Not even a confirmed bleeding-heart humanist can find much to regret about the removal of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi from the Middle East scene. His demise will be mourned by few other than Muslim extremist true believers committed to jihad against the West. And probably not all of them. Perhaps the notorious terrorist's incarceration for life in solitary confinement would have been a more fitting punishment for his brutal cruelties. Such might especially be the judgment of those who oppose capital punishment in principle. What better retribution for his beheadings, shootings, and bombings than for the perpetrator to stare at four concrete walls for the rest of his days? But no, a smart bomb launched from a distant American F-16 killed him on June 7. The native Jordanian will never again organize or put into play his especially bloody brand of terrorism.
Reflecting on the import of al-Zarqawi's forcible removal from the scene, the target of a 500-pound bomb, this writer was led to the words of Samuel Johnson long, long ago. As he compared and contrasted revenge and vengeance, Johnson noted the latter is an act of justice. Crimes one avenges, he observed in eighteenth century England. More apt words could not be written about the murderous former street tough, al-Zarqawi, who rose to prominence in the Iraqi insurgency during the past three or four years.
From press accounts we learn that boots-on-the-ground intelligence, patiently and astutely applied, accounts basically for the coup. Tracking al-Zarqawi to his so-called safe house in a village near Baghdad took time and effort, good communications, and top-notch cooperation between the military, Iraqi security units, Special Forces, and informers, some of the last named reportedly from al Qaeda. Everyone involved is to be congratulated, whatever their precise motivation or role they played.
The killing of al-Zarqawi ranks right up there with the capture in his hiding place of Saddam Hussein in December 2003. Both constituted welcome developments, with the former on the positive side for Washington as a change from the parade of suicide and roadside bombings that have wreaked so much havoc with so many lives. At the same time, Baghdad announced the senior defense posts in the cabinet had finally been filled. Welcome developments, indeed.
What comes next? A concerted, focused, and finally successful drive to capture or kill Osama bin Ladin? That indeed is an end much to be desired and anticipated.
Editor Henry Mattox