Targeting a specific person is one of the most difficult tasks that can be assigned to the military. It is difficult enough to catch people in the US where society is functioning well and you are looking for a bad-guy hiding amongst good-guys. It is a completely different issue to ask the military to hunt down a person in a war zone where the person you are looking for as well as many others and not only trying to evade you, but are also actively trying to kill you.
However, as a credit to our Military they accept even the most difficult tasks and manage to successfully accomplish most. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has been a target for the longest time with a $25 million price tag on his head. One would have suspected that the preferred choice would have been to capture him. If you have good enough intel to target him with an aircraft, then it is also good enough to fly in a team to capture him. As we all know now, the Military saved themselves the trouble and the risk of trying to capture him and just eliminated him as a threat.
Imagine if Zarqawi had been captured instead. How long would it be before the EU, UN, International Red Cross, Amnesty International and the ACLU all started demanding access to him and protection of his rights. (Look at the massive investigation in Europe about 'illegal' CIA renditions.) The American anti-war left would have a fit once it became clear that Zarqawi would be held in a non-disclosed location. Then there would be calls to try him in a court of law. Soon after lawyers would jump in claiming to represent 'Mr. Zarqawi' and presenting stories on how the US is torturing their client and that their client was not being treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention.
Do you think the US really wanted to deal with the circus Zarqawi's capture would have created? Sure it probably would have provided great intel to capture him alive, but as I predicted here, someone in the Government decided that it was better to capture him dead rather than alive. Now that the attack is over, no amount of bickering from the normal crowd will change anything. There will be no allegations of torture from Zarqawi. No demands from lawyers to set them free. No concern that Zarqawi will be able to escape or continue his war against the US if released, as has been proved by a number of released Gitmo detainees. There will also be no need to hunt around for secret CIA Prisons as there will not be a need for one to keep him in.
Speaking of the Geneva Convention. The UN issued a report in February titled "
Situation of detainees at Guantánamo Bay." The press covered the report and it's calls for the US to close Gitmo. What the press seems to have missed was this important note by the Chairperson of the working group that made the report:
The Chairperson of the Working Group and the Special Rapporteur note that, while United States Armed Forces continue to be engaged in combat operations in Afghanistan as well as in other countries, they are not currently engaged in an international armed conflict between two Parties to the Third (POWs) and Fourth (civilians) Geneva Conventions. (Pages 13-14 of the report)
Instead they demand that those caught in armed conflict against the US (and terrorists) be tried in court in accordance with the UN's "International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights" (ICCPR) which the US is a party to. This causes a problem, because by catching Zarqawi, he would certainly spend the rest of his life behind bars, and never see the inside of a courtroom. That would be a violation of the ICCPR as far as the report goes:
The UN report made this recommendation:
Furthermore, the general conditions of detention, in particular the uncertainty about the length of detention and prolonged solitary confinement, amount to inhuman treatment and to a violation of the right to health as well as a violation of the right of detainees under article 10 (1) of ICCPR to be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person. (Page 37)
Clinton's Administration wanted to treat terrorists like common criminals. We all know how well that worked. You want to bet that the Military lawyers referred to this report when they made their recommendation to eliminate Zarqawi?
Terrorism suspects should be detained in accordance with criminal procedure that respects the safeguards enshrined in relevant international law. Accordingly, the United States Government should either expeditiously bring all Guantánamo Bay detainees to trial, in compliance with articles 9(3) and 14 of ICCPR, or release them without further delay. Consideration should also be given to trying suspected terrorists before a competent international tribunal. (Page 38)
Likely Unintended Effect of Fighting for Rights for Terrorists - FFI - 26 November 2005
Situation of detainees at Guantánamo Bay - UN Report (PDF Format)
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights