Even if no rational person believes that the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi will end the violence in Iraq, it’s certainly good news that he’s been killed. John Burns of the New York Times reports on the raid that ended in Zarqawi’s death. Writing in the Washington Post, Ellen Knickmeyer and Jonathan Finer assert:
His killing is the most significant public triumph for the U.S.-led coalition since the 2003 capture of Saddam Hussein, although analysts warned that Zarqawi’s killing would not stem the tide of insurgency and violence in Iraq any more than Hussein’s capture did.
Al-Jazeera runs a chilling piece on the reaction of Zarqawi’s family. Zarqawi’s older brother is quoted as saying, “We expected that he would be martyred. We hope that he will join other martyrs in heaven.” That’s the problem: There’s no shortage of the hatred that created Zarqawi.
Rory Carroll writes in the Guardian:
We can assume that al-Qaida in Iraq will attempt reprisal attacks as soon as possible, to show it is still in business; also that the organisation will operate at less than full steam while it tries to fill its leadership void.
Beyond that, the significance of this week’s US strike on Baquba, 40 miles north of the capital, is difficult to gauge. Too much mythology, too much spin, encrusts the name Zarqawi to know at this stage whether his death is a turning point or a footnote.
Writing for the Daily Standard, Dan Darling, a “counterterrorism expert,” calls Zarqawi “one of the most accomplished mass murderers in the modern history of terrorism.” Yet Darling concedes that the extent of Zarqawi’s power and influence have always been something of a mystery. Darling concludes:
Zarqawi’s death is unlikely to prove the immediate end of either al Qaeda in Iraq or the Iraqi insurgency, as Zarqawi was, by his own account, only a servant or representative of al Qaeda’s international terrorist organization. Yet it must be noted that Zarqawi was also a monster of unspeakable proportions. The United States, its coalition allies, and the new Iraqi government have much to be thankful for in bringing an end to this mass murderer’s career.
Well, that’s certainly true. And not just mass murder: up close and personal, too, as Zarqawi was believed to have personally been involved in beheading hostages. Zarqawi’s death may have little more than symbolic value, but symbolism matters.