Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, mastermind of so much of the horrible violence that has torn through Iraq, is finally dead. This is a victory that all decent people can rejoice in. Zarqawi was a brutal fanatic to whom human life meant absolutely nothing. He was willing to slaughter anyone, including tiny children, in the furtherance of his cause. I'm glad he's dead, and to hell with him.
However, one troubling fact about this still bothers me: why did it take so damned long to kill this son of a bitch? There are some disturbing answers to this question (in this case from 2004):
NBC News has learned that long before the war the Bush administration had several chances to wipe out his terrorist operation and perhaps kill Zarqawi himself — but never pulled the trigger.
In June 2002, U.S. officials say intelligence had revealed that Zarqawi and members of al-Qaida had set up a weapons lab at Kirma, in northern Iraq, producing deadly ricin and cyanide.
The Pentagon quickly drafted plans to attack the camp with cruise missiles and airstrikes and sent it to the White House, where, according to U.S. government sources, the plan was debated to death in the National Security Council.
“Here we had targets, we had opportunities, we had a country willing to support casualties, or risk casualties after 9/11 and we still didn’t do it,” said Michael O’Hanlon, military analyst with the Brookings Institution.
Four months later, intelligence showed Zarqawi was planning to use ricin in terrorist attacks in Europe.
The Pentagon drew up a second strike plan, and the White House again killed it. By then the administration had set its course for war with Iraq.
“People were more obsessed with developing the coalition to overthrow Saddam than to execute the president’s policy of preemption against terrorists,” according to terrorism expert and former National Security Council member Roger Cressey.
In January 2003, the threat turned real. Police in London arrested six terror suspects and discovered a ricin lab connected to the camp in Iraq.
The Pentagon drew up still another attack plan, and for the third time, the National Security Council killed it.
Military officials insist their case for attacking Zarqawi’s operation was airtight, but the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam. [Emphasis added]
Yes, promoting the Iraq war was more important than killing one of the worst terrorists on the planet. Everything was subordinated to Bush's pathological obsession with attacking Iraq.
Eric Alterman rightly says:
So there you have it. Bush didn’t go after Zarqawi because he was useful in developing an argument for war—even though that argument was based on lies. Tens of thousands have died, trillions of dollars have been wasted and who knows how many terrorists have been created as a result of his all-but-criminal negligence.
There is little I can add. Yes, I'm very happy Zarqawi is dead. But it should have happened three years ago. That it didn't is yet another example of the pathetic "leadership" shown by the worst president in American history.