Friday, June 09, 2006

Excerpt: OpinionJournal - Best of the Web Today - June 8, 2006

Best of the Web Today - June 8, 2006


    An AMAZing Coincidence
    "Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Al Qaeda in Iraq leader who led a brutal insurgency that included [suicide] bombings, kidnappings and beheadings, was killed in an airstrike on a building north of Baghdad, U.S. and Iraqi officials announced Thursday," reports Fox News:

    Officials said the terror leader's identity was confirmed by fingerprints, facial recognition and known scars. . . .

    Loud applause broke out at a press conference in Baghdad as Al-Maliki, flanked by U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and U.S. Gen. George Casey, the top commander in Iraq, announced that "Zarqawi was terminated." . . .

    In a statement posted on the Web, Al Qaeda in Iraq confirmed the death of Zarqawi and vowed to continue its "holy war."

    "We want to give you the joyous news of the martyrdom of the mujahed sheik Abu Musab al-Zarqawi," said the statement, signed by "Abu Abdel-Rahman al-Iraqi," identified as the deputy "emir" or leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

    Well, we hate to be a wet blanket, but something about this story doesn't smell right. After all, Iraq has nothing to do with al Qaeda, which in turn has nothing to do with Iraq--and if you don't believe us, ask these experts:

    • "The Iraqis have nothing to do with terrorism, Iraq has no contacts with al-Qaeda or others who were behind the events on 11 September."--Iraqi "legislator" Mohammad Muthafar al-Adhami, quoted by the BBC, Sept. 10, 2002

    • "It doesn't have anything to do with the war on terrorism. Not only that, I fear it will be a distraction from the war on terror. If you look at al Qaeda, al Qaeda is building up right now in Pakistan. So in fact, if we wanted to have an invasion that was a follow-up to the war on terror, we would invade Pakistan."--Cynthia Tucker, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Feb. 6, 2003

    • "War against Iraq may prove to be a fatal distraction from the war on terror. The danger to Americans today is from al Qaeda. . . . We need to keep the pressure on al Qaeda. . . . We need to focus the resources of our nation on the war on terror and dismantle the al Qaeda network before it can mount another catastrophic attack on the United States."--Sen. Robert Byrd (D., W.Va.), March 11, 2003

    • "What I said was, you know, invading Iraq or bombing Iraq after we're attacked by somebody else, it's akin to, what if Franklin Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor instead of going to war with Japan said, 'Let's invade Mexico.' It's very analogous."--Clinton terrorism adviser Richard Clarke, March 21, 2004

    • "We also have to be smart, Jim. And smart means not diverting your attention from the real war on terror in Afghanistan against Osama bin Laden and taking if off to Iraq. . . . Iraq is not even the center of the focus of the war on terror."--Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.)*, Sept. 30, 2004

    • "[Iraq] had nothing to do with Osama bin Laden, it had nothing to do with al Qaeda."--Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D., W.Va.), June 28, 2005

    • "But I am talking about the war with Iraq, not the war on terror."--Matt Lauer, NBC News, June 6, 2006

    When this many experts agree on something, you know it has to be true. So what in the world was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi doing in Iraq? We don't know, but we're sure it was just a coincidence. Maybe he was on vacation. Maybe he got lost and, being a man, he refused to stop and ask for directions. Maybe he wasn't alive to begin with.

    "By my reckoning he's been dead for years," writes "Last Lemming," a denizen. Colin Powell noted more than three years ago that Zarqawi "traveled to Baghdad in May 2002"--more than 10 months before Saddam's fall--"for medical treatment." After the disastrous incompetent illegal unilateral invasion, Iraq's hospitals were looted, which must have made it hard to provide him with proper treatment.

    "If there are any Americans left who believe that the death of Zarqawi is anything other than an orchestrated photo-op, then it's time to start scouting out apartments in Vancouver," one Scott Thill writes on the Puffington Host today. "I hear no one cares about the weed there." Don't let the door hit you on the way out, dude.

    * At least he served in Vietnam, unlike Abu Musab al-Zarqawi!

    The Man Who Would Have Saved Zarqawi
    From a Nov. 17 press release by Rep. Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania:

    I said over a year ago, and now the military and the Administration agrees, Iraq can not be won "militarily." . . . I have concluded that the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is impeding this progress.

    Our troops have become the primary target of the insurgency.

    My plan calls:

    -- To immediately redeploy U.S. troops consistent with the safety of U.S. forces. . . .

    It seems pretty clear that had Murtha had his way, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi would still be alive.

    Iraqis Whoop It Up, Palestinians Don't
    "Iraqi citizens took to the streets celebrating Abu Musaab Zarqawi's death on Thursday," reports the Kuwait News Agency:

    Joy filled Baghdad's hot streets, as gun shots sounded through the air, and cars packed with overjoyed Iraqi's roamed the streets. Iraqis were sharing sweets with people outside their homes.

