Zarqawi: Symbol of a Mismanaged War

Here’s a transcript of a Q&A between ITV (UK) and Bush about Iraq:.

Q: You talk about terrorism in Iraq, but when we spoke before the war, there was no terrorism in Iraq. And you’re now making Iraq the front line of the war on terrorism. But the terrorists have only recently arrived there, arrived since the war on Iraq.

BUSH: No, I beg your pardon. Zarqawi, Mr. Zarqawi, who is leading the terrorist effort in Iraq now, was in Iraq prior to our discussion.

Q: No al Qaeda in Iraq before the war, Mr. President.

BUSH: No, Zarqawi, Mr. Zarqawi was, absolutely. He was.

Bush has hung onto this Zarqawi claim as all his other rationales for attacking Iraq have faded. In fact, this claim is as false as the WMD claim. The story of Zarqawi has been a microcosm for how ineptly the whole Iraq conflict has been managed. Here’s a quick CliffsNotes version:

Before the war, Zarqawi was with the terrorist group Ansar al-Islam — “operating in a region outside the control of Saddam” — and setting up sleeper cells to inflame the insurgency. The Bush administration scrapped three plans to kill him at that time.

Once the war was launched, Bush falsely claimed that the relationship between Zarqawi and Hussein was evidence that Saddam was working with al Qaeda, and thus a rationale for attacking Iraq.

And now, bin Laden has gained a powerful new ally in Zarqawi after first refusing to associate himself with someone who was not a major player. Al Qaeda has now made Iraq into the central front in the war on terror. And Bush says that’s what he was trying to prevent all along.