Iraq

Who Made Iraq a Haven for Al Qaeda?

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Speaking yesterday at Charleston Air Force Base, President Bush said the war in Iraq is a fight against Al Qaeda and that leaving prematurely would create a situation like pre-9/11 Afghanistan, a base from which the terrorist organization could launch attacks on the United States:

Those who justify withdrawing our troops from Iraq by denying the threat of Al Qaeda in Iraq and its ties to Osama bin Laden ignore the clear consequences of such a retreat. If we were to follow their advice, it would be dangerous for the world and disastrous for America….

If we were not fighting these Al Qaeda extremists and terrorists in Iraq, they would not be leading productive lives of service and charity. Most would be trying to kill Americans and other civilians elsewhere, in Afghanistan or other foreign capitals or on the streets of our own cities.

Prior to the U.S. invasion, of course, Iraq may have been ruled by a brutal dictatorship, but it was decidedly not a center of Al Qaeda activity or a terrorist haven resembling Afghanistan. While Bush may be right that some of the men fighting U.S. forces in Iraq would otherwise be carrying out attacks elsewhere, most have signed up with Al Qaeda in Iraq and other resistance groups because of the U.S. invasion, which our own intelligence agencies acknowledge has become a "cause celebre" and recruiting tool for Islamic terrorists. Robert Grenier, former head of the CIA's counterterrorism center, had this to say about Bush's remarks:

I think what the president is saying is in some sense fundamentally misleading. If he means to suggest the invasion of Iraq has not created more jihadists bent on killing Americans, and that if Iraq hadn't been there as a magnet they would have been attracted somewhere else, that's completely disingenuous.

[The war] has convinced many Muslims that the United States is the enemy of Islam and is attacking Muslims, and they have become jihadists as a result of their experience in Iraq.

Bush's warnings about the consequences of a precipitous withdrawal would be more credible if he could bring himself to admit his own role in creating the current situation. Then again, who would trust him to clean up the mess he made?

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  1. [The war] has convinced many Muslims that the United States is the enemy of Islam and is attacking Muslims, and they have become jihadists as a result of their experience in Iraq.

    So, does Grenier think that a rapid pullout will or won;t result in all these new jihadi’s taking their skills elsewhere? Or does the pullout convince them to renounce their jihad?

  2. An interesting way of disintermediating Al Qaeda
    in Iraq has been floated – an anti-Sunni alliance of convenience with Iran:

    http://www.adamant.typepad.com

  3. Russell, so we must lose to win?

    Interesting ideas. The argument certainly seems more logical and informed than the continued focus on tactical successes.

    I’m not sure a stateless outcome in this approach would leave us with the same situation we have now (given the presence of US Troops)…but the logic seems more impeccable than what is being promulgated by the administration or congress to date.

  4. Al Qaeda… 9/11… Al Qaeda… 9/11… Al Qaeda…

    Boo!!!

    Scared yet? heh heh…

  5. A US pullout may persuade more Iraqis to turn their guns against Al Qaeda.

    I think Olbermann said it best last week, when a US Senator* speaking of withdrawal was accused of aiding the enemy:

    This, sir, is your war.

    Sen. Clinton has reinforced enemy propaganda? Made it impossible for you to get your ego-driven, blood-steeped win in Iraq?

    Then take it into your own hands, Mr. Bush.

    Go to Baghdad now and fulfill, finally, your military service obligations.

    Go there and fight, your war. Yourself.

    Video here.

    *For the record, I detest that Senator for a variety of reasons, but Olbermann’s remark was in regard to the accusation that one aids the enemy by speaking of withdrawal.

  6. [The war] has convinced many Muslims that the United States is the enemy of Islam and is attacking Muslims, and they have become jihadists as a result of their experience in Iraq.

    I think this runs both ways. Apparently, Muslims are becoming more disenchanted with an anti-US resistance that is far more effective in killing other Muslims then it is at killing Americans. When your goal is to kill you co-religionist and smash up your own infrastructure, it’s hard to tell victory from defeat.

  7. Are we still trying to win Iraqis’ hearts and minds?

  8. Oh yes, all we have to do is do what Al Qaeda wants–the withdraw of America from the Middle East–and they will leave us all alone, right?

    How stupid can you get? You really think bin Laden, Iran, and their Islamofascist allies are going to be nice to us if we just pack up and leave? No, they will just come and fight us in the West.

  9. Gaijin:

    A three way split of Iraq was my call on the outcome four years ago. CF ‘Rooms and Borders’ _The National Interest_ Summer 2003.

    We already won twice- it’s victory that’s bloody elusive.

  10. That’s really an extraordinary statement. As someone who lived through the attack of September 11th, that we’ve created more terrorists because we were attacking Iraq. I don’t think I’ve heard that before and I’ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for our failure in Iraq. I would ask Mr. Sullum to withdraw that comment and tell us he didn’t really mean that.

