Skip to comments.Christopher Hitchens: Zarqawi's death part of a good day's work
Posted on 06/11/2006 5:51:24 PM PDT by Piefloater
THE death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is excellent news in its own right and even more excellent because it resulted from information passed along by a defector deep inside his inner circle. We can also apparently thank the co-operation of intelligence agents from Jordan, in whose capital city last November a triple bomb-attack slaughtered more than 100 innocents, many of them guests at a Palestinian wedding. These people made the mistake of having their reception at the wrong hotel - a foreign-owned one - and were thus considered legitimate targets by the man who redefined that term to include all Shia Muslims as well as most non-Salafist Sunnis, all Christians, Jews, Hindus and secularists. To say that the coalition has removed an enemy of humanity is no exaggeration.
Zarqawi contributed enormously to the wrecking of Iraq's experiment in democratic federalism. He was able to help ensure the Iraqi people did not have a single day of respite between 35 years of war and fascism, and the past 3 1/2 years of misery and sabotage.
He chose his targets with an almost diabolical cunning, destroying the UN headquarters in Baghdad (and murdering envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello) almost before it could begin operations, and killing leading Shi'ite Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim outside his place of worship in Karbala.
His decision to declare a jihad against the Shia population in general has been the crucial innovation of the insurgency: applying murderous pressure to the most vulnerable part of Iraqi society. And it has had the intended effect of undermining Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and empowering Iranian-backed Shia death squads.
Not bad for a semi-literate goon and former jailhouse enforcer from a Bedouin clan in Jordan. There are two important questions concerning the terrible influence that he has been able to exert. The first is: how much state and para-state support did he enjoy? The second is: what was the nature of his relationship with Osama bin Laden?
For the defeatists and pacifists, these are easy questions to answer. Former US secretary of state Colin Powell, they say, was wrong to identify Zarqawi in his now famous UN address, as a link between the Saddam regime and the bin-Ladenists.
The man's power was created by the coalition's intervention, and his connection to al-Qa'ida was principally opportunistic.
Based on this logic, the original mistake of the US would have been to invade Afghanistan, thereby forcing Zarqawi to flee his camp outside Herat and repositioning him for new combat elsewhere. Thus, fighting against al-Qa'ida is a mistake to begin with: it only encourages them.
For once I think Powell was on to something. I know that Kurdish intelligence had been warning the coalition for some time before the invasion that former Afghanistan jihadists were making their way into Iraq, which they saw as the next best chance to take advantage of a state that was both "failed" and "rogue". One might add that Iraq under Saddam was not an easy country to enter or to leave, and that no decision about who was allowed in could be taken by a junior officer. Furthermore, the Zarqawi elements appear to have found it their duty to join with the Ansar al-Islam splinter group in Kurdistan, which for some reason thought it was the highest calling of jihad to murder Saddam's main Kurdish enemies. But perhaps I have a suspicious mind.
We do know that the Baathist regime was recruiting and training foreign fighters, and placing them with the gruesome Fedayeen Saddam. (This is incidentally a clue to what the successor regime in Iraq might have looked like as the Saddam-plus-sanctions state imploded and Baathism itself went into eclipse.) That bomb at the UN headquarters in Baghdad, for example, was not an improvised explosive device. It was a huge charge of military-grade ordnance.
Are we to believe that a newly arrived Bedouin Jordanian freelance thug could so swiftly have scraped acquaintance with senior-level former Baathists? (The charges that destroyed the golden dome of the Shi'ites in Samarra recently were likewise rigged and set by professional military demolitionists.)
Zarqawi's relations with bin-Laden are a little more tortuous. Many observers have traced a rivalry between the two men, on questions of strategy as well as personality. That's natural enough: religious fanatics are schismatic by definition. Zarqawi's visceral hatred of the Shia heresy was unsettling even to some more mainstream Wahhabi types, as was his undue relish in making snuff videos. (How nice to know these people do have their standards.)
However, when Zarqawi sought the franchise to call his group "al-Qa'ida in Mesopotamia", he was granted it with only a few admonitions.
Most fascinating of all is the suggestion that Zarqawi was receiving covert help from the mullahs in Iran. He certainly seems to have been able to transit their territory (Herat is on the Iranian border with Afghanistan) and replenish his forces by the same route.
If this connection is proven, then we have the Shia fundamentalists in Iran directly sponsoring the murderer of their co-religionists in Iraq. This in turn would mean that the Iranian mullahs stand convicted of the most brutish and cynical irresponsibility, in front of their own people, even as they try to distract attention from their covert nuclear ambitions. That would be worth knowing. And it would become rather difficult to argue that US President George W. Bush had made them do it, though no doubt the attempt will be made.
If we had withdrawn from Iraq already, as the "peace" movement has been demanding, then one of the most terrible criminals of all time would have been able to claim he forced us to do it. That would have catapulted Iraq into stone-age collapse, and instated a psychopathic killer as the greatest Muslim soldier since Saladin. As it is, the man is ignominiously dead and his dirty connections a lot closer to being fully exposed. This seems like a good day's work to me.
Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair.
It is interesting to note that not all Shias like each other, either, and there are groups in Qom that no doubt hate some of the ones in Iraq. That would be like saying all people in America who call themselves Baptists approve of what all the other Baptists are doing. I could easily see the mullahs in the hardline political circles of Iran supporting the death of those who they think are a threat or a disgrace to what they want Shia Islam to be....
Ah, the strange bedfellows radical politics makes...
The Democrats DESPISE Bush because he's a Christian and so they are against ANYTHING and EVERYTHING that Bush wants to do.
They probably won't care. The Persians regard themselves as superior to other groups there (although the Saudis, being the tribesmen of Mad Mo, are "more equal" than anybody else in the ME), so the Iraqi Shiites are not that big a deal to them.
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