Zarqawi's Murderous Reminder

If America was beginning to forget who our true enemy is in the War on Terror, the enemy has now reminded us.

On Tuesday, this enemy made a gruesome posting on the Internet: It was a graphic videotape purporting to show al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist ringleader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, or one of his lieutenants, beheading a young American civilian who had gone to Iraq to repair communications antennas.

The murdered American, Nick Berg, had been missing since April 9. His body, the Associated Press reported, was found in Baghdad on Saturday. By Monday, the State Department had informed his family of his death.

Then on Tuesday, Zarqawi posted his cruel videotape of the cold-blooded murder. It bore the title: “Abu Musab al-Zarqawi shown slaughtering an American.” On the tape, a hooded killer, flanked by hooded accomplices, tries to portray this abominable crime as an act of revenge for the recently revealed incidents of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison. “So we tell you that the dignity of the Muslim men and women in Abu Ghraib and others is not redeemed except by blood and souls,” says the hooded killer.

This is a lie. The murder of Nick Berg was not an ad hoc act of revenge for Abu Ghraib, it was part of the ongoing terror war that al Qaeda has been waging against America for years, and that Zarqawi personally has been plotting from inside Iraq since before the U.S. invasion.

These are the two all-important points about Zarqawi and his al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group that must not be ignored in the ongoing debate about U.S. policy in Iraq: 1) These killers were part of a terrorist network waging war against the United States long before the United States invaded Iraq, and 2) they were operating in Iraq, at the invitation of Saddam Hussein’s regime, before the U.S. invasion.

As I reported in this space last week, information emerging from a foiled terrorist plot in Jordan last month has tended to confirm the assertions made by Secretary of State Colin Powell in his Feb. 5, 2003, presentation to the U.N. Security Council that Zarqawi and his terror network migrated to Iraq, eventually setting up operations in Baghdad, after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan chased them out of that country. (State Department spokesman Adam Ereli confirmed to me last week that the department still stands behind everything Powell said about Zarqawi in his 2003 U.N. presentation.)

As Powell said then, Saddam’s regime rebuffed overtures from the United States to surrender this Osama bin Laden associate. “We asked a friendly security service to approach Baghdad about extraditing Zarqawi and providing information about him and his close associates,” said Powell. “This service contacted Iraqi officials twice, and we passed details that should have made it easy to find Zarqawi. The network remains in Baghdad. Zarqawi still remains at large, to come and go.”

In a videotaped confession broadcast on Jordanian TV last month, Zarqawi lieutenant Azmi al-Jayyusi said he first joined Zarqawi’s group and trained with it in Afghanistan before the United States ousted the Taliban. “After the fall of Afghanistan,” said Jayyusi, “I met al-Zarqawi once again in Iraq.”

Here they began to hatch a plot that — if not foiled — would have resulted in the bombing of the Jordanian intelligence headquarters and prime ministry, and the U.S. embassy in Amman.

Obviously, Zarqawi would have attempted this act of mass-murder — targeting a U.S. diplomatic facility — even if the only-later-reported abuses at Abu Ghraib had never occurred. It is also reasonable to assume he would have gone ahead with this attempted mass murder had the United States never invaded Iraq.

Reasonable people can debate the wisest tactics for pursuing committed killers such as Zarqawi and his terror network, but it is these terrorists themselves who have forced us to grapple with an inescapable strategic reality: Until we destroy them, they will seek to destroy us.