Holding On To Paper Tigers

The Washington Post reports this morning that al Qaeda in Iraq has been crippled, though, it warns, such success should not be quickly celebrated as the terrorist organization has proven itself to be resilient in the past.  Still, for anyone who supports the Iraq War, this would be, one would think, just the kind of victory to be advertized and hailed as a major accomplishment.

Just don’t expect the White House to jump on board.

Analogy time.  Rudy is to “9/11” as Bush is to _____.

If you said, “al Qaeda”, congratulations, you’ve managed to keep up with current events.  It should come as a surprise to no one that al Qaeda is President Bush’s very own pet paper tiger, one that he pulls out whenever he needs to whip up what scant little support he can get for the war in Iraq.  He evoked the terrorist organization multiple times in the run up to the war with Iraq, and when al Qaeda in Iraq was born, George Bush, instead of taking the opportunity to contemplate why an al Qaeda terrorist organization was created in Iraq and thusly use that contemplation to change strategies, merely exploited their existence for his own PR campaign to keep the war going indefinitely.

So while the resilience of the organization is definitely cause to be cautious despite news that AQI is currently hobbled, the White House may have a different motivation for keeping mum about the success.  As Iraqslogger ponders, if the White House admits  success on this issue, they just may have to give up the ghost and call it a day when it comes to keeping our military in Iraq.

In truth, AQI has never accounted for even close to a majority, or a significant plurality when it comes to the violence in Iraq.  However this has not changed the way Bush has used them to meet his own needs.  I wouldn’t count on many Americans to recognize the factions at war in Iraq like the Mahdi Army, nor to have a vested emotional interest in them.  Further, these sectarian conflicts are, many would argue, beyond the scope of American interests and the GWOT ™, instead representing a civil war that we have no business taking any part in.  So to realistically approach such data in regards to these things for an Administration hoping to keep the war going in Iraq would be a fatal error.

By contrast, many Americans do know al Qaeda, and they know the organization as being responsible for the terrorist attacks of September 11th.  This is why the administration fluffed up a link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda when trying to sell his war, and this is why Bush has overinflated the significance of AQI at every opportunity in the war in Iraq.  It helps his cause, or so he believes.  Given current public support, or lack thereof, for the war effort, it is hard to think that even this attempt could do much good.

But to admit defeat of al Qaeda in Iraq would result in the removal of a significant justification for still being over there.  With AQI, the only violence still occurring in Iraq truly is that of a civil war, something we should not be interfering in, and can only be made worse by our continued presence.

So this is where we have come to; a place where the Administration is so desperate to keep his war going on that he can’t even admit success.

2 Responses to “Holding On To Paper Tigers”

  1. Kyle:
    I’m with you that AQI is Bush’s paper tiger (after all, they never seem to have had much of a formal relationship with the original Al Qaeda, and they only exist because of the fact that we’re there to begin with), though I do think you somewhat downplay the amount of influence they had, which is still significantly less than Bush would have us believe. Indeed, it seems that AQI pretty much owned Anbar province for an extended period of time; however, AQI was a Sunni group, and cannot be blamed for all the Shia violence or for the state of virtual civil war in Baghdad itself.
    There has been some very good news of late, but Andrew Sullivan has had a couple of recent posts that make a fairly persuasive argument that the good news is a result of Sunnis (who did quite well under Saddam’s secular regime) rejecting AQI’s fundamentalism rather than anything having to do with the “surge” itself.
    Also, it sounds like many Shia are beginning to get fed up with al-Sadr and turn on him- but again, this has little to do with the surge, and much to do with people like al-Sadr being even worse for Iraqis than the occupation.

  2. Well, yeah and no. I mean, you keep touching on the point when you mention that none of the successes have anything to do with the surge, but the larger point, the bigger point is that none of the successes address the true problems facing Iraq right now. Anbar, yeah, it was cleared of AQI, but also, of Shias. That’s to say, the core problems aren’t being addressed but instead side stepped through localized ethnic cleansing.

    Further, on AQI, now the last stat I’ve heard on AQI is that they account for roughly seven percent of the violence in Iraq, and that stat is a couple of months old by now. Now, I’ll cede that while they may only account for a tenth or less of the violence, perhaps their target selection and gruesomeness makes that ten percent a little heavier, but the big point is simply that, they aren’t, as we agree, as big as the administration makes them out to be, and that once they are gone, you still have a whole bunch of other problems to deal with, problems that were there all along and not being taken care of.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Connect with Facebook