Radical Left Calling Zarqawi Death Political Stunt

Michael Berg, whose son Nicholas was the first man beheaded on video by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, said today that Zarqawi’s death is a tragedy and President Bush is a bigger terrorist.

The father of Nicholas Berg, a U.S. contractor believed to have been beheaded by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq, said Thursday that al-Zarqawi’s killing will only perpetuate the cycle of violence in the Middle East. “I think al-Zarqawi’s death is a double tragedy,” Michael Berg told The Associated Press after learning a U.S. airstrike had killed the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq. “His death will incite a new wave of revenge. George Bush and al-Zarqawi are two men who believe in revenge.”

Al-Zarqawi is believed to have beheaded two American civilians in 2004: Nicholas Berg, a 26-year-old businessman from West Chester, Pa., and Eugene Armstrong, a 52-year-old contractor from Hillsdale, Mich. Jack Hensley, a 48-year-old engineer from Marietta, Ga., was abducted at the same time as Armstrong and also killed.

Armstrong’s family did not want to discuss al-Zarqawi. “An evil man is dead, and what more can you say?” said family spokeswoman Cyndi Armstrong, the wife of the slain contractor’s cousin.

Michael Berg, a pacifist who is running for Delaware’s lone House seat on the Green Party ticket, said al-Zarqawi’s death is likely to foster anti-American resentment among al-Qaida members who feel they have nothing left to lose.

Berg said the blame for most deaths in Iraq should be placed on President Bush, who he said is “more of a terrorist than Zarqawi.” “Zarqawi felt my son’s breath on his hand as held the knife against his throat. Zarqawi had to look in his eyes when he did it,” Berg added, pausing to collect himself. “George Bush sits there glassy-eyed in his office with pieces of paper and condemns people to death. That to me is a real terrorist.”

The man’s certifiable, I’m afraid. To say that President Bush is more responsible for the murders committed by terrorists in Iraq than the terrorists themselves requires a moral perspective I never encountered in my college philosophy and political theory courses.

Sadly, he was joined by the usual suspects on the Loony Left.

Some Democrats, breaking ranks from their leadership, today said the death of terrorist leader Abu Musab Zarqawi in Iraq was a stunt to divert attention from an unpopular and hopeless war.

“This is just to cover Bush’s [rear] so he doesn’t have to answer” for Iraqi civilians being killed by the U.S. military and his own sagging poll numbers, said Rep. Pete Stark, California Democrat. “Iraq is still a mess — get out.”

Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, Ohio Democrat, said Zarqawi was a small part of “a growing anti-American insurgency” and that it’s time to get out. “We’re there for all the wrong reasons,” Mr. Kucinich said.

Christopher Hitchens is also having none of it.

Zarqawi contributed enormously to the wrecking of Iraq’s experiment in democratic federalism. He was able to help ensure that the Iraqi people did not have one single day of respite between 35 years of war and fascism, and the last three-and-a-half years of misery and sabotage. He chose his targets with an almost diabolical cunning, destroying the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad (and murdering the heroic envoy Sérgio Vieira de Melo) almost before it could begin operations, and killing the leading Shiite Ayatollah Hakim outside his place of worship in Najaf. His decision to declare a jihad against the Shiite population in general, in a document of which Weaver (on no evidence) doubts the authenticity, has been the key innovation of the insurgency: applying lethal pressure to the most vulnerable aspect of Iraqi society. And it has had the intended effect, by undermining Grand Ayatollah Sistani and helping empower Iranian-backed Shiite death squads.

He dismisses Berg’s conclusion even though granting his implied premise:

The man’s power was created only by the coalition’s intervention, and his connection to al Qaida was principally opportunistic. On this logic, the original mistake of the United States would have been to invade Afghanistan, thereby forcing Zarqawi to flee his camp outside Herat and repositioning him for a new combat elsewhere. Thus, fighting against al-Qaida is a mistake to begin with: It only encourages them.


