He could have been killed several times before, but for some reason the White House would have none of it. This article from 2004 discusses the history of Bush's nonaction:
But 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 trigger.
In 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.
The 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.
"Here 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.
Four months later, intelligence showed Zarqawi was planning to use ricin in terrorist attacks in Europe.
The 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.
"People 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.
In January 2003, the threat turned real. Police in London arrested six terror suspects and discovered a ricin lab connected to the camp in Iraq.
The Pentagon drew up still another attack plan, and for the third time, the National Security Council killed it.
Military 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 against Saddam.
If this is true the murders Zarqawi committed since 2004 could have been prevented.
Another source discussing the same nonkillings is Dan Froomkin in his blog for the Washington Post:
In a case of interesting timing, Mary Anne Weaver , writing in the latest issue of Atlantic (subscription required), debunks the mythology of Zarqawi, who she insists "is not the terrorist mastermind that he is often claimed to be."
She also writes: "During my time in Jordan, I asked a number of officials what they considered to be the most curious aspect of the relationship between the U.S. and al-Zarqawi, other than the fact that the Bush administration had inflated him.
"One of them said, 'The six times you could have killed Zarqawi, and you didn't.'
Helen Thomas talks about news management in her new book (which I will try to review today or tomorrow), and the history of news management by various U.S. administrations makes me wonder what Zarqawi really was and why he wasn't squashed earlier. Think of all the people that would be alive today if that had been done. So why was it not done? It could be that the stories I linked to here are not true, but then there is no telling these days, is there?
Also, I've read so much about the symbolic meaning of Zarqawi's death that I'm beginning to see everything in my private life as symbolic: I found an extra chocolate bar I had forgotten about. This must mean that my future is full of hidden chocolate bars, peace and joy. No, it doesn't, and neither does Zarqawi's death mean that the troubles in Iraq are over or that the war can be now viewed as successful because the U.S. killed one guy. A guy who appears to have been killable several times before.
Added later: I stumbled across an article by Media Matters for America which tells us that the Fox News is one step ahead of me:
From the June 8 edition of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson:
GIBSON: You know, we talked about it a minute ago before we went on the air. Out in Las Vegas, the far-left-wing Daily Kos is having its big convention. Every major democratic leader -- Howard Dean, Harry Reid, John Kerry -- is coming out to speak, and they have been defeated in Southern California, [Brian] Bilbray won.
GIBSON: Zarqawi was caught the day their convention opens. This is -- the left is demoralized by this.
ROLLINS: Well, they'll claim it's a conspiracy theory. That we knew their meeting was going on and that's why we did it.
GIBSON: Well, they are claiming that. They are claiming at this moment that they were saving Zarqawi to kill at an important moment.
Eeek! I've been found out! Not.
First, the Kos folk are not "far-left". In Europe some of them would be regarded as fairly right wing, for example, and almost all would be viewed as moderates. It's just that this country has decided to rearrange political definitions so that Attila the Hun is a moderate conservative and everything else follows from that. Second, I see no signs of the "demoralized" left, none whatsoever, though quite a few wingnuts have been demoralized these last few months, what with the dropping approval ratings of the administration. Third, it's a lot easier to just say that the people participating in Yearly Kos are nutter conspiracy theorists than to dig out information that would disprove it. Notice how my post actually has links? Heh.