Yesterday in an interview with the Fox News editorial board, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attributed U.S. progress in Iraq to the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the former Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) leader. She likened him to a great civil war general, inflating the importance of his death and the U.S. “successes”:
He was diabolically brilliant. I think he was an outstanding organizer, I think he had a kind of strategic sense, and I don’t think the follow-on leadership has been quite as good. So when you hear people say, “You know, well, if you kill one of them, they’ll just replace him with another leader,” remember that that’s like saying, you know, if you take out Robert E. Lee or Ulysses S. Grant, well, they’ll just replace them with another leader. It’s — there are people who are better at this than others and I think the loss of Zarqawi, they — they started to make more mistakes.
While Rice would like to pretend that the United States defeated a brilliant general in Iraq, Zarqawi was not like Ulysses S. Grant or Robert E. Lee. AQI has never been the greatest driver of violence in Iraq.
Nevertheless, the Bush administration continues to overstate its importance. Gen. David Petraeus, for example, recently called the group “public enemy number one.” But approximately 98 percent of violence in Iraq is “Iraqis fighting amongst Iraqis,” according to ret. Gen. James Jones. This sectarian violence continues to rise as Bush’s escalation drags on — despite the death of Zarqawi.
In addition, the U.S. presence in Iraq has actually strengthened the global al Qaeda organization and its “association with AQI helps al-Qa’ida to energize the broader Sunni extremist community, raise resources, and to recruit and indoctrinate operatives, including for Homeland attacks.”
Rice is fond of analogizing Iraq to the U.S. Civil War. Last year she compared critics of the Bush administration’s Iraq war policies to “people who thought it was a mistake to fight the Civil War to its end and to insist that the emancipation of slaves would hold.”