A pinhead at Time Magazine (Robert Baer) pipes up about al-Qaeda in Iraq, slathering the subject with bad sourcing, conjecture, and lots and lots of opinion. Let’s begin with his main point:
A friend of mine at the White House complained to me the other day that the Bush administration and the Pentagon until this day believe we are fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq. They “stand up” al-Qaeda as the enemy in Iraq, he said, even behind closed doors. In the teeth of the facts, they ignore that the enemy we’re fighting in Iraq is a half a dozen homegrown insurgencies, an incipient civil war, and criminal gangs. They ignore the fact that although a handful of Osama bin Laden’s followers showed up in Iraq after the invasion, in a futile attempt to hijack the Sunni resistance, al-Qaeda is not the main enemy in that country.
Fred Kagan addressed the “it’s not really al-Qaeda” argument last year, in a short but much more educated piece. But beyond the fact that Baer is plainly wrong, look at his argument in the quote above. In short, he tells us that the Pentagon, who has represented the largest US presence in Iraq for more than 5 years and who is the only US entity who is in constant contact with al-Qaeda intelligence, prisoners, and fighters in both Afghanistan and Iraq, . . . is wrong. Yep, they’re wrong because Mr. Sittin’-On-His-Ass-In-Colorado says so.
Then look at the “incipient civil war.” Hey, back in 2006 none of the liberal press called it “incipient.” They were writing eulogies for Iraq, and cursing the Bush Administration for allowing the country to fall into civil war. Now that he wants to belittle it, it’s convenient to call it “incipient.”
And throughout the article we run through a series of positions: AQI isn’t really organized; well, they’re organized, but they’re not very effective; well they were almost able to create a civil war, so they’re effective, but not effective enough; but they’re not really our enemy and they’re not very organized. It’s dizzying and self-contradictory – I’m surprised even the editors at Time let it through.
Finally we have this little gem in his closing:
By mischaracterizing the enemy in Iraq, we mischaracterize the enemy in Pakistan. Whether the car bomb that destroyed the Danish embassy in Pakistan on Monday was the work of an actual member of al-Qaeda or not does not matter — what does is that al-Qaeda’s way of thinking is not defeated.
Somehow, it doesn’t occur to him to ask why a car bomb was used in Pakistan. Perhaps he doesn’t recall the dire reports two years ago of al-Qaeda bringing expertise back from Iraq, leading to the introduction of IEDs, car bombs, and suicide bombers in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
But why is this so important to him? In the article he claims it’s because by misunderstanding our foe we will be ineffective in fighting him. This, despite the fact that we’re clearly rolling up al-Qaeda & the Sadrists in Iraq, as well as the Taliban & al-Queda in Afghanistan. It’s difficult to argue that we’re ineffective when things are going so well.
I suspect that the real reason for publishing this article is that it’s time for the MSM to start chipping away at the emerging success story in Iraq by distancing it from the GWoT. Bush et al. would like to claim that victory in Iraq is a victory in the GWoT. His detractors would like to paint it as a hollow and insignificant victory in a completely unnecessary battle.
Which is it? I’ll remind you of what al-Qaeda itself thinks:
In closing, I tell our people in Iraq, the patient ones garrisoned on the first line of the religion and sanctities of the Muslims: the malice has increased and the darkness has become pitch black, and with the likes of you, nations reinforce themselves and climb summits.
So where are those who prefer the religion to the lives of themselves and their children? Where are the people of Tawheed and those who topple the banner of unbelief and polytheism? Where are those who find torture to be pleasant and don’t fear the blows? Where are those who find difficulty to be easy and bitterness to be sweet, because they are certain that the fire of Hell is much hotter? Where are those who go out to fight the Romans, as on the day of Tabuk? Where are those who pledge to fight to the death, as on the day of Yarmuk? Where are the soldiers of the Levant and the reinforcements of Yemen? Where are the knights of the Quiver (Egypt) and the lions of the Hijaz (western Saudi Arabia) and al-Yamamah (central Saudi Arabia)? Come and aid your brothers in Mesopotamia and relieve them by coordinating with them by way of dependable guides.
Sure sounds like al-Qaeda thinks it’s in Iraq.