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The Left and the Death of Zarqawi By: Ben Johnson
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, June 09, 2006

George W. Bush called it “a severe blow to al-Qaeda.” Donald Rumsfeld called it “a significant victory.” Joe Biden admitted it a was “very significant hit.” How did much of the Left describe the killing of al-Qaeda murderer Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi? A “transparent psychological operations campaign run out of the Pentagon”; “a double tragedy”; “part of a larger and tragic story of miscalculation; a possible fraud; a conspiracy; not “moral”; an “obscene spectacle”; no “big deal”; and good cause to beat a hasty retreat.

A Cornspiracy So Immense


David Corn at The Nation charges President Bush with inventing Zarqawi’s threat – and insists Bush played into al-Qaeda’s hands by killing him. “[T]he two people most satisfied by Zarqawi's death,” he writes, “are Osama bin Laden and his number-two Ayman al-Zawahiri, for now they have been spared a competitor for attention and handed a martyr.” He surmised Zarqawi’s “death is welcomed – but it remains part of a larger and tragic story of miscalculation.” He then lays out the Left’s current wisdom on the bombing:


Bush did not mention that it was his invasion of Iraq that fully allied Zarqawi with al-Qaeda. Prior to the war, terrorism experts considered Zarqawi more of a rival than a partner. And he did not mention that four years ago – before Zarqawi had become a major terrorist figure and before he had become responsible for the deaths of hundreds (if not thousands) – the Bush White House chose not to take him out when it could [in summer 2002]The administration put off attacking Zarqawi because it wanted to invade Iraq.


Corn makes two mutually exclusive arguments: that Zarqawi was not “fully allied” with Osama bin Laden before the Iraq invasion…and that the president needlessly allowed him to inflict “hundreds (if not thousands)” of deaths on innocent Iraqis, and Americans, to secure an American occupation. Or as Democrats.com put it, Bush “refused to kill” this terrorist, because he “needed to keep Zarqawi alive to ‘sell’ his illegal and insane invasion. As a result of Bush's insanity, hundreds needlessly were murdered by Zarqawi. Impeach Bush Now!


In addition to being logically untenable, it is ridiculous. In the summer of 2002, Zarqawi led an organization that, in time, became Ansar al-Islam, an al-Qaeda affiliate based in northern Iraq – which named its hideout “Little Tora Bora” out of solidarity with bin Laden long before the invasion of Iraq. His group forcibly took its base of operations on September 11, 2001.


It is true the White House turned down plans to bomb Ansar in the summer of 2002 – because State Department officials long drew no connection between Zarqawi and al-Qaeda. Like the Left (including Corn), Foggy Bottom analysts concluded the two were unaffiliated parties. By the time they connected the dots, a strike would have been too risky and virtually impossible to secure diplomatically.


Eric Alterman, the Mother Jones blog, Counterpunch’s Chris Floyd, Kurt Nimmo, and others recycled this self-contradiction, often in startlingly similar language. Coincidentally, most leftist bloggers were at Yearly Kos, an annual left-wing hatefest organized by the DailyKos website, when the news broke.


Zarqawi: “Neocon Propaganda Program”


Others proved more creative. Kurt Nimmo – whose article appeared in The Final Call, the newspaper of the Nation of Islam – wrote Zarqawi’s death was “simply another dimension of a rather transparent psychological operations campaign run out of the Pentagon.” That is, the CIA put one over on the American people. “Al-Zarqawi is little more than hype, a neocon propaganda program…in fact, it is difficult to prove ‘al-Qaeda’ itself actually exists.” In his view, America also “engineered” the Iraqi “civil war.” (Either he is channeling Chris Floyd of Counterpunch or vice-versa.)


Ron Jacobs also endorses the belief that Washington created Zarqawi:


There is a likelihood that the forces of sectarian hatred have already done so much…that those hopes for a united nation without foreign occupation have been destroyed forever. Some folks even suggest that this was part of Washington's plan all along.


Jonathan Cutler, who is – surprise! – an Associate Professor of Sociology and American Studies at Wesleyan University, dubbed Zarqawi the ideological ‘mirror image’ of Washington's Neocons/Right Zionists. The good doctor blogs these perfidious Jews – err, “neocons” – may have lied about Zarqawi’s death altogether.


Right Zionists will not shed a tear for Zarqawi, but they may miss him when he is gone. If he is gone. For Right Zionists, Zarqawi is really an indespensible enemy.


TalkLeft floats the opposite conspiracy theory: perhaps Zarqawi had been long dead by Thursday.


His face looks very intact for someone who was killed by two 500 pound bombs…Because this Administration has so little credibility and a history of distracting us with terror news when it is hurting politically, like now, I can't help but wonder if al-Zarqawi wasn't killed some time ago and they just decided to announce it today and tell us he was killed in yesterday's raid.