    Civil organizations paraded as they condemned violence chanting "death to Zarqawi and Saddamites." Thursday's celebrations could be compared to the jubilation in Baghdad's streets the day Saddam Hussein was captured.

    Some Palestinians reacted similarly to the attacks of Sept. 11, but their reaction to today's was more subdued, reports the Jerusalem Post:

    Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's death was only a minor loss to the anti-US resistance movement in Iraq, the Palestinian foreign minister said Thursday.

    Mahmoud Zahar, a member of the new Hamas-led government who has been meeting Pakistani officials in the capital of Islamabad, said the Palestinians are "blessing every effort to eliminate the existence of occupation."

    "We are dead sure that assassination of any of the people (like al-Zarqawi) who are resisting will not . . . end the resistance," Zahar said at a press conference.

    Remember this the next time someone says America should have let the Iraqis rot under Saddam Hussein and concerned ourselves with the Palestinians instead.

    Hearts and Minds
    "More than half of the battle is taking place on the battlefield of the media," according to a letter purportedly written last year by al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri to the now-departed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. "We are in a media race for . . . hearts and minds." This race has outlived Zarqawi, to judge by some of the news coverage of his death.

    "The killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi removes the man who took Iraq's insurgency to new heights of savagery but it also creates a martyr whose inspiration will mobilize new recruits," according to a Reuters "report." An interesting trick, gazing into the future to report on what effect the events of today will have tomorrow. Reuters also describes Zarqawi's killing as "a rare triumph in Iraq for the Bush administration"--which is to say, a triumph so unambiguous that journalists can't present it as anything but.

    Not that they can't try. This is from an Associated Press "report":

    But any hopes the Jordanian-born terror leader's death would help stem the violence in Iraq were dimmed hours later when a car bomb exploded in a Baghdad market, killing 12 and wounding 65.

    And this is from the New York Times:

    The American ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, . . . described Mr. Zarqawi's death as "a great success for Iraq" in its war with terrorists, and congratulated General Casey, "whose forces carried out this very vital mission." In a personal nod to General Casey, he noted that the American commander "has been here now for more than 700 days"--an oblique way, perhaps, of saying that Mr. Zarqawi's death marked a rare upturn in the war for the force of 135,000 American troops General Casey leads, who have lost more than 2,400 soldiers dead and more than 17,000 wounded, with no end to the war in sight.

    Why just quote someone when you can explain that the quote is an "oblique way" of expressing the reporter's opinion?

    What Would Zarqawi Do Without Experts?
    "Experts: Zarqawi Death Tough Blow--but Not Fatal"--headline,, June 8

    Barone's Bilbray-Busby Barometer
    Last week we quoted Michael Barone on Republican prospects for November, so we thought we'd check in and see what he makes of Brian Bilbray's victory over Francine Busby in Tuesday's California House special election. On his blog, Barone opines that the results were bad news for Democrats, for essentially the reasons we outlined yesterday. But he adds that "to a lesser extent, this result is bad news for the Republicans," because Bilbray split the non-Democratic vote with two other candidates:

    The bad news for Republicans is that there is now more splintering on the right than on the left. Back in 2000, some 2 percent of voters nationally voted for Ralph Nader, even though there was no hot-button issue like Iraq to differentiate him from Al Gore. Less than 0.5 percent in contrast voted for Pat Buchanan. Conservatives were more unified than liberals.

    Now it seems to be the other way around. Discontent with Bush and/or the Republican Congress over immigration, spending, pork-barrel projects, the Dubai ports deal, the Republican leadership's protests over the search of Democrat Bill Jefferson's office--you can probably add a few items to the list--has now evidently got more voters on the right willing to cast a protest vote.

    That's troublesome when you consider that the overall Republican lead in 2004--it was 50 to 47 percent in the popular vote for the House--was so narrow. Republicans can't afford to lose a lot of votes.

    On the other hand, protest votes are a much bigger threat in a presidential race, when a single candidate can run a nationwide campaign and take enough votes from one of the major-party candidates to tilt the election to another one. There is a reasonable chance that this happened in four 20th-century elections: 1912, 1968, 1992 and 2000.

    In all these cases, though, either the incumbent president was running for re-election or the incumbent vice president was seeking the presidency; and the third-party protest candidacy attracted votes from members of the incumbent party who were dissatisfied with the administration. Since President Bush is ineligible for re-election and Vice President Cheney has said he won't seek the White House, both parties' nomination races are wide open, and our suspicion is that whatever splits currently exist will be worked out in the 2008 primary process.

    The New York Times, though, really seems to be having a hard time deciding who won the race. "Narrow Victory by G.O.P. Signals Fall Problems," reads the headline on a piece by Adam Nagourney. But another Nagourney piece in the Times' Paris edition, known as the International Herald Tribune, is headlined, "Republicans Prove They're Tough to Beat."

    'Win One for the Zipper'
    "Clinton's Visit to Put Zip in Dems' Fundraising Plans"--headline, Denver Post, June 7

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