Pre-blog I wrote about this in emails, most recently when the NBC story broke.
Now Kevin Drum at Washington Monthy has this:
The Wall Street Journal has un update today on the infamous NBC story about the Bush administration's unwillingness to take out Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's camp in Iraq in 2002. The NBC story claimed that the Pentagon had come up with three separate plans to take out Zarqawi's camp but was turned down for political reasons.
I haven't seen the Journal story, but Tapped has a summary and reports that they apparently confirmed the original NBC account: the Pentagon drew up several detailed options, they wanted to go after the camp, they thought an attack would succeed, but the administration turned them down.
Why? According to the Journal, the official excuse is that they couldn't be sure Zarqawi was in the camp, but no less a source than Tommy Franks — a George Bush supporter, remember — says that's not true. And even if it were, why not take out the camp anyway?
So far, the only answer left is the one from the original NBC report: Bush was afraid that eliminating a terrorist camp in Iraq would weaken his case for war. PR was more important than destroying a camp known to be a source of chemical weapons and global terrorist training.
This is far worse than the "weakness" that hawks like to ascribe to Bill Clinton. They're fond of mocking Clinton's pre-9/11 penchant for "lobbing a few cruise missiles at some tents," but it appears Bush wasn't even willing to go that far. And the end result is that the one guy in Iraq who really was trying to produce WMD for use in global terrorism got away. And the last I looked, Zarqawi's death toll since 2002 was up to nearly a thousand.
Shouldn't someone ask Condi Rice and Donald Rumsfeld and George Bush a few pointed questions about this whole affair?
UPDATE: Laura Rozen has an excerpt from the Journal story.