If we had withdrawn from Iraq already, as the “peace” movement has been demanding, then one of the most revolting criminals of all time would have been able to claim that he forced us to do it. That would have catapulted Iraq into Stone Age collapse and instated a psychopathic killer as the greatest Muslim soldier since Saladin. As it is, the man is ignominiously dead and his dirty connections a lot closer to being fully exposed. This seems like a good day’s work to me.

Exactly right. It just goes to show, as the old recruiting commercials told us, they do more before 9 a.m. than most folks do all day.

Thankfully, Berg, Stark, Kucinich, et. al. are a fringe element.

Officially, Democratic leaders reacted positively to the news and praised the troops that successfully targeted al Qaeda’s leader in Iraq with 500-pound bombs at his safe house 30 miles from Baghdad. “This is a good day for the Iraqi people, the U.S. military and our intelligence community,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

Still, it is an election year:

Meanwhile, Democrats sprinkled caveats throughout their praise. “That is good news; he was a dreadful, vicious person,” said Sen. Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat. Mr. Conrad added that he hopes the military can get Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri, another top al Qaeda leader. “They’re even more important,” he said.

Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, Michigan Democrat, said it was good news but added, “I think we have a long way to go.”

Maybe tomorrow.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jon Henke says:

    It’s perfectly fair to lambast Berg for what he’s said, but be careful about throwing the Democrats in there with him. If you read that WaTimes article about Democrats calling it a stunt, you’ll notice they didn’t quote any Democrats actually calling it a stunt.

    Their Pete Stark quote was extremely partial and lacking any context. Maybe, in context, he said Zarqawi was killed just to cover Bush’s [rear], but they don’t deign to give us any of that context.

    Equally badly, other than Stark, there’s nothing particularly objectionable or unreasonable about what the rest of the quoted Democrats said in this article about how Democrats are calling it a “stunt”. Yes, it probably is more important to get other al Qaeda leaders like bin Laden, and yes, we do still have a long way to go. The whole WaTimes article was a smear.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Jon: Fair enough. You’ll note that I attributed the views to the ‘Radical Left’ not, as WaTimes, the Dems. Indeed, I was pretty clear the rest was election/partisan quibbling.

    There are quite a few in the Lefty Blogosphere saying this kind of crap, though. But I agree its the fringe, not even just the hard core Dems.

  3. Bithead says:

    “This is just to cover Bush’s [rear] so he doesn’t have to answer” for Iraqi civilians being killed by the U.S. military and his own sagging poll numbers, said Rep. Pete Stark, California Democrat. “Iraq is still a mess — get out.”

    Saying that Sta5rk is calling it a stunt appears a pretty fair assesment of his intent.

    And let’s not forget the Kossaks:

    “Zarqawi was quite probably a psy ops job in the first place, so what does that make his “death”? …Keep your eyes on the prize….Haditha.”

    “Just in time to hide the fact they’re trying to cut the estate tax for the uber wealthy”

    “Yes the timing of Zarqawi’s death does seem too good for Bush to be true. It reeks of distraction politics. ”

    “The US already had Zarqawi in custody. He was one of the high-value prisoners kept from Red Cross scrutiny for national security reasons”

    I hope we’re not going to hear that these statements didn’t come from Democrats.

    Or did someone mean to say “Elected Democrats’?

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    Does Scott Thill, writing at Huffington Post, count as “the Radical Left”?

  5. ken says:

    Without a doubt Bush is a criminal for starting a war on Iraq without just cause. But that does not excuse Zarquri for his killing of Berg and others. Depending on perspective either man can be called a terrorist but it is an interesting question as to who is the bigger terrorist. A question, whose answer, we will never really have.

  6. Christopher says:

    I have to agree here.


    You use the description “radical left” and “looney left” way too much. People who call themselves “democrats” ie members of the d party are the ones who are saying this stuff, or at least not coming out against it. They snicker and nod their heads and air America keeps broadcasting and the NY Times keeps getting read.

    Its not the “radical left” and “looney left”. Its registered democrats!

