How Not To Wage The War On Terror

Despite whatever arguments that you provide to explain that Bush’s policies on terror have been little short than a disaster, you are almost invariably met with the king of post hoc ergo propter hoc arguments from some rightwing blowhard; “We haven’t been hit since 9/11!”

Well, things take time.

Chief among the President’s tactics to protect us from terrorism threats has been centralizing the War on Terror in Iraq. I have to admit, it would be a neat little trick if it actually worked, but despite outward appearances, it didn’t.

Perhaps the biggest asset that the Bush administration has at its disposal in establishing a narrative of Iraq being the central front in the War on Terror is the organization al Qaeda in Iraq. AQI gives at the very least a stunning veneer of plausibility to the administration’s claims.

But AQI is almost a living embodiment of the strawman argument. The organization formed separately from the al Qaeda organization that executed the terrorism attacks on us on September 11th, 2001. In fact, AQI didn’t even come into existence until after the US led invasion of Iraq.

From there it still took them two years to be officially recognized and endorsed by the parent al Qaeda organization.

There can be no doubt; AQI is a deadly organization, but one that is relatively small and focused solely in Iraq. It is responsible for a fraction of the violence that persists in the country, other sectarian groups and insurgencies playing a much larger role in the violence in Iraq. The most well known and potentially most dangerous group in Iraq being the Jaish al Mahdi.

But though AQI is not at the top of the list, it is often billed by Iraq War supporters as one of the chief threats. This is convenient because due to AQI’s extreme methodology, they have found themselves antagonized by fellow Iraqis, and are often fought back against.

This is where they become the embodiment of the strawman, in case you were wondering.

AQI is billed as a top threat, and successes made in putting down AQI violence is often used as an example to suggest progress in Iraq, and therefore the war on terror. What is left out is the relative independence that AQI has in regards to the parent organization of al Qaeda.

That is what makes this GAO report so vital, and in some cases, absolutely terrifying.

While the Bush administration has everyone focused on the AQI strawman in Iraq, the parent organization has been allowed to build itself up to full capacity again in Pakistan unhindered. While Senator Obama was much maligned for his proposal to go into Pakistan after al Qaeda should the Pakistani government fail to do anything about the terrorist organization, he did at least strike one note correctly; that’s where the real threat is.

What is worse, they are in position to attack, and apparently making ready to do so.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc. I use the phrase an awful lot lately. This is because the defenders of this administration have used the most rudimentary and unreliable of standards to measure our current counter terrorism policies to great benefit. We are told that we must torture because it works on the movies and tv all the time, and we are told we must be spied upon because our civil liberties are the price of safety, and we are told that our wars of adventure are keeping us safer.

We are not told the consequences of taking our eyes off of the prize, and we are not told of the failures to create an actual counter terrorism structure that would better insulate us from terrorist attack:

The report’s opinion of the Bush administration efforts speaks for itself:

The United States has not met its national security goals to destroy the terrorist threat and close the safe haven in Pakistan…

Not only have we not met our goals but we have no plan to meet our goals:

No comprehensive plan for meeting U.S. national security goals in the FATA has been developed, as stipulated by the National Strategy for Combating Terrorism (2003), called for by an independent commission (2004), and mandated by congressional legislation (2007). Furthermore, Congress created the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) in 2004 specifically to develop comprehensive plans to combat terrorism. However, neither the National Security Council (NSC), NCTC, nor other executive branch departments have developed a comprehensive plan that includes all elements of national power—diplomatic, military, intelligence, development assistance, economic, and law enforcement support—called for by the various national security strategies and Congress.

And because Bush failed to make good on his promise to catch Osama bin Laden dead or alive, nor does he seem to have any desire to ever make good on it, this is the possible result:

al Qaeda is now using the Pakistani safe haven to put the last element necessary to launch another attack against America into place, including the identification, training, and positioning of Western operatives for an attack. It stated that al Qaeda is most likely using the FATA to plot terrorist attacks against political, economic, and infrastructure targets in America “designed to produce mass casualties, visually dramatic destruction, significant economic aftershocks, and/or fear among the population.”

The biggest problem with relying upon the false logical precepts of post hoc ergo propter hoc is that eventually everything falls through. At this point, it would seem that our only hope is that we can elect a more competent president before it does.

More from Memeorandum: Newshoggers.com, Attackerman, Open Left (Matt does a great job of putting this report in a greater context), The Washington Independent (Spence’s title here is particularly chilling), Think Progress and The Carpetbagger Report

(edited by DrGail)

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