Let's be clear; Zarqawi was not a nice man. He was a murderer and a particularly vicious one at that. There are those who argue that killing him was illegal but from what we know, it seems clear that Zarqawi was not a non-combatant and was therefore a legitimate target.
But that doesn't mean it was a good idea to drop two bloody great bombs on him, killing a child in the process. Would we have done that if he'd been holed up in Las Vegas? Capturing him, while undoubtedly a more difficult task, would have been the more sensible and indeed more ethical option. (Of course, that too can lead to "collateral damage" particularly given the US military's propensity to use overwhelming force. Neverthless, a genuine effort to reduce the likelyhood of the deaths of innocents should have been made but was not.)
What do we really know about Zarqawi? Not a great deal if truth be told. It is widely accepted that he was a leading member of al Qaida but even that is debatable to say the least. There are strong suggestions that he was a rival to bin Laden rather than an ally. As in the Cold War, the complexities of the realtionships between "our enemies" are poorly understood in the halls of power. Blair, for example, harps on about the global nature of "this terrorism at every opportunity. He did so again yesterday:
For three years Al Qaeda have sought to murder innocent people, promote sectarian killing and wreck the democratic process in Iraq. This terrorism is a global movement. Their attack in Iraq has only ever been part of a wider attack that they have carried into conflicts and countries the world over, indeed there is barely a major nation in the world that has not felt the outreach of their evil. So defeat them in Iraq and we will defeat them everywhere.This is so redolent of the simplistic US attitudes towards socialist movements during the Cold War, it's a vast communist conspiracy I tells you, that you've got to wonder whether the PM has the slightest understanding of recent world history. We now know that many socialist and even communist movements throughout the world were not part of some grand scheme orchestrated by the Soviets but were actually motivated by a variety of factors depending on the individual circumstances in each case. We know. I doubt Blair does.
(Btw, at Blair's press conference, he also said this:
I have long argued, as you know, that whatever the debate over the original decision to remove Saddam, for the past three years since his removal a struggle of a different nature has taken shape.For all those who say calling Blair a liar is unjustified, how do you explain this? The debate over the decision to remove Saddam? When did we have that debate? Did I sleep through it? I remember the debate over Saddam's WMD and I remember the PM specifically ruling out regime change as a goal of his policy - "I detest his regime but even now he can save it by complying with the UN's demand".
The man is an unprincipled revisionist. A liar.)
There's no doubt that Zarqawi had some contact with bin Laden and his associates. That he was a key al Qaida leader is far less certain.
But how significant was Zarqawi in Iraq? Estimates vary, the fog of war makes it difficult to draw firm conclusions, but it seems likely that he was responsible for some of the more extreme attacks on Shiite communities. He was widely though to be behind the bombing of the Al Askari Mosque at Samarra which set off a chain of sectarian reprisal killings, for example. But, it is also thought that his fighters represent less than ten percent of the insurgency in Iraq.
Will his death make a significant difference to the security situation? I doubt it very much. Israeli governments have been assassinating leading figures in various groups for years and it has done nothing to provide long term security. In fact, it could be argued that these killings simply increase the determination of others to redouble their efforts to continue with their attacks.
Zarqawi was the poster boy of the US efforts in Iraq. In some ways, while I'm not of the view that he was a myth as some people claim, he was a creation of the US government.
Military Plays Up Role of ZarqawiHis death will undoubtedly be of some value to the US government in the domestic political arena.
Jordanian Painted As Foreign Threat To Iraq's Stability
The U.S. military is conducting a propaganda campaign to magnify the role of the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, according to internal military documents and officers familiar with the program. The effort has raised his profile in a way that some military intelligence officials believe may have overstated his importance and helped the Bush administration tie the war to the organization responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Will it make a real difference to the long term security situation? Given the low key pronouncements of Bush and Blair yesterday, even they realise that it most probably will not.
Tags: News, Politics, Iraq, Zarqawi, Tony Blair