  7. Tano says:

    Sorry James, gotta call BS on you.

    You try to backtrack by claiming only to be speaking of the loony left, but then you immediatly follow with a quote from the Moonie Times about Democrats. A grossly ripped-from-context distortion.

    Later you give us this “its an election year” BS. Followed by quotes from Democrats – their “sprinkled caveats” that are precisely the same caveats that Bush himself uses, as would any reasonable observer.

    Here is a hint for ya. Trying to hitchhike on the mojo arising from a Moonie Times piece is always a bad idea.

  8. Tano says:

    Oh, and Kucinich is giving evidence of being part of a “fringe element”?

    “Zarqawi was a small part of â??a growing anti-American insurgencyâ?? ”

    5% of the insurgency is the number we all hear most often, and a diminishing role at that as the alQ higherups were trying to bring in Iraqi leadership.

    “and that itâ??s time to get out. â??Weâ??re there for all the wrong reasons,â?? Mr. Kucinich said.”

    The latter sentiment agreed to by about 59% of the American people, by last count.

  9. Brian says:

    Bithead and Christopher-You are making a classic logic mistake. Just because some “registered Democrats” make stupid statements does not mean that most registered Democrats agree with them. Substitute racist for stupid and Republican for Democrat and I think you will see the faulty logic. Both sides have their nutjobs, but the vast majority of people are reasonable. It just so happens that the nutjobs speak the loudest.

  10. McGehee says:

    Oh, and Kucinich is giving evidence of being part of a �fringe element�?

    Tano, where were you when Demented Dennis was running for president in 2004?

  11. Christopher says:


    The “normal” democrats you are trying to differentiate never disavow the so-called radical or looney left! NEVER! As I said they sit back and snicker and nod their heads and keep their mouths shut not caring about decency, only in defeating Bush and the R’s.

    Have you ever listened to Air America? C’mon they are all WACKO! (esp. the 2 gals-the actress Jeanine G. and the Florida gal Randi Rodes) Yet they survive and thrive because of a large mass audience: democrats, not just the fringe movement. (seriously-the things they say! The same nonsense as people who believe in little green men).

  12. Tano says:

    Oh get real Christopher. Have you ever listened to Rush, to Savage, or countless others? What are their audiences compared to AirAmerica? Have you ever read a Regnery tome? Gimme a break with this nonsense.

    The only difference between the loonies spawned by the left and the loonies spawned by the right is that the right supports and encourages their loonies, with millions of dollars and rampant adulation. Seems like everyone on the right listens to trash radio, and buys those horrid screed books. We on the left ignore that stuff and watch pbs or cspan or listen to npr.

  13. Bithead says:

    Bithead and Christopher-You are making a classic logic mistake. Just because some �registered Democrats� make stupid statements does not mean that most registered Democrats agree with them

    I await with interest your listing of examples of Democrats objecting to, and calling out, those supposedly radical Democrats for making these kind of statements. The bottom line is, you can’t, because there are none.

    If they really don’t agree with such radicals, you would think that at least one …one would have the courage to speak out against the sludge coming from their own. But there are none.

    In the absence of any such objection I must contend that the rank and file Democrats agree with these supposed radicals. And, that you are trying to draw a line that simply doesn’t exist.

  14. ICallMasICM says:

    ‘Thankfully, Berg, Stark, Kucinich, et. al. are a fringe element.’

    Berg is – the other two are elected officials including a presidential candidate. They’re just saying what the rest are thinking.

  15. Pug says:

    Tano, where were you when Demented Dennis was running for president in 2004?

    He was probably standing in line to vote for Alan Keyes in the Republican primary, no?

  16. Pug says:

    Oh wait, that was 2000.

  17. Bithead says:

    No, more’s the pity; It WAS 2004 he was voting for Keyes………


  18. erg says:

    And refresh my memory, how many votes did Kucinich get from Dems now ? Far less than the Repub votes Pat Buchanan, who decried the “brutal cut-off of aid to Hamas” !! recently ?