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Wizbang Podcast #66

Here's what I thought you'd like to hear about today:

  1. Is al Qeada in Iraq the same al Qaeda that Attacked America on 9-11?
  2. Who are we fighting?



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Is al Qeada in Iraq the same al Qaeda that Attacked America on 9-11?

The press, politicians, intelligence services, and the military have been all over the news talking about Al Qeada in Iraq. The military has claimed that the most spectacularly violent attacks in Iraq have been originated by Al Qaeda in Iraq, or as the New York Times prefers to call it, al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. I've been listening to a lot of press conferences, talk shows, and blogger's conference calls over the past two weeks trying to get a better understanding of the role of al Qaeda in Iraq, or AQI. In today's podcast I'll show why the military believes that AQI is the biggest military and political threat in Iraq, what the group has done, how we have them on the run. I'll try to show the connection to the global al Qaeda network and what the battle in Iraq means in the Global War on Terror. I'll also show how the Democrats and their enablers in press are trying to minimize the connection between AQI and the al Qaeda who attacked us on 9/11. They fear that if the public believes they are part of the same network, the quest to get us out of Iraq as soon as possible will fail, and Americans will once again support the war.. To give you an example of that quest, here is Nate, a blogger writing at The Hollow Horn who points to articles that bolster his position. Titled, The Al Qaeda Myth, Nate writes:

The president and his partisans keep harping on the presence of Al-Qaeda in Iraq as a reason for our continued involvement. There are a lot of problems with this claim.

Articles in the New York Times and Time note most of my objections. First, there never was an Al-Qaeda in Iraq until we came. Second, it would be a bit of a stretch to suggest that this is the same Al-Qaeda that attacked the US five years ago. (It has been chastised by Zawahiri for its indiscriminate methods several times.) Third, it represents only a very small percentage of the Iraqi insurgency.

Nate is mostly right that there was little active Al Qaeda presence in Iraq before the invasion in 2003. But just because they were not there before we invaded doesn't mean they are not part of the same network today. The bulk of the AQI network arrived after 2003. So what?

Nate's third claim that AQI is a small percentage of the insurgents is technically correct, but it ignores the power of their "weapons of mass effect", as BG Robert H. Holmes, Deputy Director of Operations, U.S. Central Command, identified in a conference call recently. But I'm getting ahead of myself. From the NY Times article Nate refers to, we read:

In rebuffing calls to bring troops home from Iraq, President Bush on Thursday employed a stark and ominous defense. "The same folks that are bombing innocent people in Iraq," he said, "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."

It is an argument Mr. Bush has been making with frequency in the past few months, as the challenges to the continuation of the war have grown. On Thursday alone, he referred at least 30 times to Al Qaeda or its presence in Iraq.

But his references to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, and his assertions that it is the same group that attacked the United States in 2001, have greatly oversimplified the nature of the insurgency in Iraq and its relationship with the Qaeda leadership.

It may simplify a complex network of insurgents, criminal gangs, radical Shiite militia, Sunni Tribal outlaws, and other opportunists who we face on the ground in Iraq when Bush singles out AQI. But if they're the one threat that is more deadly than the all the others combined, it makes sense to focus on them. Especially if AQI swears allegiance to the one enemy that has twice successfully attacked us on our home soil.

I'm going to play a clip to show the context for President Bush's remark linking bombers in Iraq to 9-11. David Gregory asked him a question the hot topic of the day, a quote from Michael Hayden about the quality of the Iraqi government in 2006. It's from the Bush press conference on July 12.

Play clip.

The reporters have the right to be skeptical about the connection. It seems all too convenient that the group we are fighting in Iraq is the same as those who attacked us on 9-11. As the President correctly identifies, we know that 19 of them are dead, because they were on the planes. And we know that we have Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in custody in Guantanamo. But the network continues to threaten us, and some in Iraq invoke the name of al Qaeda in their literature and web sites.

On July 15, on ABC News' This Week with George Stephanopoulos George asked National Security Adviser Steven Hadley, about the connection. Notice the spin George tries to pull, and Hadleys deft handling of the issue.

Play clip.

How disingenuous of Stephanopoulos to suggest that Bush was claiming that Iraq was responsible for 9-11. He is just saying that the same al Qaeda network, run by the same people, are directing the most vicious attacks against us now in Iraq. They have shifted the front from airplanes into buildings on American soil to truck bombs in Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad. It would be like saying that we had no right to invade Japan in 1945 because these were not the same pilots who attacked us at Pearl Harbor. The location has changed, the tactics have shifted, but the leaders, the motivation, and the goals are the same.

That is not enough proof for the media, though. Here is a short clip from WNYC's On The Media from June 29 with Bob Garfield and McClatchy reporter Mike Drummond. Mike wants to start from the assumption that the Pentagon is spinning the al Qaeda link.

Play clip.

Snicker Quotes. What a lovely term of art. And his claim that journalists being neutral is laughable. He thinks his job is to spin in the other direction as furiously as he can, while laughing with his insider buddies at those who are so gullible as to believe in the threat al Qaeda.Snicker Quotes. Amazing stuff.

Reporters have clearly gotten the memo about the need to be skeptical of everything the Pentagon says about al Qaeda. But as any good adversary, the Pentagon is ready. Here is Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner on July 18 at his press conference announcing the arrest of al-Mashhadani, the highest ranking Iraqi in AQI. He was asked about the AQI connection multiple times, and this one by John Burnett of NPR was dripping with skepticism. How can someone who is only 15% of the insurgency be so important he asks:

Play clip.

