July 08, 2005

Cowell in the NYT

These kinds of New York Times pieces (they don't ever bother to advertise this one as a "news analysis" as is the custom!) really are unfortunate:

Perhaps the crudest lesson to be drawn was that, in adopting the stance he took after the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Blair had finally reaped the bitter harvest of the war on terrorism - so often forecast but never quite seeming real until the explosions boomed across London.

The war in Iraq has been increasingly unpopular here, with taunts that Mr. Blair had become President Bush's poodle. The anger about Iraq led to Mr. Blair's shaky showing in the May elections: a third term with a severely reduced majority. Now, as long predicted and feared, his support of the war appears to have cost British lives at home. Thursday was a day of rallying behind the leader, but there were indications that the bombing could take a political toll. [emphasis added]

Alan Cowell should re-read the al-Qaeda (or al-Qaeda affiliate) statement about the attack:

Community of Islam: rejoice at the good news! Community of Arabism: rejoice at the good news! The time of revenge has come for the crusader, Zionist British government.

In response to the massacres that Britain is committing in Iraq and Afghanistan, the heroic holy warriors have undertaken a blessed raid (ghazwah)in London. Behold Britain now, ablaze with fear and terror, horrified from its north to its south, from its east to its west....We continue to warn both the governments of Denmark and of Italy and all the crusader governments that they shall partake of the same retribution if they do not withdraw their forces from Iraq and Afghanistan.

[translation via Juan Cole, with my emphasis]

Even George Galloway, in his "true to type" statement, mentions the role of Afghanistan in stoking some of the jihadist fervor. Put differently, it is irresponsible of Cowell to feed Blair's many vociferous Iraq critics by suggesting--but for that ill-fated Iraq adventure--all would have gone swimmingly on the Tube yesterday. Cowell couldn't quite come out and say the "Iraq war" in the sentence in question because he is aware of the inconsistency between his analysis and even the statement issued by the perpetrators themseleves (with the prominent dual mentions of Afghanistan). So he cleverly engages in semantic games by saying that Blair's "adopting the stance he took after the Sept. 11 attacks" was to blame for putting London in the line of attack. If he had left it at that, that might have been a fairer statement--though jihadist terror, most notably in New York City on 9/11 of course--occurred pre-Afghanistan and pre-Iraq, as we are all so painfully aware. After all, restoration of a massive Islamic caliphate from Andalusia to Jakarta--without any infidel interlopers sullying the utopic fun--such an agenda goes well beyond any of the latest crises whether in Chechnya, Bosnia, Kosovo, the Occupied Territories, Afghanistan, Iraq, the S. Philippines and so on and on.

But Cowell went further, with a paragraph that is positively stock-full of Iraq references ("(t)he war in Iraq has been increasingly unpopular here," "(t)he anger about Iraq led to Mr. Blair's shaky showing in the May elections"), and then disingenuously omits the word Iraq before "war" in the most gotcha sentence in said graf, namely: "the war appears to have cost British lives at home." Cowell is just giving himself some dishonest semantic wriggling room here by omiting Iraq as anyone reading this paragraph manifestly understands that it's Iraq Cowell means to reference (rather than the general post 9/11 war on terror generally). But Cowell's contention isn't a judicious or empirically sound statement, certainly with regard to Iraq specifically, and not even if we bend over backwards and read Cowell to mean Blair's "shoulder to shoulder" post 9/11 solidarity with the U.S. writ large. As I point out and we are all painfully aware, jihadist terror pre-dates 9/11. And, lest we forget, the Madrid 3/11 attacks were in planning before the Iraq War.

Witness:

Some people who have closely followed the [Madrid 3/11 bombing] investigations suggest that the bombings were not specifically timed for the election.

In other intercepted telephone conversations reported by El Mundo and broadly confirmed by Spanish authorities as accurate, Ahmed was overheard saying the planning for the March 11 attacks took 2 1/2 years. That would mean it was in motion well before the election was called, and trying to influence the vote became a secondary objective, if an objective at all. [emphasis added]

Not only were the 3/11 attacks well in motion before the Spanish elections--but they were also well in motion well before the Iraq war. When will people stand up and take better notice that the specter of jihadist terror is caused by variables well beyond Iraq, or Afghanistan or Chechyna or whatever crisis du jour prevails? Perhaps it would be a helpful start if pieces like Cowell's weren't so prevalent in leading newspapers of elite opinion. Yes, it is quite possible additional jihadists were rallied to the cause as a result of interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. But put aside Iraq, for a moment, as it has become so hugely politicized and sober analysis is near impossible these days. Were we not to go into Afghanistan either in the aftermath of 9/11 for fear of increasing the chances of jihadist terror in a Madrid or London? And, all this aside, why should innocent Britons be slaughtered because their Prime Minister had the temerity to join a multilateral, NATO action in a country, Afghanistan, whose ruling regime provided a too safe, state sanctuary to nihilistic mass murderers? This is not to say, of course, that the ranks of the jihadists woudn't be thinned if Chechnya had some deep autonomy, or if an independent Palestinian state existed, or if U.S. troops had never been in Saudi Arabia, or if things were going a bit more easily in Iraq. But to lay the brutal London killings solely at the feet of Blair's Iraq involvement strikes me as unfair, inaccurate, and quite irresponsible. But we've come to expect this with much of the New York Times news "analysis", alas, not that they even care to label it as such anymore...

