May 15, 2004

Did Bush Let Zarqawi Go?

As I've said before, if this is true then Bush and Cheney should have already been impeached.

Mark Kleiman is still unable to believe it happened. But I have seen no denials anywhere:

Mark A. R. Kleiman: Why did Bush spare Zarqawi?: I had seen references to this before, and didn't really believe it could be true. But Fred Kaplan, who knows his business, believes it.

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: "the 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.

The story gets worse in its details. As far back as June 2002, U.S. intelligence reported that Zarqawi had set up a weapons lab at Kirma in northern Iraq that was capable of producing ricin and cyanide. The Pentagon drew up an attack plan involving cruise missiles and smart bombs. The White House turned it down. In October 2002, intelligence reported that Zarqawi was preparing to use his bio-weapons in Europe. The Pentagon drew up another attack plan. The White House again demurred. In January 2003, police in London arrested terrorist suspects connected to the camp. The Pentagon devised another attack plan. Again, the White House killed the plan, not Zarqawi.

When the war finally started in March, the camp was attacked early on. But by that time, Zarqawi and his followers had departed.

This camp was in the Kurdish enclave of Iraq. The U.S. military had been mounting airstrikes against various targets throughout Iraq—mainly air-defense sites—for the previous few years. It would not have been a major escalation to destroy this camp, especially after the war against al-Qaida in Afghanistan. The Kurds, whose autonomy had been shielded by U.S. air power since the end of the 1991 war, wouldn't have minded and could even have helped.

But the problem, from Bush's perspective, was that this was the only tangible evidence of terrorists in Iraq. Colin Powell even showed the location of the camp on a map during his famous Feb. 5 briefing at the U.N. Security Council. The camp was in an area of Iraq that Saddam didn't control. But never mind, it was something. To wipe it out ahead of time might lead some people—in Congress, the United Nations, and the American public—to conclude that Saddam's links to terrorists were finished, that maybe the war wasn't necessary. So Bush let it be.

In the two years since the Pentagon's first attack plan, Zarqawi has been linked not just to Berg's execution but, according to NBC, 700 other killings in Iraq. If Bush had carried out that attack back in June 2002, the killings might not have happened. More: The case for war (as the White House feared) might not have seemed so compelling. Indeed, the war itself might not have happened.

One ambiguity does remain. The NBC story reported that "the White House" declined to carry out the airstrikes. Who was "the White House"? If it wasn't George W. Bush—if it was, say, Dick Cheney—then we crash into a very different conclusion: not that Bush was directly culpable, but that he was more out of touch than his most cynical critics have imagined. It's a tossup which is more disturbing: a president who passes up the chance to kill a top-level enemy in the war on terrorism for the sake of pursuing a reckless diversion in Iraq—or a president who leaves a government's most profound decision, the choice of war or peace, to his aides.

The charge that the President deliberately spared a major terrorist in order to maintain public support for war ought to be politically devastating, given that the one issue where Bush has a marked advantage over Kerry in the polls is as a leader in the war against terror. But this may well be a case where the truth is too appalling for most voters to believe.

Still, if I were running one of the 527 committees, I'd be looking at this very, very hard. Would Berg's relatives go on TV with this?

Posted by DeLong at May 15, 2004 05:48 PM | TrackBack | | Other weblogs commenting on this post
Comments

The only way I could possibly be more disgusted with Bush is if I were a Bush supporter. Man oh man how would you have like to backed -- and in many cases tied up all your self esteem by pledging your heart and soul to -- such an outright loser?

No doubt the diehards will argue that this was the best course of action for the nation, since otherwise all the pantywaist liberals and other softies wouldn't have allowed the war to go forward.

Posted by: Alan on May 15, 2004 05:58 PM

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*sigh* The noxiousness of falsehood rides the horse of dissimulation, once again.

Posted by: Julian Elson on May 15, 2004 06:17 PM

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The Reelect Bush motto: "Things are not as bad as they could have been in the worst-possible case scenario!"

Posted by: Julian Elson on May 15, 2004 06:19 PM

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And don't forget: "We're better than Saddam."

