This article originally appears in The American Thinker
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The first reaction that most Americans had to news that the Jordanian born terrorist Abu Musab al Zarqawi was killed in a precision bombing raid by the United States Air Force yesterday was one of elation mixed with a grim satisfaction that a huge obstacle to bringing peace and security to Iraq was permanently removed. It was one of those moments that has occurred so rarely in this war; a triumph of good over evil and a clear cut victory for the United States that all Americans should be thankful for.
Not so fast, say many on the left. Former Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich was one of the first to try and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory
Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, Ohio Democrat, said Zarqawi was a small part of “a growing anti-American insurgency” and that it’s time to get out.
“We’re there for all the wrong reasons,” Mr. Kucinich said.
Although the initial reaction to the news by the Democratic party leadership was suitably positive- Senate Minority Leader Reid was particularly fulsome in his praise of the military – as the day went on, a curious thing happened; al Zarqawi shrank in size and importance until by about mid-afternoon, many on the left were asking the question “So where’s Osama?” This Reuters headline was echoed a thousand times on liberal websites and left wing talk radio shows: “Zarqawi found, but bin Laden still eludes US.”
That the media began to spin the story every which way from Sunday was no surprise. In any other context, their desperate attempts to deflect attention from the death of Zarqawi and put the emphasis on the unsuccessful hunt for bin Landen could be seen as a pitiful attempt at comedy, so riotously off kilter their killjoy attitude became by day’s end. It makes one wonder what kind of headlines they would have generated during World War II following the death of Hitler: “German Chancellor dead: No Effect on Quagmire in the Pacific Seen.”
In truth, it became de riguer on the left as the day went on to not only try and downplay the death of al Qaeda in Iraq’s most visible and violent terrorist but to actually posit the notion that the bloodthirsty jihadist was an invention of the US government, that he really wasn’t all that important a cog in the insurgency’s machine of death, and that the Bush Administration used him to try and connect Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda. The Huffington Post gave this theme a nice boost:
Well, for one thing, Zarqawi was an invented menace. Before the great “Iraq experiment” in democracy delivered not by necessity but by bullets and bombs (as well as WMD pretexts), Zarqawi was about as popular as Carrot Top. No one knew who he was, kind of like no one knows who else besides Kobe Bryant is on the Los Angeles Lakers. As terrorists go, he was what sportswriters might call a scrub. But once he got in the way of the Bush administration’s crusade on the banks of the Tigris, he quickly became public enemy number one. Or as Iraq’s prime minister Nuri al-Maliki explained, a “godfather” of terrorism.
Also particularly helpful in this effort was The Atlantic Online which published a curiously sympathetic profile of Zarqawi that had been in the works for weeks entitled “The Short, Violent Life of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi” , a typically earnest liberal effort to “humanize” the enemy while downplaying his significance in the insurgency. The 5,000 word article reminded one of similar efforts to “humanize” death row inmates in the United States by touring their hometown, talking to people who knew them when they were growing up, and trying to get at the “root causes” of their violent actions. The problem, of course, as with death row inmates, is that there are no “root causes” to the actions of people like Zarqawi. They are dead inside; empty husks of humanity without a glimmer of conscience or a flicker of compassion. They are sociopathic monsters who deserve the worst that we can do to them.
Generating sympathy for such a bloodthirsty killer was an admittedly daunting task which is why the press and the left then turned their attention to the notion of Zarqawi’s insignificance and the idea that he was a creation of the Bush Administration’s efforts to make al Qaeda seem more dangerous than it really is. In this, they were aided by the father of one of Zarqawi’s victims, Michael Berg whose son Nick was beheaded by the terrorist in 2004.
Mr. Berg, a genuine pacifist and liberal activist didn’t disappoint. He was widely quoted as comparing George Bush to Zarqawi saying “”His death will incite a new wave of revenge. George Bush and al-Zarqawi are two men who believe in revenge.” Berg is running for Congress on the Green Party ticket in Delaware and one could rightly question not his motives, but the motives of the press in seeking out his sure-fire anti-Bush response. I suppose this is what the press refers to as “balanced reporting.”
But in order to have balance, there have to be two sides presented. By the end of the day, there were two sides alright – the side that said that Bush was a monster and the side that presented the President as incompetent liar. The latter theme was helped along by a story circulated by NBC News that prior to the war, the Bush Administration “failed” to attack and kill the terrorist mastermind:
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.
â€œHere we had targets, we had opportunities, we had a country willing to support casualties, or risk casualties after 9/11 and we still didnâ€™t do it,â€ said Michael Oâ€™Hanlon, military analyst with the Brookings Institution.
The story points out that the military had drawn up strike plans 3 different times to take out Zarqawi’s lab but was blocked each time by a White House who believed that any military action would undercut their efforts to build a coalition to take out Saddam’s whole rotten regime.
Still spinning furiously, the left advanced the theory that Bush’s “rush to war” prevented us from killing Zarqawi in 2002. Leaving aside the notion that killing the terrorist at his lab would have been any more successful than President Clinton’s efforts to kill Osama Bin Laden by bombing his training camp in Afghanistan, one notices the flip-flop by the left immediately; if Saddam had no ties to terrorists, how is it possible that we “missed” anyone? And if he did indeed have ties to terrorist groups, doesn’t that justify the invasion and subsequent liberation of Iraq?
If I were you, I wouldn’t say any of that too loudly in the presence of a liberal. His head is likely to explode.
The clear message by day’s end was that the death of Zarqawi didn’t mean a tinker’s damn. Representative Pete Stark led the charge, calling the killing of the jihadist, in effect, a political ploy:
Some Democrats, breaking ranks from their leadership, today said the death of terrorist leader Abu Musab Zarqawi in Iraq was a stunt to divert attention from an unpopular and hopeless war.
“This is just to cover Bush’s [rear] so he doesn’t have to answer” for Iraqi civilians being killed by the U.S. military and his own sagging poll numbers, said Rep. Pete Stark, California Democrat. “Iraq is still a mess—get out.”
Stark and Kucinich evidently didn’t get the memo on how to react to the good news of al Zarqawi’s death. For in the end, the Democrat’s downplaying this victory could cost them dearly at the polls.
Just yesterday, an AP-Ipsos poll was released showing support for the war at an all time low. One wonders what that same poll might be saying now that the news of Zarqawis death has spread far and wide as well as the equally good news that the Iraqis have finally gotten their act together and finished forming a government by naming the Defense, and Interior Ministers as well as the chief National Security adviser. I daresay that the American people are a little more upbeat about our prospects for total victory in Iraq now that these two very important pieces are in place.
It won’t be a large bump in the President’s numbers, but it will probably be significant. And this, of course, what all the spinning and backtracking was about in the first place. Any rise in the President’s poll numbers will give the lie to the left’s talking points that Bush is finished. And with the Iraqis now ready to finally try and get a handle on the admittedly grim internal security situation, there is a very real chance that by November, significant improvements will be visible thus undercutting the Democratic critique of the war substantially.
What will the American people make of this effort to downplay such a significant victory? One would think that they would reward the Democrats for their loyalty by refusing to give them the responsibility for winning a war whose prospects for victory took such a large step forward yesterday.