Monday, November 01, 2004


Impeach or indict? What a dismal choice

Brad DeLong wants to impeach George W. Bush based on this:
Holy Zarqawi
Why Bush let Iraq's top terrorist walk.

By Daniel Benjamin

Why didn't the Bush administration kill Abu Musab al-Zarqawi when it had the chance?

That it had opportunities to take out the Jordanian-born jihadist has been clear since Secretary of State Colin Powell devoted a long section of his February 2003 speech to the United Nations Security Council. In those remarks, which were given to underscore the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, Powell dwelt at length on the terrorist camp in Khurmal, in the pre-invasion Kurdish enclave. It was at that camp that Zarqawi, other jihadists who had fled Afghanistan, and Kurdish radicals were training and producing the poison ricin and cyanide.

Neither the Khurmal camp nor the surrounding area were under Saddam's control, but Powell provided much detail purporting to show Zarqawi's ties to the Baghdad regime. His arguments have since been largely discredited by the intelligence community. Many of us who have worked in counterterrorism wondered at the time about Powell's claims. If we knew where the camp of a leading jihadist was and knew that his followers were working on unconventional weapons, why weren't we bombing it or sending in special operations forces—especially since this was a relatively "permissive" environment?

In recent months, the mystery of the administration's inaction has only grown. News reports — including, most recently, one in the Wall Street Journal this week — make it clear that military leaders and the CIA felt Zarqawi was a threat that could and should be removed. On at least three occasions between mid-2002 and the invasion of Iraq, the Pentagon presented plans to the White House to destroy the Khurmal camp. Each time the White House declined to act or did not respond at all.


Despite numerous press inquiries and questions from Capitol Hill, the administration has never given a straight answer about why it held back. Some officials have offered the excuse that there was no certainty that Zarqawi would be present at the camp when an attack took place. This is unpersuasive. Even if there was no guarantee—and recently retired military officials say the terrorist was, in fact, living at the site—there should have been some urgency about destroying a camp where jihadists were producing ricin. This isn't a parlor gamer: In early 2003, British police dismantled a jihadist cell that was linked to Zarqawi and was planning attacks involving ricin.

What seems evident is that the administration viewed Zarqawi as a lower-tier concern, despite his well-known history of running an Afghan terrorist training camp and conducting terrorist operations in Europe. The White House was unwilling to divert any effort from the buildup for war in Iraq to this kind of threat.

The idea that states are the real issue and terrorists and their organizations are of secondary concern has been present throughout the Bush presidency. Although the 9/11 commission wrote its report in a spare, non-judgmental tone to preserve bipartisan unity, its description of the long, aimless road the administration took to the first meeting of its national security Cabinet on the issue of al-Qaida on Sept. 4, 2001, speaks volumes. By contrast, the first "principals" meeting on the issue of regime change in Iraq took place in January 2001, shortly after Bush's inauguration.
MSNBC reported back in March that another reason they declined to kill Zarqawi was they wanted as many terrorists out there as they could in order to bolster the case for an invasion of Iraq:
Military officials insist their case for attacking Zarqawi’s operation was airtight, but the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam.
I say impeachment's not nearly enough. Bush and his entire filthy crew should be indicted for treason. They let a known terrorist go rather than disrupt their plans for war. (Sound familiar? Remind you of what happened in Nov. 2001 when Tommy Franks was ordered to start planning for the invasion while Osama Bin Laden was slipping over the Afghan-Pakistan border?)

But how dispiriting is it that we should even be talking about this? Bush wanted his war with Iraq more than anything else, and the press had long since been so shit-scared of being demagogued on the soft-on-terrorism line that they were reduced to cheerleaders for the invasion.

Obviously, we are neither going to impeach Bush nor try him for treason. But future generations will indict us for not having the moral courage to oppose his disastrous insistence on invading Iraq with neither sufficient justification nor sufficient troops.

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