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Saturday, July 21, 2007

The confusing war on terror: July 2007

Lately, President Bush and other members of his administration have been implying that all the foreign fighters in Iraq are al-Qaeda. Consider these consecutive sentences from his speech at the Naval War College on June 28:
Our commanders [in Iraq] tell me that 80 to 90 percent of these suicide bombings are the work of foreign fighters, people who don't like the advance of an alternative to their ideology, and they come in and murder the innocent to achieve their objectives.

And that's their strategy. Al Qaeda's strategy is to use human beings as bombs to create grisly images for the world to see
Later in that same speech, the President briefly mentioned the Taliban in Afghanistan. He called them the "one-time allies of al Qaeda."

The duplicity in these words is galling.

On the one hand, the President wants Americans to believe that the U.S. is fighting the 9/11 terrorists in Iraq. He very badly wants this as this line from his July 12 press conference makes clear:
The same folks that are bombing innocent people in Iraq were the ones who attacked us in America on September the 11th, and that's why what happens in Iraq matters to the security here at home.
To a degree, the President is correct. LA Times, July 15:
Although Bush administration officials have frequently lashed out at Syria and Iran, accusing it of helping insurgents and militias here, the largest number of foreign fighters and suicide bombers in Iraq come from a third neighbor, Saudi Arabia, according to a senior U.S. military officer and Iraqi lawmakers.

About 45% of all foreign militants targeting U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians and security forces are from Saudi Arabia; 15% are from Syria and Lebanon; and 10% are from North Africa, according to official U.S. military figures made available to The Times by the senior officer. Nearly half of the 135 foreigners in U.S. detention facilities in Iraq are Saudis, he said.
The senior US official claimed that "50% of all Saudi fighters in Iraq come here as suicide bombers. In the last six months, such bombings have killed or injured 4,000 Iraqis."

You may recall that 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia.

Somehow, however, I don't think the President is trying to stir up trouble against the Saudis.

Meanwhile, the attempt to delink the Taliban and al Qaeda is also very odd. After all, the administration has spent years linking the two. As recently as May 1, the President referred to "the Taliban And Its Al-Qaeda Allies."

Perhaps the President realizes that the main threat the Taliban posed was its willingness to let al Qaeda establish a terror safe haven in Afghanistan. Now, he's trying to create fear that the same thing could happen elsewhere.

On that note, The Washington Post is advocating war against Pakistan, which it says knowingly hosts an al-Qaeda sanctuary. In a strongly worded op-ed piece on July 19, the Post referred to this sanctuary an "imminent threat of a revived al-Qaeda organization able to strike the United States from a secure base"
If Pakistani forces cannot -- or will not -- eliminate the sanctuary, President Bush must order targeted strikes or covert actions by American forces, as he has done several times in recent years. Such actions run the risk of further destabilizing Pakistan. Yet those risks must be weighed against the consequences of another large-scale attack on U.S. soil.
The National Intelligence Estimate that was released this week did refer to an al-Qaeda "safehaven" in Pakistan.

The President doesn't seem to talk about this very much, instead preferring to worry that Iraq might become such a safehaven after the U.S. withdraws. Actually, his messages about Pakistan seem kind of garbled:
Pakistan, by the way, is a -- Musharraf is a strong ally in the war against these extremists. I like him and I appreciate him. I'm, of course, constantly working with him to make sure that democracy continues to advance in Pakistan. He's been a valuable ally in rejecting extremists. And that's important, to cultivate those allies.
Bottom line: the commander-in-chief remains fixated on Iraq and his messages continue to signal a deep misunderstanding of the ongoing threat.

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