Busted. Again.

Bush Administration, Iraq War

Via Kevin Drum, there is confirmation of the story that the Bush Administration chose not to eliminate a very nasty terrorist, apparently for political reasons. Chris Evans of The Age (Australia) reports,

The United States deliberately passed up repeated opportunities to kill the head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, before the March 2003 US-led invasion of that country.

The claim, by former US spy Mike Scheuer, was made in an interview to be shown on ABC TV’s Four Corners tonight.

That’s the Australia ABC-TV, unfortunately. It would be great if a kind-hearted Aussie found a way to make a clip of the interview available on the net so that us Americans can find out what our own government is up to.

I’ve written about this story several times before, most recently here. For more background see Fred Kaplan in Slate, April 14, 2004:

Apparently, Bush had three opportunities, long before the war, to destroy a terrorist camp in northern Iraq run by Abu Musab Zarqawi, the al-Qaida associate who recently cut off the head of Nicholas Berg. But the White House decided not to carry out the attack because, as the [NBC News] story puts it:

    [T]he administration feared [that] destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam.

The implications of this are more shocking, in their way, than the news from Abu Ghraib. Bush promoted the invasion of Iraq as a vital battle in the war on terrorism, a continuation of our response to 9/11. Here was a chance to wipe out a high-ranking terrorist. And Bush didn’t take advantage of it because doing so might also wipe out a rationale for invasion.

See also Daniel Benjamin, Slate, October 2004.

What’s significant about today’s news story is that it provides a credible, confirmed source. The earlier story, broken by Jim Miklaszewski of NBC News on March 2, 2004, was attributed to anonymous sources.

Back to today’s story by Chris Evans:

Mr Scheuer was a CIA agent for 22 years – six of them as head of the agency’s Osama bin Laden unit – until he resigned in 2004.

He told Four Corners that during 2002, the Bush Administration received detailed intelligence about Zarqawi’s training camp in Iraqi Kurdistan. …

… “Almost every day we sent a package to the White House that had overhead imagery of the house he was staying in. It was a terrorist training camp . . . experimenting with ricin and anthrax . . . any collateral damage there would have been terrorists.”

Zarqawi is a very nasty guy whose followers decapitated Daniel Berg, among others. But as I explained in earlier posts, before the invasion he was operating in Iraqi Kurdistan, which had been protected from Saddam Hussein by U.S. air power and was not under Saddam Hussein’s control. In fact, one of the documents that John Negroponte dumped on the righties to keep them occupied (and ignorant) revealed that Saddam Hussein’s agents were on the “lookout” for Zarqawi and another man. (Righties believed this to be proof Saddam and Zarqawi were working together; Juan Cole says it meant Saddam thought Zarqawi was a threat an wanted him arrested.)

But before the invasion, Zarqawi was the only terrorist believed to be connected to al Qaeda operating within the borders of Iraq. As such, he was invaluable to the Bushies.

Scheuer says that he was told the White House wouldn’t act because President Bush didn’t want to piss off the French.

“Mr Bush had Zarqawi in his sights almost every day for a year before the invasion of Iraq and he didn’t shoot because they were wining and dining the French in an effort to get them to assist us in the invasion of Iraq,” he told Four Corners.

C’est, as they say, fou. As in nuts. The Bushies needed Zarqawi to argue that Saddam Hussein was harboring terrorists. They and the VRWC goons could fan out across talk radio and TV news and expound on this dangerous man affiliated with Osama bin Laden (possibly; there are conflicting stories on that) operating terrorist training camps inside Iraq; therefore, we must get Saddam Hussein before he gets us.

The fact that this Zarqawi guy was not an ally of Saddam and could have been taken out without invading Iraq were, um, small technicalities left unmentioned.

Righties today are linking to this story from, um, someplace (it’s unclear to me who the writer, Harold C. Hutchison, is or what he bases his assumptions on) claiming that “al Qaeda has been defeated in Iraq, and is now retreating to lick its wounds where it can.”

Mission Accomplished II?

