Not Attacking Terrorists

I mentioned this a couple of days ago, but I didn’t give it enough play at the time. Now, the idea that the Bush White House could have attacked Abu Musab Zarqawi and his network but didn’t do it so they could instead attack Iraq is getting some play.

Abu Musab Zarqawi (AP)
In June 2002, U.S. officials say intelligence had revealed that Zarqawi and members of al-Qaida had set up a weapons lab at Kirma, in northern Iraq, producing deadly ricin and cyanide.
The Pentagon quickly drafted plans to attack the camp with cruise missiles and airstrikes and sent it to the White House, where, according to U.S. government sources, the plan was debated to death in the National Security Council.
“Here we had targets, we had opportunities, we had a country willing to support casualties, or risk casualties after 9/11 and we still didn’t do it,” said Michael O’Hanlon, military analyst with the Brookings Institution.
Four months later, intelligence showed Zarqawi was planning to use ricin in terrorist attacks in Europe.
The Pentagon drew up a second strike plan, and the White House again killed it.  By then the administration had set its course for war with Iraq.
“People were more obsessed with developing the coalition to overthrow Saddam than to execute the president’s policy of preemption against terrorists,” according to terrorism expert and former National Security Council member Roger Cressey.

Now, why would killing Zarqawi, who sounds like a genuinely bad guy and either has past or current ties to al Qaeda, disrupt the administration’s plans to invade Iraq? Andrew Sullivan asks that question. Josh offers an answer with which I wholeheartedly agree: The White House needed Zarqawi to make their case that Saddam Hussein’s regime was tight with al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. And now the Iraqi people are paying a terrible price.
However, Iraqi militants in Fallujah are claiming that Zarqawi is dead I really have no idea what to make of that. In a couple of hours, the Iraqi Governing Council will sign the new Iraqi temporary constitution. Let’s hope this day ends peacefully.