Tuesday's attacks, Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian
militant with ties to al-Qaida, is now blamed
for more than 700 terrorist killings in Iraq.
NBC News has learned that long before the
war the Bush administration had several chances
to wipe out his terrorist operation and perhaps
kill Zarqawi himself -- but never pulled the
June 2002, U.S. officials say intelligence
had revealed that Zarqawi and members of al-Qaida
had set up a weapons lab at Kirma, in northern
Iraq, producing deadly ricin and cyanide.
Pentagon quickly drafted plans to attack the
camp with cruise missiles and airstrikes and
sent it to the White House, where, according
to U.S. government sources, the plan was debated
to death in the National Security Council.
we had targets, we had opportunities, we had
a country willing to support casualties, or
risk casualties after 9/11 and we still didn't
do it," said Michael O'Hanlon, military analyst
with the Brookings Institution.
months later, intelligence showed Zarqawi
was planning to use ricin in terrorist attacks
Pentagon drew up a second strike plan, and
the White House again killed it. By then
the administration had set its course for
war with Iraq.
were more obsessed with developing the coalition
to overthrow Saddam than to execute the president's
policy of preemption against terrorists,"
according to terrorism expert and former National
Security Council member Roger Cressey.
January 2003, the threat turned real. Police
in London arrested six terror suspects and
discovered a ricin lab connected to the camp
Pentagon drew up still another attack plan,
and for the third time, the National Security
Council killed it.
officials insist their case for attacking
Zarqawi's operation was airtight, but the
administration feared destroying the terrorist
camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war
United States did attack the camp at Kirma
at the beginning of the war, but it was too
late -- Zarqawi and many of his followers
were gone. "Here's a case where they waited,
they waited too long and now we're suffering
as a result inside Iraq," Cressey added.
despite the Bush administration's tough talk
about hitting the terrorists before they strike,
Zarqawi's killing streak continues today.
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