Via Kevin Drum, there is confirmation of the story that the Bush Administration chose not to eliminate a very nasty terrorist, apparently for political reasons. Chris Evans of The Age (Australia) reports,
The United States deliberately passed up repeated opportunities to kill the head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, before the March 2003 US-led invasion of that country.
The claim, by former US spy Mike Scheuer, was made in an interview to be shown on ABC TV’s Four Corners tonight.
That’s the Australia ABC-TV, unfortunately. It would be great if a kind-hearted Aussie found a way to make a clip of the interview available on the net so that us Americans can find out what our own government is up to.
Apparently, Bush had three opportunities, long before the war, to destroy a terrorist camp in northern Iraq run by Abu Musab Zarqawi, the al-Qaida associate who recently cut off the head of Nicholas Berg. But the White House decided not to carry out the attack because, as the [NBC News] story puts it:
[T]he administration feared [that] destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam.
The implications of this are more shocking, in their way, than the news from Abu Ghraib. Bush promoted the invasion of Iraq as a vital battle in the war on terrorism, a continuation of our response to 9/11. Here was a chance to wipe out a high-ranking terrorist. And Bush didn’t take advantage of it because doing so might also wipe out a rationale for invasion.
See also Daniel Benjamin, Slate, October 2004.
What’s significant about today’s news story is that it provides a credible, confirmed source. The earlier story, broken by Jim Miklaszewski of NBC News on March 2, 2004, was attributed to anonymous sources.
Back to today’s story by Chris Evans:
Mr Scheuer was a CIA agent for 22 years – six of them as head of the agency’s Osama bin Laden unit – until he resigned in 2004.
He told Four Corners that during 2002, the Bush Administration received detailed intelligence about Zarqawi’s training camp in Iraqi Kurdistan. …
… “Almost every day we sent a package to the White House that had overhead imagery of the house he was staying in. It was a terrorist training camp . . . experimenting with ricin and anthrax . . . any collateral damage there would have been terrorists.”
Zarqawi is a very nasty guy whose followers decapitated Daniel Berg, among others. But as I explained in earlier posts, before the invasion he was operating in Iraqi Kurdistan, which had been protected from Saddam Hussein by U.S. air power and was not under Saddam Hussein’s control. In fact, one of the documents that John Negroponte dumped on the righties to keep them occupied (and ignorant) revealed that Saddam Hussein’s agents were on the “lookout” for Zarqawi and another man. (Righties believed this to be proof Saddam and Zarqawi were working together; Juan Cole says it meant Saddam thought Zarqawi was a threat an wanted him arrested.)
But before the invasion, Zarqawi was the only terrorist believed to be connected to al Qaeda operating within the borders of Iraq. As such, he was invaluable to the Bushies.
Scheuer says that he was told the White House wouldn’t act because President Bush didn’t want to piss off the French.
“Mr Bush had Zarqawi in his sights almost every day for a year before the invasion of Iraq and he didn’t shoot because they were wining and dining the French in an effort to get them to assist us in the invasion of Iraq,” he told Four Corners.
C’est, as they say, fou. As in nuts. The Bushies needed Zarqawi to argue that Saddam Hussein was harboring terrorists. They and the VRWC goons could fan out across talk radio and TV news and expound on this dangerous man affiliated with Osama bin Laden (possibly; there are conflicting stories on that) operating terrorist training camps inside Iraq; therefore, we must get Saddam Hussein before he gets us.
The fact that this Zarqawi guy was not an ally of Saddam and could have been taken out without invading Iraq were, um, small technicalities left unmentioned.
Righties today are linking to this story from, um, someplace (it’s unclear to me who the writer, Harold C. Hutchison, is or what he bases his assumptions on) claiming that “al Qaeda has been defeated in Iraq, and is now retreating to lick its wounds where it can.”
Mission Accomplished II?
This story doesn’t mention Zarqawi, but rightie James Joyner explains that this claim was “apparently prompted by yesterdayâ€™s news that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was running out of suicide bombers and thus redirecting his efforts along more conventional lines.”
Harold C. Hutchison attributes this glorious victory to the glorious Bush Administration, which stayed the course in spite of the pressure from insidious liberal media to stand down. ‘Course, if the Bushies had elminated Zarqawi in 2002 when they could have, WE COULD HAVE DEFEATED al QAEDA IN IRAQ QUITE NICELY WITHOUT THE BLEEPING INVASION.
Not that any rightie will ever admit that, of course.
In spite of the glorious victory over al Qaeda in Iraq, as of last count 72 U.S. troops lost their lives in Iraq in April 2006. This number is a sharp increase from the 31 deaths in March. This seems to me to be proof that Jack Murtha is right — it’s the insurgency that’s killing us in Iraq more than terrorists, who all along were only a very small fraction of the opposition to the “coalition.” Not that any rightie will ever admit that, of course.
Udpate: From 2004 — “Zarqawi – Bush’s man for all seasons.”