This story doesn’t mention Zarqawi, but rightie James Joyner explains that this claim was “apparently prompted by yesterday’s news that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was running out of suicide bombers and thus redirecting his efforts along more conventional lines.”

Harold C. Hutchison attributes this glorious victory to the glorious Bush Administration, which stayed the course in spite of the pressure from insidious liberal media to stand down. ‘Course, if the Bushies had elminated Zarqawi in 2002 when they could have, WE COULD HAVE DEFEATED al QAEDA IN IRAQ QUITE NICELY WITHOUT THE BLEEPING INVASION.

Not that any rightie will ever admit that, of course.

In spite of the glorious victory over al Qaeda in Iraq, as of last count 72 U.S. troops lost their lives in Iraq in April 2006. This number is a sharp increase from the 31 deaths in March. This seems to me to be proof that Jack Murtha is right — it’s the insurgency that’s killing us in Iraq more than terrorists, who all along were only a very small fraction of the opposition to the “coalition.” Not that any rightie will ever admit that, of course.

See also Georgia10. Sorta kinda related: Frank Rich, Bob Herbert.

Udpate: From 2004 — “Zarqawi – Bush’s man for all seasons.”

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6 Comments

  1. Britwit  •  May 1, 2006 @9:25 am

    As we have heard and read before- Bush was determined to take Saddam down and go to war in Iraq.

    He will do anything and say anything for whatever he determines is his cause.

    I absolutely hate this guy!

  2. James Joyner  •  May 1, 2006 @9:27 am

    I’m not sure who Hutchinson is, either. The site is StrategyPage, which is run by James Dunnigan, a pretty solid strategic analyst. The particular piece by Hutchinson, though, strikes me as rather bizarre.

    I’m a little more sceptical of Scheuer’s claim than is Kevin, simply because Scheuer’s track record is rather mixed. He’s simultaneously a brilliant tactical analyst and slightly off his rocker. Plus, as I note in my own post on that topic, he has written two books and otherwise had tons of opportunities since 2002, when he claimed this all happened. That he’s suddenly talking about this is rather bizarre.

  3. James Joyner  •  May 1, 2006 @9:28 am

    “rather bizarre” is apparently this morning’s catchphrase.

  4. Donna  •  May 1, 2006 @9:56 am

    Thieves have planned their long-term heist strategy for control of oil resources [2nd largest oil fields in the world in Iraq, critical pipelines in Afghanistan] and they don’t want to actually win ‘a war on terror’. These thieves, cronies and contributors of Bush and Co, need to draw out as long as possible their cover-up drama of bad guys Bin Laden and Zarqawi on the loose and opportunely making threatening videos.

    I personally believe that the torture done to Abu Ghraib prisoners, and the smashing into Iraqi homes without regard to Muslim customs, and especially the failure to provide basic necessities for Iraqi citizens are ‘enflaming dynamics’ welcomed by the thieves because they prevent a ‘premature’ peace in Iraq.[i.e., before US permanent bases and other controls can be instituted]. We know that Iraq just spend months after the last election not being able to begin a government under their own elected leader. My question about this has always been, “Did the US interfere and foment issues behind the scenes in order to delay the new government?”

    As long as the American public can be manipulated into staying afraid, and are given periodic booster shots [horror stories, bad guy videos, etc], the American public will stay unaware of the ways in which America is being led by criminals minds like Cheney’s.

    I repeat a conclusion I have made before which is: Evil rides on good energy. In this thievery instance, the evil of killing for oil and of stealing oil resouces rides on the good energy of patriotism and justifiable fear of terrorists. Evil hides itself by inflating and twisting facts.

  5. joanr16  •  May 1, 2006 @1:11 pm

    If I remember recent events correctly, al-Zarqawi’s had more narrow escapes than that illusionist, David Blaine.

    I see several possibilities for the October Surprise here.

  6. Jeff R  •  May 1, 2006 @4:20 pm

    http://online.wsj.com/article_print/SB109866031609354178.html

    This Wall Street Journal article from 2004 seems to confirm the story, as well.

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