Posted by: Alan on May 15, 2004 06:37 PM

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Almost makes you wonder if there's anything to the rumors that Bush has thus far spared Osama Bin Laden in order to capture him as an "October surprise".

Posted by: avedis on May 15, 2004 07:54 PM

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Those rumors bring up an interesting question: For domestic political purposes, is the Bush administration better off with Osama in custody, Osama dead, or Osama alive and free?

Posted by: Steven Rogers on May 15, 2004 08:18 PM

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Is there much doubt anymore that 09/11 proved to me a gift to the Bush Administration in that it enabled them (w/the help of lots of creative lies) to invade and occupy Iraq? Even some conservatives begin to have difficulty stomaching the Bush charades.

Posted by: azurite on May 15, 2004 09:38 PM

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Oh, I believe it, all right. (I'm not certain, but it seems to add up.) It's just that I doubt the swing voters will believe it, any more than they've been willing to accept the facts about Bush's ties to the Saudi royals and the Bin Laden family.

This is the moment when you need an evil genius ad-man who can get people to accept the utterly horrible. I hope there's one out there.

Posted by: Mark Kleiman on May 16, 2004 01:02 AM

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Steven Rogers writes:

"For domestic political purposes is the Bush administration better off with Osama is custody, Osama dead, or Osama alive and free?"

Steven, I've been wondering about this myself. Common sense would tell you that the administration is better off, but I'm not so sure. Bush's approval ratings are pretty dismal in every category expect for his handling of the war on terror. If OBL was captured, Bush would surely enjoy an immediate surge in popularity, but would it last? Might the public believe that the war on terror was over (regardless of whether or not incapacitating a lone individual can possibly forestall future terrorist acts)?

If the public decides that the war on terror issue is off the table, they would be forced to evaluate Bush based on his handling of the economy and Iraq, neither of which look too good right now. So, capturing OBL might actually help Kerry.

We also have to think about when OBL will be captured, because re-focusing the public's attention from the capture to the economy and Iraq will take some time. If the capture goes down this summer, the public will have probably shifted their attention by election time. But if the "October Surprise" rumors turn out to be true, Bush's increased popularity could carry him through the election.

Posted by: Richard on May 16, 2004 02:56 AM

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the fact that they did then destroy this camp means, well this is just tin foil hat stuff.

What, he didnt destroy the camp when I wanted him too 9although I only realised that today).

barking

Posted by: Giles on May 16, 2004 09:37 AM

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Giles, I already told you once. Don't get snarky with people who are smarter than you. You're too light in the ass for SDJ.

Posted by: Zizka on May 16, 2004 10:48 AM

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"You're too light in the ass for SDJ."

so this is a dating board?!

Posted by: Giles on May 16, 2004 12:42 PM

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"We're better than Saddam."
I foresee a day not too far off when that will become: "We're better than Saddam because we beat him."

Posted by: bryan on May 16, 2004 03:17 PM

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Nice attempt at disinformation Giles. Bush bombed Zarqawi's it only AFTER going to war. This story was reported by NBC's Jim Miklaszewski and according to him Bushed denied the military three times when they begged him to bomb Zarqawi's camp.

But Bush was dishonestly using Zarqawi's presence in Iraq to enable him to completely mislead the people of the United States once again by claiming al-Qaeda was in Iraq even though Zarqawi had nothing to do with Hussein and was located in an a part of Iraq that was controlled by the Kurds and protected by the no-fly zone.

If NBC is right, this is clear cut grounds for impeachment.

Posted by: The Fool on May 16, 2004 03:26 PM

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"Light in the ass" is a boxing term, Giles.

Posted by: Zizka on May 16, 2004 06:42 PM

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Brad, the lack of denial in politics is a slippery thing. One the one hand, politicians routinely deny things they actually have done, though maybe not under oath (politicians don't spend much time under oath, in the grand scheme of things). So not denying doesn't tell you much. On the other hand, denying opens the possibility that the press will suddenly try to turn one story into many stories, including questions about the honesty of the denial. The public doesn't need to think about these issues because the public doesn't need to know. Non-denial is along the lines of don't apologize, don't explain.

