U.S. Responsible for Zarqawi?

Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

In declaring the U.S. could not win in Iraq, DNC chairman Howard Dean also blamed the U.S. invasion for bringing Al Qaeda terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to the country, saying, "We need a force in the Middle East, not in Iraq but in a friendly neighboring country to fight Zarqawi, who came to Iraq after this invasion."

In fact, Zarqawi has long been understood to have arrived in Iraq nearly a year before the U.S. invasion, where he received treatment for a leg injury sustained in Afghanistan. He is thought to have associated with the Ansar al-Islam terror group in northern Iraq, and later merged his own operations with Al Qaeda.

Politics vs. Policy

Illinois Democratic Senator Barack Obama, by the way, says it may be good politics to back immediate withdrawal from Iraq, but not necessarily good policy. Obama, considered a rising star in the party, tells the Chicago Tribune, "It is arguable that the best politics going into '06 would be a clear succinct message: `Let's bring our troops home.'... I think [that] would probably have some pretty strong resonance with the American people right now, but whether that's the best policy right now, I don't feel comfortable saying it is." Obama said the Democrats may be unable to resolve their differences on Iraq.

‘Bird-Dog Hillary’ Campaign

Anti-war activists at Code Pink have started a campaign they call "Bird-Dog Hillary" — protesting New York Senator Hillary Clinton at every public appearance over her opposition to withdrawing troops from Iraq. Last week, Clinton sent out a letter criticizing the president on Iraq, but opposing a timetable for U.S. withdrawal prompting the group's New York City coordinator to tell the New York Daily News, "I'm so mad at her. We will dog her wherever she goes."

Reason for Retaliation?

Saddam Hussein defense attorney and former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark says Saddam's secret police had good reason to retaliate against the people of Dujail after a botched assassination attempt in 1982 and compares the massacre of 148 men and boys to the actions of the U.S. Secret Service. Clark tells The New York Times that the president's body guards can get rough too, noting, "I've been knocked down several times when they see some kind of threat."

What's more, Clark says Saddam shouldn't be blamed for the actions of his underlings, saying, "he was the president of the country, he was in a war, he was a pretty busy guy."

— FOX News' Aaron Bruns contributed to this report