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Bush Continues to Overstate the Role of Al Qaeda in Iraq

Mr. Bush took on an almost desperate and pleading tone this week when he encouraged both Congress and the American public to give him more time to supposedly make his failed Iraq policy succeed. The fact of the matter is that Mr. Bush continues to overstate the role of Al Qaeda in Iraq as well as continuing to lower the bar for whatever is defined as "success" in Iraq.

By overstating the role of the tiny Al Qaeda organization in Iraq, Mr. Bush hopes to play on the politics of fear with the American public, many of which do not realize that this organization comprises no more than about 500 foreign fighters and about 500 domestic Iraqi Sunni radicals. Certainly in a nation of 26.7 million persons, or larger than the population of Australia and Switzerland combined, a 1,000 member organization represents no serious threat to overthrow the Shiite dominated government of Iraq by any means.

The main problem in Iraq has been a sectarian civil war unleashed since the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime. With only about 22% of the population, the Sunni minority isn't about to achieve power in Iraq whether through democratic elections or by a sectarian conflict. And the Shiite majority will not give up much power when the powerful Shiite cleric, Ali al-Sistani, warns Shiite lawmakers not to do so.

Mr. Bush will simply use the politics of fear of Al Qaeda with the American public to buy enough time for some sort of a "political" victory to be declared in Iraq, similiar to the Nixon "Peace With Honor", which will be only a symbolic handover of power in Iraq, while the situation that Bush unleashed in Iraq will only continue to endanger the MidEast region and draw both Iran and Saudi Arabia in as competing forces to assert power in Iraq and the Gulf region.


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Comments (2)

ryan a:

Paul:

By overstating the role of the tiny Al Qaeda organization in Iraq, Mr. Bush hopes to play on the politics of fear with the American public, many of which do not realize that this organization comprises no more than about 500 foreign fighters and about 500 domestic Iraqi Sunni radicals.

I agree with you Paul; this is a problem, since it creates a certain perception of what's going on. It seems that many people conflate who is actually a terrorist, vs who is part of either Sunni or Shiite sectarian fighting. The categories certainly overlap, and the question is how much. From what I have read, the relative numbers of terrorists are fairly low...and it's not like all Iraqis are exactly AQ sympathizers.

Like Larkin, I have heard estimates as high as 10,000 for the number of terrorists in Iraq. So I can't claim to know what the exact numbers are. But, whether 1,000 or 10,000, in a country of 26-27 million people, that isn't exactly some massive force.

As you say, the primary problem seems to be the sectarian fighting that's going on over there, and the terrorists are adding fuel to the fire. Reading "Wizbang Classic," however, you would think that the nation was overrun with millions of terrorists.

I'm curious to know where you get your estimates from, regarding the numbers of terrorsts (both foreign and domestic) in Iraq at present.

I tend to listen to CNN a great deal during the day in the background while I work. Various experts on terrorism or retired military officials have placed their own estimates of about 500 foreign fighters associated with Al Qaeda, along with about 500 domestic Iraqi members of Al Qaeda.

Your figures of 10,000 or more terrorists in Iraq may also be right, Larkin or Ryan, because there are a wide range of Sunni insurgent organizations operating in Iraq that attract radicals from Saudi Arabia and other nations. However their actions are largely aimed at U.S. forces or Iraqi security forces. Al Qaeda itself is a pretty small organization worldwide, and has specific goals of politically moltivated mayhem, but these goals are far different than many foreign fighters in Iraq who support the Sunni insurgency.

But Bush does tend to overstate and oversimplify the role of Al Qaeda because it plays well with the U.S. public and might be the understandable to the majority of Americans as well another Republican Party policy point.


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Publisher: Kevin Aylward

Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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