More American Murder


Air America host Randi Rhodes – whose program previously joked about assassinating President Bush – upbraided the troops for their inhumanity. Even al-Qaeda, she noted, asked Zarqawi to stop killing fellow Muslims. “Then you have to say to yourself, my God: Al-Qaeda is telling Zarqawi to cut the crap with the killing of the Iraqis, and yet we haven’t cut the crap with the killing of the Iraqis.” Her Air America colleague and rumored Ohio Democratic candidate Jerry Springer agreed, “We killed a hell of a lot more people just by the decision to go to Iraq than ever died at the hands of Zarqawi.” [1] 


Meanwhile, the Mother Jones blog pined for the innocent terrorists, terror sympathizers, and enablers slain along with the “prince of al-Qaeda in Iraq.” Specifically, the blog


wants to know how many civilians were killed in the raid. Seems like a fair question to me…Sure, it's easy to say that there's a moral difference between accidentally killing civilians while trying to track down mass murderers and the actual mass murderers themselves, but at some point the fact that we're doing counterterrorism by dropping ‘precision-guided munitions’ on lots and lots of houses across the country should make people realize that there’s not really a moral way to conduct this war.


MoJo’s radical friends at the (frighteningly) popular World Socialist Website called the bombing of Zarqawi “an obscene spectacle.” They, too, charged Bush with “vastly exaggerating Zarqawi’s role in the country” in order to” justify its illegal intervention.” The commander-in-chief “sought to identify all armed opposition to the U.S. occupiers with Zarqawi, in an effort to discredit as terrorists the Iraqis who were fighting to rid themselves of foreign invaders,” the occupational forces of the United States. WSWS also intimates the United States was involved in decapitating Nicholas Berg.


…A view apparently shared by the man’s father. Michael Berg, the father of Nicholas Berg and current Green Party political candidate, said, “I think al-Zarqawi's death is a double tragedy.” On Thursday’s Fox and Friends, he blamed our president for his son’s death, saying, “George Bush destabilized the country to let Zarqawi in.” (As noted, Zarqawi had taken residency in Iraq long before the war.) This is somewhat toned down from his assertion immediately after his son’s beheading that “The administration did this.” (Michael acknowledges his son was “a Bush supporter.”) 


Apathy Ascendant


Others on the Left have attempted to minimize the importance of this event, as they have with every American success. The blog of the Bill Moyers/George Soros-funded The American Prospect magazine insisted, “it would be honestly moronic to make a big deal out of this.” Discredited 9/11 Commission witness Richard Clarke stated, “this is not going to mean a big difference,” although, well, Zarqawi was “making a network in Europe and the Middle East.”


The Surrender Brigade


Most elected Democrats have followed one blogger’s suggestion to “declare victory in Iraq and bring our troops home. Sen. John Kerry said the if Bush suggested “destroying” Arabs.) “It's time to work with the new Iraqi government to bring our combat troops home by the end of this year.” Surrender spokesman John Murtha said this will “have a significant impact in reducing the amount of violence in Iraq” – so “we should be able to substantially reduce our presence in Iraq and redeploy our military outside of Iraq.”


Potential Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, perfunctorily “commended” our troops – demanded withdrawal from Iraq on the grounds of…identity theft. “[A]s many as 2.2 million military personnel were among the 26.5 million records mishandled and lost by the Department of Veterans Affairs,” which is “simply the latest example of incompetence in the Bush Administration.” “If we can't even protect the personal records of our men and women in uniform, what does that say about our ability to secure a nation?” she asks.


Any retreat before Iraq is capable of defending itself will result in a bloodbath. Ayman al-Zawahiri – the number two man in al-Qaeda, who remains at large – instructed Zarqawi last fall to establish a theocratic caliphate in Iraq “in order to fill the void stemming from the departure of the Americans.” Expanding this beachhead throughout the Arab world will precede the destruction of Israel and the establishment of the Kingdom of Allah; but all is conditioned upon a U.S. retreat. In effect, the Democratic Party Left has said: We have killed al-Zarqawi, and now we must assure that his dream lives on.


The Democrats also fail to appreciate the effect of Zarqawi’s having been done in by one of his own. As those who have tracked domestic terrorists know, few tools are as effective as sowing seeds of doubt that one's co-conspirators are actually government informants. With this surgical strike, the United States has “cut off the head of the serpent,” the most charismatic leader in al-Qaeda (and also, for the record, its only free and effective one), spread confusion amongst his ranks, and imported paranoia to the jihadist movement. The death of Zarqawi no more assures victory than the capture of Saddam Hussein – though thankfully, unlike the Butcher of Baghdad, the Terrorist Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight won’t be haranguing an Iraqi judge on international television anytime soon. Instead, he serves as a witness that there are no “untouchables” in the jihadist camp, and his followers may soon follow him to Hell.


However, even guarded optimism is missing from the Democratic Left’s response to this American battlefield triumph. When the Left isn’t accusing our soldiers of killing “in cold blood” or inventing Zarqawi as a “psy-ops” campaign against their own families and neighbors, it offers a more desperate, less reasonable, and thoroughly ineloquent echo of the John Birch Society blog.




1. The O’Reilly Factor, Fox News, June 8, 2006.

Ben Johnson is Managing Editor of FrontPage Magazine and co-author, with David Horowitz, of the book Party of Defeat. He is also the author of the books Teresa Heinz Kerry's Radical Gifts (2009) and 57 Varieties of Radical Causes: Teresa Heinz Kerry's Charitable Giving (2004).

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