"By God, this is suffocation!"
That's the quotation of the week -- if not the new year. This exclamation, first reported in The New York Times, expresses the raw frustration of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian-born terror-master believed to be operating in Iraq and long thought to have been a Saddam Hussein-harbored link to Al Qaeda. His frustration is the result of American success in Iraq.
In a document intercepted last month by U.S. officials, the man believed to be Zarqawi bemoans U.S. resolve -- America "has no intention of leaving, no matter how many wounded nor how bloody it becomes" -- and U.S. progress in building an Iraqi security force. "The problem is," he writes, "you end up having an army and police connected by lineage, blood and appearance. When the Americans withdraw ... they get replaced by these agents who are intimately linked to the people of this region." His conclusion? "The Americans will continue to control from their bases, but the sons of the land will be the authority. This is the democracy. We will have no pretexts."
No "pretexts" for violence and anarchy, that is. Which, to the average terrorist with a totalitarian dream, is a cataclysm. Zarqawi goes on to ask Al Qaeda leaders for immediate aid in fomenting war between Iraq's Shiites and Sunnis -- which probably bodes a terrible intensification of terror-bombings in Iraq -- before Americans transfer sovereignty to Iraqis in June. As the Times reports, "With some exasperation, the author writes: 'We can pack and leave and look for another land, just like what happened in so many lands of jihad. Our enemy is growing stronger day after day, and its intelligence increases.'"
The dramatic story broke this week, but the only "news" around seemed to concern the Vietnam War -- specifically, the details about the president's National Guard service, and, as Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe likes to say, "the medals on John Kerry's chest." From White House briefing transcripts, for example, I counted only one question about the Al Qaeda memo and well over 100 questions and interjections about the president's Guard record. Why the focus on Vietnam?