Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 30, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

WHY BUSH LET ZARQAWI GET AWAY....What's the real reason that the Bush administration failed to go after Abu Musab al-Zarqawi back in 2002 when it had the chance? We may never know for sure, but Daniel Benjamin, author of The Age of Sacred Terror, suggests that it's yet another example of the Bush circle's outmoded and dangerously blinkered fixation on state-sponsored terrorism:

What seems evident is that the administration viewed Zarqawi as a lower-tier concern, despite his well-known history of running an Afghan terrorist training camp and conducting terrorist operations in Europe. The White House was unwilling to divert any effort from the buildup for war in Iraq to this kind of threat.

The idea that states are the real issue and terrorists and their organizations are of secondary concern has been present throughout the Bush presidency....After 9/11, senior officials such as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, simply refused to believe the assessment of the intelligence community that Iraq had no hand in the attack and that al-Qaida operated independently of state support. In the Pentagon's conduct of operations in Afghanistan, the overwhelming focus was on unseating the Taliban, the effective state power, while less attention was paid to pursuing al-Qaida, which had just killed nearly 3,000 people on American soil.

....Similarly, the relentless focus on Saddam Hussein has led to the removal from Afghanistan of key intelligence and special operations assets, including much of the elite commando unit Task Force 5. This, like the case of the pulled punch against Zarqawi, suggests that the Bush team continued to believe that states were the key threats in the post-9/11 world; terrorist groups could easily be swept up after the rogue nations had been dispatched.

9/11 woke everyone up, but that's not enough. It's hard to see how we're going to make serious progress in the war on terror until we have an administration that understands not just that the world has changed, but how it's changed. The Bush team seems peculiarly unable to get its arms around that.

Kevin Drum 7:01 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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