"Taking out Zarqawi"

Published October 6, 2004 4:07AM (EDT)

When Gwen Ifill first asked Dick Cheney about the new CIA report delivered to the White House last week that said there was "no conclusive evidence" that the Saddam Hussein regime had harbored Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- he dodged the question. But Ifill later returned to the topic, and Cheney had this to say:

"But let's look at what we know about Mr. Zarqawi. We know he was running a terrorist camp, training terrorists in Afghanistan prior to 9/11. We know that when we went into Afghanistan that he then migrated to Baghdad. He set up shop in Baghdad, where he oversaw the poisons facility up at Kermal (ph), where the terrorists were developing ricin and other deadly substances to use."

"We know he's still in Baghdad today. He is responsible for most of the major car bombings that have killed or maimed thousands of people. He's the one you will see on the evening news beheading hostages. He is, without question, a bad guy. He is, without question, a terrorist. He was, in fact, in Baghdad before the war, and he's in Baghdad now after the war."

"The fact of the matter is that this is exactly the kind of track record we've seen over the years. We have to deal with Zarqawi by taking him out, and that's exactly what we'll do."

But what Cheney didn't mention is that the administration had several chances to "take out" Zarqawi in the run-up to the Iraq war, but chose not to.

By Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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