Remember the victims of Zawahari – The Atlantic

Every mass death organization needs a charmless, bespectacled, blank-eyed COO who inspires no one but turns the gears of murder. Ayman al-Zawahiri was Osama bin Laden’s Himmler. President Biden and most Americans will view his death as mere revenge for the three thousand innocent people killed by al-Qaeda in the United States on September 11, 2001 – and it is. But I must admit that the end of Zawahiri leaves me cold. Revenge is bitter because it always comes too late. Three thousand to one: numbers are no comfort.

And think of Zawahiri’s other victims. Most of them were Muslims whose names are not carved in stone. It is staggering to think of the number of human beings who are no longer alive because this doctor from a prosperous Egyptian family adopted a hateful ideology that allowed him to kill. There was Shayma Abdel Halim, an 11-year-old schoolgirl, killed in 1993 in a Cairo suburb by a car bomb attack by Islamic Jihad, a terrorist group that Zawahiri later merged with al-Qaeda, intended for a Prime Egyptian minister. There were the hundreds of Kenyans and Tanzanians murdered in al-Qaeda’s bombings of US embassies in 1998.

Remember the tens of thousands of Iraqis, mostly Shia, torn to pieces, shot or beheaded by the local Al-Qaeda affiliate. At one point, Al-Qaeda in Iraq embarked on a killing spree of bakers in Baghdad. The death toll in Iraq rose so high that Zawahiri feared it would damage al-Qaeda’s image among Muslims around the world. Think of all the Afghans, Pakistanis, Indonesians, Australians, Turks, Spaniards, Britons, Moroccans, Syrians, Malians and others who have perished in all the suicide bombings and executions carried out over the last quarter century with the approval of Zawahiri . Perhaps one day the names will be recorded somewhere in a memorial, a museum or a database, under a heading that says: “Victims of Ayman al-Zawahiri”.

In another register are the names of all the people killed in the wars that America started with the stated aim of eliminating Zawahiri’s organization – morally not equivalent, but just as surely dead. I don’t know how to weigh the scales and arrive at a final balance sheet, but I know that this revenge is bitter. It’s particularly bitter when you consider the circumstances of Zawahiri’s death. He was killed by a drone strike as he stood on the balcony of a house in Sherpur, an upscale Kabul neighborhood that Afghanistan’s corrupt rulers have long called home. Apparently, Zawahiri had been in Kabul for several weeks, in violation of the Taliban’s pledge not to host terrorists. The agreement leading to the departure of the last American troops was signed and executed with lies and illusions.

Zawahiri is dead. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are back in business ruling Afghanistan, eliminating opponents and erasing women with the ideology that three decades ago gave Zawahiri the right to kill a schoolgirl from 11 years old. Americans might feel safer — might even feel some satisfaction. The least we can do is have a thought for everyone.

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