Troops applaud al-Zarqawi’s death, but question its impact
June 11, 2006
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — While there were largely shared feelings of satisfaction Friday about the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, many in the Pacific doubted the impact that killing the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq would have on the country and combating terrorism.
“This makes a great news story, but what we’ve been doing previously is more important, which is taking out middle management. He’s the big picture, but it’s the guys below him that are really setting the bombs and doing damage,” Marine Capt. Peter Colby, who recently spent six months in Iraq doing antiterrorism and force protection work, said from Camp Foster. “But, hey, I love the fact that we got him.”
Al-Zarqawi was killed by an American airstrike Wednesday after U.S. forces got a tip from inside his terrorist network that led to the location of the safe house where he was staying near Baqouba. The strike was led in part by the commander of the Combined Forces Air Component, Lt. Gen. Gary North, who commanded the 18th Wing on Kadena Air Base from 2000 to 2002 and held previous commands at Kunsan Air Base in South Korea and Misawa Air Base in northern Japan.
Colby and others said killing such a widely known terrorist figurehead would be a morale booster for the troops.
However, Capt. Christopher Shamblin at Misawa Air Base cautioned against spending too much time celebrating the death of a highly prized target like al-Zarqawi.
“It’s just the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of things to do. We can’t lose focus.”
On Yongsan Garrison in South Korea, Army Staff Sgt. Keivin Clayton was enthusiastic in his response to the news.
“It’s a great day for the world,” said the 1st Signal Brigade soldier. “Terrorists have been threatening world peace and … he just got his due.”
Clayton spent 14 months in Iraq and was with the 4th Infantry Division in Tikrit when Saddam Hussein and other senior leaders were captured or killed. He said taking out al-Zarqawi will help operations in the theater.
“Honestly, I think it’ll be a big difference,” he said. When you take out senior leaders, he said, those who replace them “are like rookies … blowing themselves up with their own IEDs.”
Sgt. 1st Class Desiree Evans said she caught a glimpse of the news while watching television, but she doesn’t share the same outlook as Clayton.
“I hate to say it, but I don’t think it’s the end of it,” she said of al-Zarqawi’s death and what it will mean in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Too many people were influenced by his way of thinking.”
Senior Airman Roger Lockhart of Yokota’s 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron said taking the terrorist leader alive would have been an even better result.
“I wish they could’ve caught him and shown his face,” said Lockhart, who’s scheduled to deploy to Iraq this summer. “Killing him might make him a martyr. … Arresting him could make him an image to the rest of the world. … shame him in front of his peers.
“It’s good we got him, bad we killed him.”
Christopher Dickinson, an English teacher at Kubasaki High School on Kadena, said he thinks the terrorist leader’s death is a good thing.
“Al-Zarqawi was an evil man; truly a vicious man responsible for the death of many people — even his own people — for purely political reasons.
“And I’m not saying this without putting some thought into it,” Dickinson added. “I was a conscientious objector during Vietnam, but sometimes someone like this man, who was an example of the true evil this brand of terrorism has fostered, needs to be taken out. As sad as it is to kill anyone, killing him was the right thing to do.”
T.D. Flack, David Allen, Jennifer Svan and Vince Little contributed to this report.