Peter Wehner

By now you have probably seen or read President Bush's Rose Garden statement on the death of Abu Musab al Zarqawi.

I would only add these points to what the President said.

What happened in Iraq yesterday was not only a severe blow to al Qaeda and Islamic fascism, it was also an important moral moment. A man of almost incomprehensible cruelty and savagery has met his end; his days of orchestrating murders, beheadings, car bombings, and assassinations are over.

Abu Musab al Zarqawi has been called the world's most dangerous terrorist. Jordanian born, Zarqawi's early life was characterized by violence and brutality. He first became an outlaw -- and later, he became a militant. In the early 1990s, he joined a militant Islamic group, Bayaat al Imam ("Loyalty to the Imam"). He made his way to Afghanistan in 2000, where he opened a weapons camp connected to al Qaeda. He fought alongside the Taliban and al Qaeda against the U.S. in the aftermath of September 11th. And when the focus shifted to Iraq that is where Abu Musab al Zarqawi went. As President Bush pointed out this morning, Zarqawi has taken the lives of many American forces and thousands of innocent Iraqis, including more than 100 in a car bombing outside the Shiite shrine in Najaf. Osama bin Laden called this Jordanian terrorist "the prince of al Qaeda in Iraq." Zarqawi personally beheaded American hostages and other civilians in Iraq. He masterminded the destruction of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad. He was responsible for the assassination of an American diplomat in Jordan, the bombing of hotels in Amman, and more.

The death of Zarqawi also reminds us of the nature of our enemy. In reviewing his life and record, we see the unmitigated evil of al Qaeda. They have declared, time after time, their intentions -- written in white-hot hatred. Abu Musab al Zarqawi once declared, "Anyone who stands in the way of our struggle is our enemy and target of the swords." He said, "We will either achieve victory over the human race or we will pass to the eternal life." Zarqawi declared war on democracy itself; in his words, "We have declared a bitter war against the principle of democracy and all those who seek to enact it." And he called Americans "the most cowardly of God's creatures."

Abu Musab al Zarqawi and al Qaeda have shown, in their words and deeds, that they want to kill Americans and destroy any chance of secularism and pluralism in the Muslim world. They embrace a culture of death -- and they want to make us a part of it.

Those are the stakes of this struggle.

Peter Wehner

Peter Wehner, former deputy director to the President, is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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