William F. Buckley
The story of the last hours, the last days of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi taunts the imagination at different levels. There is -- not to be forgotten -- the purely human story. Zarqawi was perhaps the most conspicuous killer-sadist since Reinhard Heydrich. When that Nazi overseer was assassinated, the Germans undertook in reprisal to give the world something of a Disney-sized genocidal exhibit, setting out to kill every last one of the inhabitants of the little town, Lidice, where the assassin had lived. Zarqawi was much taken with the long reach of brilliantly exhibited terrorism. He himself effected the beheading of two captives, done carefully for the cameras, intending maximum exposure.

He was attracted to terrorism, selecting as one target the giving of candy bars by American troops to Iraqi children. From such occasions his suicide bombers managed 42 dead, 35 of them children. But Zarqawi did not want to end his life on the firing line. In stressing the need for security in his area of operations, he called to the attention of an aide the relative ease with which bin Laden could effect his own security, shielded by mountains and crevasses and caves, very different from the little clusters of palm trees that sheltered Zarqawi, but finally gave him up to the mosaic of intelligence sources used by our military.

Curiosity attaches also to the mission of Zarqawi. He was not schooled in his faith, but he drank deeply of such knowledge as he had, and it overpowered all other perspectives. He developed skills of the kind that play on the mythogenic imagination. He seemed to enjoy his practiced deceptions, traveling about often as a woman, more than once all but evaporating from an encirclement in which he was thought finally vulnerable. Generations of westerners were brought up on the legendary skills of Robin Hood in outwitting his would-be captors. As much will surely be done for Zarqawi.

My own curiosity was most aroused by the events of the last day. The bare outline is pretty clear. The sources we disposed of -- HUMINT (human intelligence), high-tech reconnaissance and electronic intercepts -- absolutely told us that he, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was in the small house whose coordinates we knew.

William F. Buckley

William F. Buckley, Jr. is editor-at-large of National Review, the prolific author of Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography.

Be the first to read William Buckley's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com delivered each morning to your inbox.