Condi Rice thinks a terrorist monster is the moral and intellectual equal of one of America’s greatest heroes? No, of course not. Here’s what she said:

He was diabolically brilliant. I think he was an outstanding organizer, I think he had a kind of strategic sense, and I don’t think the follow-on leadership has been quite as good. So when you hear people say, “You know, well, if you kill one of them, they’ll just replace him with another leader,” remember that that’s like saying, you know, if you take out Robert E. Lee or Ulysses S. Grant, well, they’ll just replace them with another leader. It’s – there are people who are better at this than others and I think the loss of Zarqawi, they – they started to make more mistakes.

The left knows a good headline when it smells one so this is getting the same dopey play from Olbermann’s JV team that Bush’s very important, not at all willfully distorted “Mandela’s dead” comment got last week. Think Progress tries to redeem the idiocy of its gotcha by using it as a peg for yet another rehash of the debate over how important Al Qaeda in Iraq is to the violence in the country, but that’s beside the point. Zarqawi might very well fill the role of an important strategist within AQ quite apart from the question of how many murders he and his group were personally responsible for. If you believe Gen. “Betray Us,” Al Qaeda’s presence in the country has been key accelerant of sectarian tension; click here and fast-forward to 2:15 of the video clip for more on that. And since I always recommend this old Newsweek article whenever Zarqawi’s name comes up, I’ll do so again. It discusses how the insurgency sprang up — thanks in part to those organizational skills to which Rice refers — and then was co-opted by Al Qaeda when an envoy from Bin Laden brokered an arrangement between Osama and Zarqawi that created a sort of … C-in-C/general relationship, as a matter of fact.