    P.S. 9/11. 9/11. 9/11. 9/11. 9/11. 9/11.

  11. “You really think bin Laden, Iran, and their Islamofascist allies are going to be nice to us if we just pack up and leave? No, they will just come and fight us in the West.”

    You’ll protect us, won’t you, Earache?

  12. P Brooks | July 25, 2007, 10:09am | #

    “You really think bin Laden, Iran, and their Islamofascist allies are going to be nice to us if we just pack up and leave? No, they will just come and fight us in the West.”

    You’ll protect us, won’t you, Earache?

    No, he wants big daddy Giuliani to protect us. Because Dondero is a man who bleieves in freedom, but realizes that what we need in these trying times is a father figure to tuck us in at night and tell us that he will beat up the monsters in the closet.

  13. Those who justify withdrawing our troops from Iraq by denying the threat of Al Qaeda in Iraq and its ties to Osama bin Laden ignore the clear consequences of such a retreat.

    Is Bush actually still trying to push the “Saddam + OBL = BFF” thing? The “its” in the sentence above could, I suppose, apply to Al Qaeda’s ties to Bin Laden, but I don’t think there’s anyone actually arguing against a connection between OBL and AQ.

    Some Bush speechwriter just got a raise and a commendation for service above and beyond the call of deniability.

  14. “… a father figure to tuck us in at night and tell us that he will beat up the monsters in the closet.”

    And change those urine-drenched sheets?

  15. It’s going to take a lot of fireworks to clean up this mess.

  16. We all know Iraqi terrorists did 911, so the war must go on.

  17. This is the bullshit that makes my head explode. I can’t believe Bush has the stones to say these thing out loud. More than that, I can’t believe he gets away with it.

  18. Having been against the invasion yet being undecided about pronto withdrawal, I’m open to the possibility that BOTH Bush and Sullum are correct! That we’ve CREATED the monster we now must fight in its nest lest it travel to menace freely!

    The big question, of course, is since our intervention created the monster in the first place, does our continued presence really beat back the beast or merely feed it?

  19. Cheney still insists that Al Queda and Iraq were working together on 9/11. Either he’s a craven liar, or he lost blood flow to the brain for a bit too long during one of those heart attacks. Either way, the phrase, “Christ, what a maroon,” keeps percolating up in the back of my mind.

    And then pretty often, I type it on the interweb, because, Christ, what a maroon.

  20. What irks me is that many people try to portray themselves as great humanitarians for wanting to end the war (i.e. withdraw US troops). Those of us who want withdrawal (myself included) must acknowledge that, by taking that position, we don’t give a rat’s ass about how many Iraqis die after the pull out. My guess is it will greatly overwhelm the number of Iraqis that have died since the war started, and probably will be a lot more barbaric, i.e. not car bombs, but real torture (not like the Abu Graib “antics”).

  21. “””Those of us who want withdrawal (myself included) must acknowledge that, by taking that position, we don’t give a rat’s ass about how many Iraqis die after the pull out.””””

    Maybe. But one could ask that if the Iraqis don’t care enough to stop killing each other, why should we spend two billion a week on them?

  22. Catch phrase in the Arab world: the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

    Our presence in the middle east unites various Arab factions, a unity that will only last until we leave.

  23. Not that Haliburton or KBR minds.

  24. Maybe. But one could ask that if the Iraqis don’t care enough to stop killing each other, why should we spend two billion a week on them?

    Not to mention American blood.

  25. one could ask that if the Iraqis don’t care enough to stop killing each other, why should we spend two billion a week on them?

    One could always point out that not everyone who dies or gets hurt is a combatant, ie, is trying to do the same to others. In fact, thus far it seems that the large majority is not.

    Of course, that doesn’t necesarily justify our involvement in light of, “Not to mention American blood,” but still it should probably considered, at least in response to that particular argument.

    As for American blood, the best thing that justifies that is a threat to more American blood. There’s the rub.

  26. Bush and Cheney: the masters of modern sophistry.

    When the real truth (controlling a key OPEC nation) will not sell, simply come up with a new rationale more in tune with the fears of the masses (and dont forget to continually stroke those fears).

    The al-Queda in Iraq is a small part of the Sunni insurgency and will dissipate or be destroyed by the Sunnis themselves once US troops are out. The very small element of non-Iraqis in Al-Q in Iraq will have to leave and may well try their jihad elsewhere. Is it really a wise investment, however, to spend TRILLIONS of dollars and thousands of lives to let a handful of jihadis have a shooting ground in the middle east just in case they might otherwise come to the US? Wouldnt it be far more practical to simply invest in the otherwise needed means to prevent them from coming here? And we have to do that anyway because not all jihadis are content to blow up US soldiers in Iraq (at least according to the latest intelligence reports).

