Headlines this weekend screamed that at least 250 Iraqis were killed in the last four days by Abu Musab Zarqawi’s “Al Qaeda in Iraq,” (known as Ansar al-Islam before this rival to Osama decided to join forces with him). Every time I hear Zarqawi’s name bandied about I want to scream at the TV. The media rarely mentions that Zarqawi’s group is a toxic weed that this government allowed to grow when they thought it bolstered their case for invading Iraq. They gambled with our safety, the safety of the Iraqi people and lost big time because when they finally got around to trying to uproot the weed they found that it had already seeded across that country. Where his group used to be made up primarily of foreign jihadists, his high-profile “successes” is starting to attract more and more Sunni locals. Though the U.S. now has a $25-million- dollar price on his head it is too late to save the head of Nicholas Berg (whom Zarqawi personally decapitated) or the over 1000 mainly Shi’a Iraqis that Zarqawi’s group has claimed responsibility for murdering.
The evidence of the administration’s folly is iron clad. As NBC reported back in March of 2004 military planners had drawn up plans to take out Zarqawi at least three separate times before the start of the war but Condoleezza Rice and the National Security Council consistently vetoed that action. Now I know Ms. Rice a bit. She was one of my advisors on a college panel I was on at Stanford. I found her charming and understanding. Yet her blindness to Al Qaeda’s plans to hijack an airliner despite bold-type warnings in her briefings, and then her and her administration’s actually scrapping plans to take out Zarqawi when they could amount to lethal blunders (or worse) of historic proportion.
Long before the invasion we knew that Zarqawi was actively producing deadly batches of ricin for planned attacks in Europe yet we did nothing. Looking at the evidence the inescapable conclusion is that this administration actually wanted Zarqawi to be in business because he was nominally on Iraqi soil and tangentially associated with Osama bin Laden. His existence was their only link between Saddam and Al Qaeda and the Bush Administration knew then and we all know now that that link was a lie. I say only nominally on Iraqi soil because his bases were in the Kurdish-controlled no-fly-zone. Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and our own Special Forces (doing recon for the coming war) ruled that area, not Saddam. When Colin Powell so infamously showed the U.N. and the world satellite imagery of the Ansar al-Islam training camps on February 5th, 2003, he conveniently failed to mention this fact. He also failed to mention what he must also have known: that Zarqawi saw himself as a rival to bin Laden (he’s even more radical if you can believe that. Bin Laden doesn’t generally slaughter other Muslims but to Zarqawi the only good Shi’a is a dead Shi’a) and only after the invasion did he decide to join forces and change his outfit’s name.
As Cenk Uygur mentioned here last week, what Zarqawi and bin Laden really have in common is the Bush administration’s allowing them both to escape because their continued existence bolstered the administration’s case for a war against Iraq. Everyone from Tony Blair to Bush’s ex-terrorism czar Richard Clarke were startled when the Bushies started shouting about invading Iraq just days after 9/11 but we now know that they had been eager to invade even months prior to the towers falling.
Isn’t there at least one patriot out there, a military or intelligence man or woman, intimately acquainted with the facts, who thinks the American people deserve to know why our government gave these two deadly enemies “get out of jail free” cards? Isn’t there one among you who remembers why you signed up to risk your life for our country in the first place? Isn’t there one among you who can’t sleep at night until this wrong is brought to light?