The killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the second-most-wanted terrorist, is an important step in America's war against terror, but it should not be viewed as a final step needed to withdraw our troops from Iraq.
There is no doubt that Zarqawi was a brutal force in Iraq, directly responsible for stirring an insurgency for which we were ill-prepared and directly responsible for at least two sadistic beheadings of Americans himself. One would be hard-pressed to argue that we violated some law -- written or moral -- by killing him with prejudice.
But while President Bush is calling Zarqawi's death a severe blow to al-Qaeda, it is not a fatal blow. We must not let up our guard, domestically and certainly not on the battlefield in Iraq. The insurgency will surely continue, although we certainly hope that Zarqawi's death will mute it.
We've been down this road before. Most of us thought that hostilities would immediately cease once Saddam Hussein was found. Well, we pulled him out of his spider hole a long time ago, and the violence still escalated.
Finally finding and killing Zarqawi will do much to boost morale, both of our troops and Iraqi security forces, and no doubt will bump up the president's sagging poll figures. Still, the American public is growing weary of a three-year war that has claimed nearly 2,500 American lives, and have yet to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Still at large is the most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden, with the failure to capture or kill him a huge black mark in the war on terror.
That's why perhaps another event that happened Thursday holds more significance that Zarqawi's "elimination." Iraq's parliament approved the final three ministers to complete its fledgling government structure, with appointments for defense, interior and national security posts. The move ends squabbling over the posts by ruling Shiite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish parties and will help pave the way for Iraqi soldiers and police to take responsibility for Iraq's security. That action, still 18 months away, will finally trigger the withdrawal of foreign troops.
Hopefully, that move does signal the real light at the end of the tunnel.