The Associate Press reports that the US forces in Iraq have held an American citizen who they claim served as a chief aide to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi since late last year. The Pentagon has declined to identify the man, but describes him as a Jordanian-born naturalized US citizen who has lived in several different American cities over a 20-year span:
U.S. forces in Iraq are holding a senior operative of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who has joint American-Jordanian citizenship, defense officials said Thursday.
The man was captured in a raid by U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq late in 2004, said Matthew Waxman, the Pentagon’s deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs.
“Weapons and bomb-making materials were in his residence at the time he was captured,” Waxman said.
Waxman described the man as an associate of Zarqawi and an emissary to insurgent groups in several cities in Iraq. Zarqawi, who has declared his allegiance to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network, is the most-wanted man in Iraq and is blamed for numerous bombings since the U.S.-led invasion removed Saddam Hussein from power two years ago.
Defense officials also believe the captured American helped coordinate the movement of insurgents and money into Iraq, Waxman said.
No reason was given for the secrecy of his capture or his identity, or why the Pentagon decided to release the information now. The easy tactical conclusions would indicate that the aide provided useful information to American interrogators, and that would appear to lead to the conclusion that his assistance has reached its end. Another possibility is that the secret of this aide’s fate kept Zarqawi from knowing fully whether his American assistant hadn’t broken under questioning, forcing the terrorist mastermind to abandon old plans and reorganizing networks to avoid capture, undermining their effectiveness. It could well be both.
However, the terrorist’s American citizenship will soon cause headaches for the coalition forces and the Pentagon. Despite his capture in a foreign territory by military forces in a war zone, the courts will inevitably demand to take jurisdiction over his case, just as with John Lindh. That would also explain why the Pentagon delayed announcing his capture, although probably only a secondary consideration.
The question facing the US now is whether to try him in an American civil court, as happened with Lindh, a military tribunal, or to just turn him over to the Iraqis against whom his crimes have been targeted. If I had a vote, it would go in support of the latter option. Let the greater victim seek the greater justice.