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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Zarquawi’s Dead; Now What?

The death of Abu Musab al-Zarquawi, the murderous al Qaeda leader in Iraq, presents a clear example of how killing is sometimes necessary to protect life. This man represented the worst of a bad cause: a jihadist whose rage against the infidels extended to any Muslim who did not embrace his Salafist creed, including all Shi’a. His elimination by an American bomb was clearly the best gift our country has given Iraq since the capture of Saddam Hussein.But the question has to be asked: now what? Will Zarquawi’s death demoralize the Sunni-based insurgency, or al Qaeda itself? Over at the New Republic’s site, Spencer Ackerman suggests this event may actually help al Qaeda by erasing a controversial and counter-productive leader, and may hurt the U.S. by eliminating a scapegoat for all the violence in Iraq. Whether or not Ackerman is right, no one should harbor the illusion that Zarquawi’s death will somehow “moderate” al Qaeda in anything other than a tactical way. It may actually parallel the destruction of the leadership of the Brownshirts in Nazi Germany in the famous “night of the long knives,” which made Nazism ostensibly more respectable even as it solidified the power of the genocidal maniacs of the S.S. Here in the U.S., the snuffing of Zarquawi may give the Bush administration a small and temporary lift, demonstrating that even a blind hog will find an acorn now and then. If, however, the violence in Iraq does not significantly abate, then all the administration’s focus on Zarquawi may ultimately backfire. It’s one thing to acknowledge that Bush got re-elected mainly because millions of Americans bought the idea that by fighting jihadists in Iraq, he was keeping them from perpetrating terrorist acts here; who could prove otherwise? But if things don’t get better in Iraq now that Zarqauwi’s gone, the administration’s whole Iraq-War-Is-The-War-On-Terror argument will quickly unravel.

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