Saturday, June 10, 2006

3 things about killing Zarqawi

At all the other major turning points in the war in Iraq, when Bush declared combat operations over, the hand-over of sovereignty, the capture of Saddam, and the various elections, I at least wondered for a moment if it might not be a turn for the better.

With this hooha over the death of Zarqawi, I didn't even wonder. It won't make a difference.

Here's a couple of reasons why:

1. The military admits they inflated Zarqawi's role in the insurgency for propaganda purposes in both Iraq and the US.

From the Washington Post:

For the past two years, U.S. military leaders have been using Iraqi media and other outlets in Baghdad to publicize Zarqawi's role in the insurgency. The documents explicitly list the "U.S. Home Audience" as one of the targets of a broader propaganda campaign.

Some senior intelligence officers believe Zarqawi's role may have been overemphasized by the propaganda campaign, which has included leaflets, radio and television broadcasts, Internet postings and at least one leak to an American journalist. Although Zarqawi and other foreign insurgents in Iraq have conducted deadly bombing attacks, they remain "a very small part of the actual numbers," Col. Derek Harvey, who served as a military intelligence officer in Iraq and then was one of the top officers handling Iraq intelligence issues on the staff of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told an Army meeting at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., last summer.

2. Israeli and Saudi studies of foreign fighters show most aren't al Qaeda or pirmarily religiously motivated.

From the Boston Globe:

Other fighters, who are coming to Iraq from across the Middle East and North Africa, are older, in their late 20s or 30s, and have families, according to the two investigations. ''The vast majority of them had nothing to do with Al Qaeda before Sept. 11th and have nothing to do with Al Qaeda today," said Reuven Paz, author of the Israeli study. ''I am not sure the American public is really aware of the enormous influence of the war in Iraq, not just on Islamists but the entire Arab world."

3. Top GOP strategist Grover Norquist said back in January this was part of their plan to win the November 2006.

...And then for the coup de grace, says Norquist, his baby face breaking into a wide grin: "We'll bring in al-Zarqawi and Osama Bin Ladin."

That Osama trick would only work if they did it a few days before the election--maybe even the day OF the election, so people stay home to watch the news instead of go out to vote.


UPDATE: The day after I wrote the entry above, Zogby released a poll saying catching Osama wouldn't help Bush at all:

Asked how much credit would be due President Bush if bin Laden were caught,

52% said they would give him no credit because he turned his attention instead to Iraq after the war in Afghanistan.

28% would give him all the credit, while

17% said he would deserve some of the credit.

The President’s job approval rating in fighting against terrorism would be at 42% if bin Laden were found, the poll shows, which is about where he is right now – with bin Laden still on the loose.
I would not have guessed this. I would expect Bush and Republicans generally to get some kind of bump in the polls if Osama was caught or killed, and the only question would be how big a bump and how long lasting. My guess would be lower and shorter than most people think, but I base that on the capture or killing of other boogey men like Saddam, his sons, and earlier domestic horrors like Tim McVeigh or the Unabomber.

Once the boogeyman is neutered, he instantly shrinks from larger than life threat to curiosity at best. If we had captured Hitler alive and kept him in a cage so people could throw peanuts at him, it's doubtful the Nazis would still have the place in the public imagination as the ultimate villains in history.

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