Clearly the reason they are important is that they are more effective than the other groups. They kill more people. John Burnett's report on NPR the next day illustrates the media skepticism on the role of al Qaeda in Iraq.

Play clip.

Linda Wertheimer would like to see the evidence. Back on July 11, General Bergner held a press conference to showcase the vast quantity of evidence the military had gathered against AQI. Listen to this introduction, then a question trying to separate AQI from al Qaeda. Thanks to the Pentagon channel for the audio, and MNF-I for the transcript.

Play clip.

AQI%20Map.jpg

After the press conference, the Pentagon provided some bloggers with an opportunity to call into a conference call with the general. I asked about the skepticism in the media about the connection.

Play clip.

26AQI.jpg

Of course, the general has access to all the documentation seized in the raids that show the connection. If you are interested in some of those documents, there is a set of charts available on the MNF-I web site for all to see. A few shots are on the Wizbang Podcast web site as well.

In a press conference on July 13, General Benjamin R. Mixon, commander of the MNF-I north made some headlines by saying that during 2008, he might be able to begin a 12-18 month drawdown of force in the north of Iraq. This was spun by the media into such headlines as

U.S. could draw down in north Iraq next year

More interesting than this tidbit, was Mixon's description of AQI.

Play clip.

The media really wants to find an enemy, any other enemy, rather than AQI. For if al Qaeda is causing all the trouble in Iraq, then that supports the argument that we should stay there and defeat them. So to avoid that inevitable conclusion, the spin is that it's a different al Qaeda.

Here is Joel Klein, long time Democratic talking point generator and reporter, in Time:

Recently, in his desperation, starting with his speech at the Naval War College on June 28, he has been telling an outright lie, and he repeated it now, awkwardly, in Cleveland: "The same people that attacked us on September the 11th is the crowd that is now bombing people, killing innocent men, women and children, many of whom are Muslims, trying to stop the advance of a system based upon liberty."

That is not true. The group doing the most spectacular bombings in Iraq was named al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia by its founder, Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi, now deceased, in an attempt to aggrandize his reputation in jihadi-world. It is a sliver group, representing no more than 5% of the Sunni insurgency. It shares a philosophy, but not much else, with the real al-Qaeda, which operates out of Pakistan.

It may indeed represent only 5% of the Sunni insurgency in terms of people, but it is closer to 100% of the spectacular violence. And just because it is a new affiliate of al Qaeda, doesn't make it separate from them. But don't let those facts and evidence get in the way of a favorite Democratic talking point. After reading the National Intelligence Estimate, Richard Clarke wrote an op-ed for the New York Daily News. Clarke served the last three Presidents, as national coordinator for security and counterterrorism. He is the author of "Against All Enemies." He wrote:

the NIE notes that Al Qaeda may use "regional terrorist groups" and cites, as an example, "Al Qaeda in Iraq." What it does not say, but can be read between the lines: "Al Qaeda in Iraq" is a different organization than the folks in Pakistan and Afghanistan who attacked us. Put another way, the President is wrong when he claims that we are fighting in Iraq the people who attacked New York and Virginia. "Al Qaeda in Iraq" did not even exist until after we invaded Iraq.

Sigh. This talking point is clearly got legs. A week after a raft of clear and convincing evidence linking AQI to al Qaeda, someone who should know better is sticking to his Democratic talking points like white on rice. I don't expect much to change, but I can offer my contribution to the discussion.

Who are we fighting?

But if you're looking for a picture of the absolute depravity of AQI, the press conference and subsequent bloggers call with Lt. Col. Andrew Poppas to talk about Operation Ithaca, a raid on July 12 in which the U.S. Army scored a significant hit on AQI. As the email press release sent to me stated:
Operation Ithaca, targeting al-Qaeda operatives near the villages of Haimer, Abu Nasim, and Jamil, Iraq, resulting in 29 al-Qaeda gunmen killed, 23 detained, eight hostages released, two weapons caches discovered and a safe house destroyed.
Here is Lt. Col. Poppas description of the raid.

Play clip.

He later describes the intelligence from the locals that lead to the raid. Included in the dispatches from the Pentagon was a picture, which you can see on the podcast web site, of one of the Iraqi prisoners held captive by AQI until the raid freed him. His back is covered in whip bruises, as was his front, with open wounds from the torture that AQI had been inflicting on him.

This is the enemy we face in Iraq. Lead by the same group that attacked us on 9-11. And ready and willing to come to America if we abandon Iraq and leave so they can train and equip in the safe haven that Iraq will become if we leave prematurely. Any questions?

How is AQI able to transform their relatively small percentage of the insurgency, in terms of the number of fighters, into such a powerful effect on the security situation, and more importantly, on the public debate? The Pentagon sponsored a bloggers conference call with BG Robert H. Holmes, Deputy Director of Operations, U.S. Central Command. During the call, BG Holmes tried to explain the way AQI works. He starts out by summarizing the good news. This clip is the part after the "but" part.

Play clip.

AQI is clearly using the weapons of mass effect to take the focus off the good things that are happening. They may just succeed at that.

One more bloggers conference call sponsored by the Pentagon was with the Marine in charge of the forces in Anbar. MG W.E. Gaskin, USMC, Commanding General Multi-National Force West had this to say about AQI.

Play clip.

Let's hope we find more of the dumb ones.

That's it for now podcatchers. I'm Charlie Quidnunc signing off from my perch high above the streets of a cold and damp Seattle, WA.

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