Al Qaeda in Iraq is Part of Al Qaeda, Take 12
Christopher Hitchens takes on the tired but not dead argument that al Qaeda in Iraq (Mesopotamia) is not really part of al Qaeda proper and we should therefore get out of Iraq and fight the “real” enemy. The key ‘graph:
As it happens, we also know that Zarqawi—who probably considered himself a rival to Bin Laden as well as an ally—wrote from Iraq to Bin Laden and to his henchman Ayman al-Zawahiri and asked for the local “franchise” to call himself the leader of AQM. This dubious honor he was duly awarded. We further know that he authored a plan for the wrecking of the new Iraq: a simple strategy to incite civil murder between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. The incredible evil of this proposal, which involved the blowing up of holy places and the assassination of pilgrims, was endorsed from whatever filthy cave these deliberations are conducted in. As a matter of fact, we even know that Zawahiri and his boss once or twice counseled Zarqawi to hold it down a bit, especially on the video-butchery and the excessive zeal in the murder of Shiites. Thus, if there is any distinction to be made between the apple and the tree, it would involve saying that AQM is, if anything, even more virulent and sadistic and nihilistic than its parent body.
This is well trod ground but, alas, apparently there are still plenty of doubters on this one. TigerHawk commenter Ray nails it with his quip, “By this standard, the failures of the US Army in Iraq, which is a completely separate organization from the US Army in America, cannot be rightly placed at any American politician’s door.”
Hitchens contends that we should therefore take comfort from the fact that “thousands of AQM goons been killed” and, more importantly, that “local opinion appears to have shifted decisively against them and their methods.”
If I am right about this, an enormous prize is within our reach. We can not only deny the clones of Bin Ladenism a military victory in Iraq, we can also discredit them in the process and in the eyes (and with the help) of a Muslim people who have seen them up close. We can do this, moreover, in a keystone state of the Arab world that guards a chokepoint—the Gulf—in the global economy. As with the case of Afghanistan—where several provinces are currently on a knife-edge between an elected government that at least tries for schools and vaccinations, and the forces of uttermost darkness that seek to negate such things—the struggle will take all our nerve and all our intelligence. But who can argue that it is not the same battle in both cases, and who dares to say that it is not worth fighting?
That’s the plan, anyway, and there’s plenty of positive signs. Still, even if we truncate our goals in Iraq to defeating AQI/AQM, it goes too far by miles to see the “prize is within our reach.” Certainly, it’s not going to happen in time for Petraeus’ milestones report next month or, indeed, within the next Friedman. It remains to be seen, then, whether the American public can be sold on this goal and that the latest strategy is finally the right one.
UPDATE: I’ve been asked to provide recent examples of people claiming AQI is not part of al Qaeda. The meme and its variants have been Democratic Party talking points for the last several weeks. See Barack Obama, John Kerry and Harry Reid, Ike Skelton, Media Matters, and Bill Moyers for example.