Sunday, June 11, 2006


"Zed's dead, baby. Zed's dead." -- Butch Coolidge, 1994

"Soon. It'll be soon. Al-Qaeda's credibility runs out like the sands in an hourglass. Their political capital's spent, their monetary captial, likewise. Their top leaders are on the run, and have to be lucky every day for the rest of their lives. We only have to be lucky once." -- Me, 2005

As it turns out, that's more or less correct: Al-Zarqawi was lucky every day, except for that last bit at the end, when the USAF left a brace of 500-pound greeting cards on his doorstep.

I'll skip the gloating, for the most part. There's a sense in which this changes nothing of substance. While he was a prime instigator, and while there's no obvious successor, the pot of crud that he stirred up is still swirling. Be that as it may, though, there's also a sense in which everything has changed.

Point the first: He was dimed out by someone within his own organization.

This opens up one of two possibilities. One, that someone under him had the thought that he was doing the cause more harm than good, and would be more useful than a dead martyr than as a live (and somewhat less than competent) leader. Or two, that someone under him coveted the top job and decided to let Uncle Sam's Speedy Delivery do the heavy lifting. In either case, serious schisms are evident within the enemy ranks. This is something that alert intel or spec-ops guys could exploit.

Point the second: The first ground troops on the scene were Iraqi.

This is important for a couple of reasons. First, they had enough on the ball to be the first to the party. Second, the overall commanders had enough confidence in them that they wouldn't muff the job. Both speak to the increasing maturity and effectiveness of native Iraqi forces. They've come a long way in the last couple of years.

Point the third: The strike yielded absolute fistfuls of intelligence data.

Whatever Z-Man had with him, we've got. Whatever he was using for contact info, we've got. Did he keep a Rolodex, Dayrunner, little black book? Guys in green suits are reading those even as we speak. Did he keep any kind of financial records with him? They're being analyzed, and the data is being fitted into existing patterns. Were I the new Number One in AQI, I'd be feeling a bit insecure right about now.

Point the fourth (and last): Now, it's all up to the Iraqis.

Now that the new government has been seated, sworn in, and gotten down to business, the ball's in their court. We can't win this. Which isn't the same as saying it can't be won, mind you; but, as of this point, we must transition to a supporting role. The end of this story can't be written in English by an American hand, it must be written in Arabic by an Iraqi. It is still too early to tell if the ending will be happy or tragic. There's still a host of opportunities for failure. But most of the decisions are out of our hands, now. The only decision left us is how much and how far we are willing to support the new government.

But, for better or worse, there's one insurgent who won't see the final outcome. Good riddance!

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