Friday, June 09, 2006

Zarqawi 0, 500-lb. bombs 1

As everyone in the world undoubtedly knows by now, a couple of F-16s took out Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, head of the al-Qaeda licensee al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The bombing of the house Zarqawi was hiding in also killed his spiritual advisor, Abu Abdul-Rahman al-Iraqi, plus three women and three men. Initial reports that a child was killed appear to be incorrect.

This is unequivocally good news. It does not justify the invasion of Iraq, nor is it likely to have a major effect on the insurgency. But Zarqawi was a fanatic and extremely violent opponent, willing to murder civilians and foment civil war in his efforts to drive out foreigners and Shiites alike. The world is a better place without him in it.

On a practical level, this is a morale boost for our forces. Whatever disruption his death causes will affect the foreign jihadi arm of the insurgency -- the one largely responsible for suicide attacks and indiscriminate attacks on civilians. And the nature of his death -- an attack guided by intelligence from members of the insurgency -- will have those jihadis looking over their shoulders, wondering whom they can trust and if they're next.

Contentions that Zarqawi is merely a symbol or a product of American propaganda are partially correct, in that he had waning influence among the native Iraqi insurgency. But such criticism ignores two things: his direct involvement in some of the bloodiest acts of violence, and his role in stoking sectarian war -- a legacy that will long outlive him. The LA Times has a good exploration of that legacy here.

Goodbye, good riddance. Let us hope his unmourned death changes things for the better in Iraq.

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