OpinionJournal has an interesting lead editorial on the subject. The money ‘graph is this:

As a “soft-target” the U.N. was of course more vulnerable to a truck bomb. But the U.N. was no doubt also chosen to intimidate countries that are now contemplating the dispatch of either troops or civilian experts to help rebuild Iraq. The persistent attacks on water mains, oil pipelines and other essential infrastructure are also designed to prevent stability from returning to Baghdad.

In an important sense, of course, this is merely validating what some of us have said all along about the war in Iraq. The link between Saddam and al Qaeda might not have been provable beyond a reasonable doubt, but they shared the common purpose of ousting the U.S. from the Middle East. Now the foreign jihadis flooding the country are proving the point by joining up with Baath Party remnants that want to restore Saddam’s terrorist rule.

We don’t know yet who was responsible for yesterday’s attack, but one possibility is Ansar al Islam. This is the al Qaeda-linked group that was rooted out of northern Iraq last March and is now making a comeback. Ansar’s signature is truck bombs of the ilk that exploded yesterday and on August 7 at the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad.

The obvious retort is that the war engendered this act of terrorism. But the general point is correct. Clearly, there is a large network of anti-Western, especially anti-US terrorist groups in the region. Clearly, Saddam was hospitable to several of them.

Frankly, I have no idea the degree to which the groups are coordinated with al Qaeda. Frankly, I don’t think it matters. Some (including such otherwise rational individuals as Sen. Bob Graham) operate under the impression that the war on terrorism is actually just a war on al Qaeda, since they were directly responsible for the 9/11 attacks. But that has never been the case. Unfortunately, as with the WMD evidence, the administration overemphasized the al Qaeda connection because it was the easiest angle to sell the war.

FILED UNDER: Middle East, Terrorism, , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jack Murray says:

    I’m beginning to think the “War on Terror” is not a good idea. Why wage war on an abstract noun? Terrorism will not die, we cannot capture it, it doesn’t surrender or sign treaties. We need the war on Syria(Hezbollah, etc.),Iran(Islamic Jihad, and so on), Saudi Arabia(Al Qaeda, et al). These are dictatorships, they hate us, some have WMD, they support, harbor, give aid, comfort, whatever you want to say they are an ally of the abstract noun we declared war on. “Terrorism” cannot be fought. These last couple of months illustrate that perfectly. We invaded a country under the guise of 1441 and deposed a brutal dictator. The Arab street wonders only why Baghdad was not defended, not why it took so long for their people’s torture, poverty, suffering, (insert human rights violation here) to be put to an end. The current leaders of these countries have a vested interest in keeping these people enraged at us, so they can reap the benefits of oil money and turn a blind eye to domestic poverty. These people recieve billions annually for exporting oil, millions in foriegn aid, and their people still live in their own trash, sewer, mess of villages with no policing(I know that doesn’t hold true for all, but a vast majority of Middle Eastern and African communities have beautiful palaces and no sewage systems for it’s masses.) If the people stop hating us, they might realize who the real oppressor is. But whether or not we will get to the point where these people actually stop hating us without invading their countries and putting a stop to the brain washing in the name of Allah and the religion of peace is debatable.

  2. John says:

    Excellent point Jack. I’m surprised Paul hasn’t shown up and called you an idiot. But you’re spot on.

  3. James Joyner says:

    Jack and John,

    “War on terror” is an abstract like “war on communism.” We actually fought specific communist governments, but with the aim of toppling a somewhat interrelated system.

    Similarly, the WoT has so far been a war against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and Saddam’s regime in Iraq. The hope is that by knocking out a handful of the regimes that the very principle of terrorism will be rendered illegitimate and we won’t have to fight each and every regime. We shall see. I certainly won’t be surprised to see a third phase at some point. But we rather have our hands full in Afghanistan and Iraq at the moment.

  4. Richard P. says:

    I agree with Bob Graham’s comments. At least in the case of Afghanistan there were clear connections between the regime and the al-qaeda organization who had attacked the U.S., thus any question of legitimacy was easily and clearly answerable and indeed the world community as a whole had little problem with the U.S. striking back at Afghanistan. The connections between Iraq and al-qaeda have yet to be shown to be anything other than the of murkiest, vaguest nature. The idea that toppling the secular dictatorship of Iraq will either somehow send a message to terrorists that will make them fear the U.S. more or make the region a less-fertile breeding ground for terrorism is a pure shot in the dark at best, most likely a waste of resources and quite possibly a strategy that will eventually exacerbate rather than address the terrorism threat. The task in Afghanistan still needs to be finished, and if there are other regimes besides the Taliban worth going after on account of their connections to terrorists, how about the Saudi regime? Attacking Iraq, and in the in the way that the administration was hellbent to do so, was a foolish mistake as well as an act that had no legitimacy in the eyes of the rest of the world. Unfortunately the U.S. only hurts itself by souring relations with other nations because the best way to truly accomplish much in the ‘war’ on terrorism is by skillful diplomacy and international cooperation on the law enforcement level with military action as only a minor part. The U.S. being the singular military muscle-oriented policeman-of-the-world is likely to prove about as effective as the Israeli’s heavy-handed tactics have been against pro-Palestinian terrorism.

  5. John Lemon says:

    How does a terrorist group make a comeback? Do they release a 4 DVD set of greatest hits? Do they announce a reunion tour like The Who (even though pretty much everybody in The Who are dead)? Maybe they sign up with the Scientoligists like John Travolta.

  6. John Lemon says:

    My more intellectualized comments to Mr. Murray’s comment are now located in the barrel of fish.

  7. Paul says:

    No John, when people think things thru and make a point, I have no problem…

    When they say whacky stuff like “Bush was selected not elected” I’ll Bash them repeatedly.

    I don’t expect you to understand the difference.