'The evil that men do lives after them, / The good is oft interred with their bones,' wrote Shakespeare in Julius Caesar. For the media reporting on Iraq it has been a matter of headlining the efforts of maleficent terrorists and burying the news of progress and successes, or not reporting them at all.
The media practically choked on the fact of Zarqawi's death. It's hard to believe that he was killed only two weeks ago. But then the 24/7 news cycle tends to warp our time references and create its own 'fog of war' through neverending, mind—numbing chatter and analysis and discussion, extra shovelfuls of obfuscatory dirt heaped upon the facts of ongoing successes in Iraq.
In their unseemly haste to report the deaths of missing 101st Airborne Soldiers Kristian Menchaca and Thomas L. Tucker, the ghoulish media, sensing a major negative hit on President Bush, touted that tragedy. I was reminded of a line from one of the Lord Peter Whimsey novels when one of his friends, commenting on Whimsey's predilection for solving murders, told him 'I believe you batten on corpses.'
Now that the grisly details have been released, the media are doing just that. In his June 20 press briefing, Multi—National Force Iraq spokesman, Maj Gen. Bill Caldwell had some other,very important facts to relate.
Sheikh Mansur, the religious emir for Al Qaeda in Iraq, was killed near the place where the bodies of the two 101st Airborne Soldiers were found . Coalition forces had been following his vehicle and destroyed it.
As MG Caldwell noted, he was a (paraphrasing here) 'multi—purpose terrorist.' After tours of duty with Ansar al Islam and Ansar al Sunna, Sheikh Mansur joined al Qaeda in the fall of 2004. He was a recruiter and led several cells in Yusufiyah, where he was the liaison to its tribes. He was head of AQ's media operations and was responsible for shooting down a coalition aircraft this spring.
As Zarqawi's right—hand man, the sheikh was trying to rebuild and reconsolidate the Al Qaeda network in the aftermath of his boss's death. And now, he's dead. He had been tracked for some time and the unit following him, probably Task Force 145, wanted to take him alive. But when that proved impossible, they called in a a coalition aircraft and bombed his car. Killed with him in the car was terror cell leader Abu Kharif. Pretty good news and there's more where that came from.
Since Zarqawi's death:
—7 terrorists were killed, three wounded and two detained near Baqouba.
—An assassination cell leader was captured in Kirkuk.
—June 15: Operation Forward Together began.
—Sheikh Aqeel, head of terror network, financier and supplier of IEDs, was captured in Karbala.
—Iraqi army & coalition forces detained suspected criminals working with terrorist IED cell in southern Babil. Weapons cache discovered.
—During simultaneous raids north of Baqouba, coalition forces killed 15 terrorists and detained 3 others. One of the terrorists killed by a coalition sniper.
—Coalition forces detained a senior Al Qaeda in Iraq network member (name withheld) and 30 other suspected terrorists in coordinated raids southwest of Baqouba.
—Since launching operations to find the missing 101st Airborne Soldiers, Coalition and Iraqi forces have killed 18 terrorists, detained 163 and discovered 12 weapons caches.
—Of the 66 tips received from citizens, 18 were found to be actionable and further raids followed. There have been 14 raids and some sniper operations.
—MG Caldwell added to the list of 'key kills' from 4—18 June: Abu Yazid (foreign fighter facilitator), Abu Thawban (foreign fighter facilitator), Abu Abdullah (foreign fighter facilitator for Sheikh Mansur).
—Captured during this same period: An Al Qaeda in Iraq cell leader in Baghdad, a senior foreign fighter facilitator in Fallujah, a Ramadi—based Al Qaeda in Iraq leader in Yusufiyah, a Taji—based AQ in Iraq cell leader.
These are just brief summaries of the buried successes, not all of which are listed here. Tremendous intelligence work, planning and coordination, team work, skill and leadership have gone into each and every one of them as coalition and Iraqi forces continue to disrupt and diminish Al Qaeda in Iraq and its associates in the aftermath of Zarqawi's death.
John B. Dwyer is a military historian and a regular contributor.