By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The death of Zarqawi

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.


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7 Comments

  1. Karen Shacham

    Hey There,My name is Karen Shacham and I work with CNN Pipeline in Atlanta. I thought you might be interested to know that there are LIVE reactions to AL-Zarqawi’s death, live on Pipeline right now.CNN Pipeline is an online, commercial-free multiple live-news feed. It showcases four simultaneous news feeds from around the world and an on-demand function that allows you to select from a variety of news stories.Please let your members know that they can go to http://www.cnn.com and click on the Pipeline link to watch it *live* and get a two week free trial.Thanks and have a great day!Karen

  2. Bill Baar

    Arafat’s death had consequences. People and individuals make differences.Dan Senior was saying the Sunni Press was telling readers Zarqawi would outlast the Coalition. That we would cut and run but Zarqawi would stay.Killing him significant.

  3. Paul

    This is clearly a significant development that will hopefully reduce the number of major terrorist attacks within Iraq. The incidents of random violence will likely continue, however.What I wonder about is how this will affect US policy in Iraq. Will President Bush use this success as yet another reason to ignore his critics? After all, they’ve been doubting the chance of success in Iraq and asking for a plan for withdrawal of US troops and here’s evidence, in his eyes, that they’re wrong and he’s been right all along.If taking out Zarqawi means yet another reason to stay the course and keep Rumsfeld on the job, then it might not be such a good thing in the long run.

  4. metallicaMobes

    Well, we (and Iraqis) should at least make the most of the morale boost- hopefully this will galvanize support for the Iraqi government, and motivate the govt to get off its duff and get things running!

  5. Don

    How can we understand such a sub-human enemy who says, about a beloved brother, “We expected he would be martyred?”

  6. John Galt

    A chumpazoid, no doubt about it.Now, undeterred by the constant attacks on their flank by PIA Zarqawi, the Baathists can begin to consolidate and start to use the thousands of tonnes of weapons they have hidden. Zarqawi’s death has moved the Iraq chaos to round two.

  7. urthwalker

    From Media Blogger Jay Daverth – http://www.thehindsightfactor.comAll the major news outlets are abuzz with the news of Zarqawi’s death. Regardless of how one feels about the U.S. invasion of Iraq, there is little question that Zarqawi was a danger to our troops and needed to be stopped. However, headline proclamations of having killed “the leader of Al-Qa’eda in Iraq” are disingenuous at best. At minimum, they serve to betray the tragic lack of understanding – at both the local and governmental level – of the kind of threat we are facing on the ground.From the very inception of the War on Terror, this administration has attempted, both rhetorically and strategically, to present Al-Qa’eda as a unified terrorist organization with a handful of supposed puppet-masters. Unfortunately, this assessment is tragically false. Global terrorist networks are fundamentally different in both structure and strategy than any previous threat to international state security. Unlike traditional warfare where power emerges from a single locus, Al-Qa’eda is a radically individualized movement full of mini-leaders, self-starting cells, and zealous lone gunmen. The killing of any localized “leader” does nothing whatsoever to affect the actual power base any more than the ousting of Hussein did to staunch the threat posed by Iraq.Despite rhetorical proclamations to the contrary, this administration has remained entrenched from the beginning in a pre-9-11 mindset. This tragic inability to think outside the box is perhaps the single most significant reason why Bush is losing a war of his own creation. The bottom line is that we are not dealing with a foreign government, nor are we tackling a guerilla movement centered around a charismatic individual. Were this to be the case, it would certainly be a reasonable strategy to target the enemy’s power locus (their government or leadership) as the entity responsible for directing the country’s assets against you.However, what this administration seems to have a difficult time grasping is that terrorism functions as an essentially populist movement where power derives from the bottom, not the top. There is no single government or leadership that will cause the beast to come crashing down but rather hundreds or maybe thousands of tiny, quasi-governments capable of acting with complete autonomy. Within such a network, Zarqawi no more represents the power behind Al-Qa’eda than any other zealous individual motivated to strike against U.S. interests.I believe it is infinitely more likely is that Zarqawi’s death will further inflame anti-Americanism across the entire region. Within the specific subsection of terrorists motivated by Zarqawi’s leadership, his death will only serve to create a localized power vacuum. In the face of his absence, it is far more probable that several individuals will vie to fill the void through independent operations, each more vicious than the last, in order to prove their merit. Absent Zarqawi’s leadership, whatever form of “command” he had over his followers has now been abruptly splintered and the U.S. will likely face a more diffuse and erratic level of aggression.Were this administration to finally get serious about fighting this war, rather than playing the role of cowboy in a ‘dead or alive’ posse, they would confront the ideology to which terrorists claim allegiance rather than the individual, armed expression of that ideology. In this way, perhaps the administration could cease inserting itself as a causal factor into the very problem is claims to be solving.http://www.thehindsightfactor.com

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