Thursday, June 08, 2006

Zarqawi Takes a Dirt Nap

Good riddance.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the most-wanted terrorist in Iraq who waged a bloody campaign of beheadings and suicide bombings, was killed when U.S. warplanes dropped 500-pound bombs on his isolated safehouse, officials said Thursday. His death was a long-sought victory in the war in Iraq.

Al-Zarqawi and several aides, including spiritual adviser Sheik Abdul Rahman, were killed Wednesday evening in a remote area 30 miles from Baghdad in the volatile province of Diyala, just east of the provincial capital of Baqouba, officials said.

"Al-Zarqawi was eliminated," Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said.

At the White House, President Bush hailed the killing as "a severe blow to al-Qaida and it is a significant victory in the war on terror."

But he cautioned: "We have tough days ahead of us in Iraq that will require the continuing patience of the American people."

Two things. The first is Zarqawi's death is huge. His leadership took the insurgency in Iraq to bloody levels that may have not happened otherwise, and he personally murdered people on camera. Osama Bin Laden is a bad dude, but I think when it comes down to it Zarqawi has probably been responsible for more deaths and carnage than Bin Laden has. The loss of that kind of leadership will be a big blow to the jihadist forces. Though someone will inevitably step into the power vacuum, Zarqawi was a zealous murderer without peer and had serious acumen as a leader to make it all the more deadly. In a very sick way, he had a "talent" for terrorism that I think even Bin Laden doesn't possess.

Second, as Biden said this morning on the Today Show, even if you got every jihadist in Iraq there would still be a war in Iraq. We've moved past fighting these sorts of terrorists, because they've largely succeeded in igniting sectarian violence that is on the edge of, or just plain is, a small-scale civil war. There's momentum behind that which Zarqawi's death or perhaps even more defeats to his organization will not likely affect. In that sense, it's wise for Bush to point out the importance of this moment but still emphasize that there is much left to do. But that note of caution should not undermine the fact that a sinister guy and a bigtime terrorist leader has been taken out, which is definitely some cause for hope after a long time without anything but more violence and chaos.