    Also, the widespread prediction of bloodshed/civil war upon our leaving is highly speculative. One really has to wonder what is the exact method for this to occur: the army trained by us fighting amongst itself or going after civilian populations? Or maybe the militias engaging in ethnic cleansing? Hey wait a minute, that is going on now at a pretty good clip…

    Maybe Iraqis get really serious about killing each other, maybe they wont. Maybe after a bit of ethnic cleansing other regional powers enforce some kind of peace-keeping ala Bosnia and the Iraqis finally come to some kind of consensus about their future.

    Finally, please remember that the people screaming about the future bloodbath should we withdraw ARE THE VERY SAME PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN WRONG ABOUT EVERYTHING THEY HAVE EVER SAID ABOUT IRAQ AND THIS WAR.

    That last fact alone should put an end to this latest fear mongering and sophistry, at least it would if critical thinking can ever overcome fear and sophistry.

    Skallagrim

  27. “Prior to the U.S. invasion, of course, Iraq may have been ruled by a brutal dictatorship”

    MAY have been ruled by a brutal dictatorship? Jacob, can you provide the link to the “Saddam luvs rainbows and puppy hugs” link? If not, please use the right word — “WAS ruled by …”

  28. “While Bush may be right that some of the men fighting U.S. forces in Iraq would otherwise be carrying out attacks elsewhere”

    MAY be right? Jacob, can you please ban the word “may” from your vocabulary before posting stories, mmmmkay? It’s OK to admit that every now and then Bush says something that isn’t a complete lie — most politicians have figured out that to maintain plausibility among the gullible, they occasionally have to say something approximating the truth — it’s not like anyone reading this website is gonna think “gee, maybe Bush isn’t a lying sack of dog excrement most of the time, cause Jacob said so”.

  29. Though I doubt Jacob can find that link, I’m sure we can find one where Donalds Rumsfeld is shaking that guy’s hand. And we did sell “that brutal dictatorship” weapons. Which MAY have been used against his people.

  30. So Bush now says AQ in Iraq is under the leadership of OBL. What changed Bush’s mind? He has previously stated that OBL was not important.

  31. “Prior to the U.S. invasion, of course, Iraq may have been ruled by a brutal dictatorship, but it was decidedly not a center of Al Qaeda activity or a terrorist haven resembling Afghanistan.

    …most have signed up with Al Qaeda in Iraq and other resistance groups because of the U.S. invasion…”

    Question: But who could have predicted that outcome?

    Answer: Just about anybody.

  32. How stupid can you get?

    Stupid enough to continue to believe George Bush, even in the summer of 2007, when he makes predictions about the effect of our military policy on Iraq’s political and security situation?

    It’s tough for me to imagine how one could get any more stupid.

  33. Al Qaeda was able to use Afghansitan as a base because the militia they were allied with took over the country.

    There is not even the remotest possibility that the 80% majority Shiites would allow al Qaeda or al Qaeda allies to take over Iraq.

    The only think keeping the foreign jihadists in Iraq from ending up on the business end of Iraqis’ guns – including Sunni Iraqis – is the American occupation.

    Iraq never – never, in its entire history as a nation – provided any sort of operating base for religious extremists, until we stepped in. The idea that Iraq – Iraq! Home of Saddam! – can’t suppress a few thousand foreign religious fanatics all by itself is laughable on its face. The only thing we need to do to get rid of al Qaeda in Iraq is to get out of the way.

  34. NAL,

    The relevant factor is not whether we withdraw, but how we withdraw.

    Let’s admit it – for all the obsession with “training the Iraqis,” the lack of trained military and security personnel in Iraq – Iraq! Saddam Hussein’s Iraq! – is not the problem. The problem is the lack of a political settlement, particularly one that involves the Sunnis, as those of us who spent Purple Finger Day being called mean names realized.

    Our continued presence makes that political settlement impossible. However, the announcement of our withdrawal, the reality of our withdrawal, and a major push for a political/diplomatic settlement are tools we have at our disposal to influence the political situation in Iraq.

    Look at Northern Ireland – the Brits’ announcement of demilitarization shifted the political weight among the Republicans from the intransient gunmen to the wheeler-dealers in Sinn Fein. It was the continuing provocation of the British army’s presence that made it impossible for the Catholics to cut a deal, which in turn allowed the most hard-line Protestants to command that community’s loyalty.

  35. “””The only thing we need to do to get rid of al Qaeda in Iraq is to get out of the way.”””

    Yeah I agree. But the beltway belief is that fighting AQ is OUR job, where ever AQ is, we shall be. Except where ever OBL is hiding. We need to spend our resources saving the world because to save the world is to save ourselves!!

    I wouldn’t think that a rational person could still believe the Bush admin is worth a dime, but obviously I’m wrong. Partisan politics trumps the resonable mind.

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