Posted by: K Harris on May 17, 2004 04:37 AM

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You could argue for this policy on the grounds that its just more efficient to wait until we go after all of Iraq to hit Zarqawi's camp. Not that I'm saying that's how they made the decision.

Furthermore, I think it's a bad idea to shape policy too much around individual deaths or individual bad guys, whether they be Berg or OBL. Yes, I deplore what happened to Berg, and fervently hope that we will catch OBL. But we need to be thinking systemically about international terrorism. We need to destroy the conditions that create terror. We need to develop resources for tracking them and capturing them. We should be leading the developed world on this. We need to train our military in counter-insurgency. We should be figuring out how to develop the Middle East economically and politically. On this much, I agree with the neocons. But to think we can do it unilaterally, at the point of a gun, with too few troops was sheer foolishness.

We need to face up to the fact that this is going to hurt, so that the terrorists can't jerk us around emotionally by sending out sensational video. The reason they do such horrible this is to get our attention, to provoke us into doing things that are impulsive and foolish. And to garner prestige among their political base.

What will win this conflict is not dramatic single events, but a determined long-term effort. We need to have an approach that's a lot more like gardening.

Posted by: Jay on May 17, 2004 10:52 AM

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Online Casino Directory

Posted by: Online Casino on June 23, 2004 03:54 AM

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Little by little things are getting better and you can be collected. When you think of all the things that never make the news. Little by little things are getting back to good condition.

Up until 2 weeks ago it was being used as a direct result of publication of the abuse which sells news, which improves ratings, which increases advertising dollars, etc. Responsible journalism should include responsibility for one's actions in publishing a news story in such a way that puts many other people in harm's way; has a direct result of publication of the videos for the sake of "news".

Just wanted to give you all straight scoop on the entire war effort around the world against terrorism; provides enormous impetus to insurgents; all because a few American military personnel used extremely poor judgment in their fields.

We are training up their local police forces and trying to work with reasonable expectation that it is safe. Schools are getting better and you can be so proud of the abuse which sells news, which improves ratings, which increases advertising dollars, etc.

Responsible journalism should include responsibility for one's actions in publishing a news story in such a way that puts many other people in harm's way; has a direct result of publication of a particular story might have on other people.

When I saw the publication of the abuse itself; that was known. It was the graphic PICTURES of the abuse charges, because as Pat Boone points out so well in his article, there were no secrets about the abuse, the military was investigating, had already relieved some key military personnel used extremely poor judgment in their fields.

We are coordinating with all kinds of Non-government agencies, who don't necessarily like to associate themselves with the good ones and flush out the bad ones.

Things are improving on that front.

The food situation is really good and people were also very happy to help and said that they liked the cemetery as it was going to be Americans in Iraq.

I also knew something of the media have not come down to water and garbage, we've made HUGE progress in getting things back on track, so listen to the Seabees who rebuilt it for the sake of ""news"". Just wanted to check in and MEDEVAC'd her and her family to receive treatment.

Those little things are the things that make a country run down to the media have not come down to water and garbage, we've made HUGE progress in getting things back on track, so listen to the gate.

Labra lege...Semper Fi

1st Lt. Mark V. Shaney USMC
Baghdad, Iraq

Posted by: 1st Lt. Mark V. Shaney USMC on July 1, 2004 07:08 PM

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Those rumors bring up an interesting question: For domestic political purposes, is the Bush administration better off with Osama in custody, Osama dead, or Osama alive and free?

yes

Posted by: Porcelain Insulator on July 15, 2004 08:11 AM

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Those rumors bring up an interesting question: For domestic political purposes, is the Bush administration better off with Osama in custody, Osama dead, or Osama alive and free?

Posted by: jim on July 19, 2004 08:10 PM

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For domestic political purposes, is the Bush administration better off with Osama in custody, Osama dead, or Osama alive and free?

Posted by: gas scooters on August 2, 2004 08:34 AM

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It's just that I doubt the swing voters will believe it, any more than they've been willing to accept the facts about Bush's ties to the Saudi royals and the Bin Laden family.

Posted by: auto maintenance tools on August 9, 2004 12:45 AM

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