.
In one early radio report in New York City, a WABC commentator – in an attempt to illustrate how violent this man was - was quick to point out that even Ayman al-Zawahiri had chastised Zarqawi for his violent killing of civilians and grotesque videotaped beheadings. The manner in which the commentator delivered the statement clearly suggested that Zarqawi was too violent for even al-Qaeda, which was not the case. What the commentator failed to include for context was that the al-Qaeda leadership did not admonish al-Zarqawi because the murder of civilians or beheadings of infidels was against their ethical guidelines. Recall, rather, that it was simply because it was turning Iraqi public opinion against not only al-Zarqawi, but against the al-Qaeda organization as a whole. There is a profound difference between moral stance and public relations management.
Zarqawi’s death is good news indeed, not only for American and Coalition forces, but especially for Iraqi’s living under his black cloud. There is, however, no rest for the weary, as intelligence professionals must remain especially vigilant, watching for reaction and indications of the next in line. In the War on Terror, regardless of theater, target acquisition never stops.