A final point. You might argue, why then have attacks occured in London and Madrid, say, but not Berlin and Paris? Partly because al-Qaeda realizes the propaganda value of spurring on exactly the type of analyses like Cowell's--so that people will say: the Poodle's acquiesence to the Toxic Texan's Iraq plans did us in!, or still: Aznar's kow-towing to Cowboy Bush is to blame!; and so on. So there is a strategic reason to hit London earlier than Berlin, say, or Milan or Rome next, for instance, before Lyon or Marseilles. But aren't we well aware that a French decision to, say, ban head scarves in its schools is enough of a jihadist casus belli to allow for mass slaughter in the streets of Nice or Tolouse? Or German troops being in Afghanistan to allow for killings in Cologne or Munich? Or that a Dutch filmaker can be massacred on the streets of Amsterdam, not because of the Iraq war, but because he dares to engage in documentary film-making critical of Islam. Such attacks, very unfortunately, may occur too. What will the NYT-narrative be then?

UPDATE: Elizabeth Tulis spots some additional information of interest that B.D., in haste, missed. Yes, the verbal skullduggery was worse than I initially realized. Thanks for the catch Liz.

Posted by Gregory at July 8, 2005 12:16 PM | TrackBack (4)
Comments

Its an interesting thesis, Greg... but there has been too much water over the dam to take any "it would have happened anyway" thesis at face value.

And the confluence of Afghanistan and Iraq in public statements does not speak to the motivation of the individuals involved. Certainly, the invasion of Iraq could have made people far more receptive to the message of al Qaeda --- and individuals who might have moral qualms about being involved in terrorism might ignore those qualms as a result of the Iraqi invasion. (Certainly OBL has exploited Iraq for recruitment purposes, threating in October 2003 to carry out suicide bombings against any countries joining the US-led invasion of Iraq: "We reserve the right to retaliate at the appropriate time and place against all countries involved, especially Britain, Spain, Australia, Poland, Japan and Italy." )

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/March_11,_2004_Madrid_attacks#Al-Qaida_suspicions

Finally, its clear that the invasion of Iraq meant that resources that could have been dedicated to dealing with the threat represented by al Qaeda were diverted to other purposes. (Its not like there are limitless supplies of translators and analysts available to examine all intercepted communications, for instance. And we know that US resources were diverted from Afghanistan to Iraq --- resource that had we remained focussed on al Qaeda could have lead to the discovery of the cell that carried out this attack.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at July 8, 2005 05:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Cowell article was indeed unfortunate. But what I found most unbelievable is that in an article on the previous page, Times reporters Van Natta and Sciolino admit that there is no evidence to support the "lesson" Cowell identifies for us. Of course, that doesn't stop the writers from insinuating something similar, but it's clear they know it's just speculation: "Both Spain and Britain sent troops to aid the American-led war in Iraq and the military attack in Afghanistan, although it is not known whether support for American foreign policies played a role in the London attack." And indeed, if you read Cowell's article again, you'll see that his conclusions are not straight, declarative statements: He surmises on what was "the crudest lesson TO BE DRAWN," and Blair's "support for the war APPEARS to have cost British lives at home." In other words, Cowell leaves himself room to claim that these statements only describe the reactions of other people--British citizens and politicians. How he knows that all those politicians came to the same conclusion as Galloway--that it was only that "no mainstream politician would say so out loud"--is of course an unanswerable question.

Posted by: Liz at July 8, 2005 05:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Some folks seem to forget that Germans were killed by AQ in Tunisia, that Frenchmen were killed in Karachi, and that a French tanker was attacked off Yemen.


Posted by: liberalhawk at July 8, 2005 06:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

and yes Iraq takes resources - as do tax cuts, domestic programs, farm subsidies, you take your pick. If the US and EU spent less on farm subsidies there would have been more money to train translators, intell analysts, etc. So why not say, "farm subsidies have cost British lives" or something like that? Cause it would be absurd to bring in every other use of resources when discussing something like this. The real implication of the Cowell article is NOT about resources, but that this was a revenge attack for Iraq.
Interesting that the democratically selected leader of Iraq has expressed his condolences to Britain.

Posted by: liberalhawk at July 8, 2005 06:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Precisely, LH. Well said
Perhaps we should cut social security pay-outs commensurate to the amount of war "resources" that the left so desperately wants to see funded.

Posted by: Tommy G at July 9, 2005 12:58 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"We reserve the right to retaliate at the appropriate time and place against all countries involved, especially Britain, Spain, Australia, Poland, Japan and Italy."

Does anyone else notice the dichotomy?

Western Liberals: "Iraq and Al Qaeda have no relationship."

OBL: "We reserve the right to retaliate..."

Western Liberals: "If we hadn't been involved in Iraq, AQ and its associates wouldn't be bombing Madrid and London."

How do you retaliate for an act that has not been committed upon you? If AQ wasn't involved in Iraq, what injury has been committed to them from the invasion? And how can the Western Media belive we have given AQ moral license to retaliate by our actions in Iraq, when AQ was never supposedly there in the first place?

Conservatives have it right, OBL has it right, it is the Liberals who want to have it both ways.

Posted by: Kevin at July 9, 2005 04:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You must understand that Osama bin Laden knew that the Bushies would invade Iraq. The attacks of 9/11/01 were merely retaliation for that future invasion. In fact, all the many attacks against the US during the 1990s were also anticipatory retalliation for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. OBL understood Bush much better than american voters did.

Posted by: Gregory Raspaskiak at July 9, 2005 06:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I guess OBL always knows who will win the Presidential elections. I wonder how he does on horse races.

Michael

Posted by: Michael Pecherer at July 9, 2005 07:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This analysis of "if only we hadn't pissed Muslims off by invading Afghanistan and Iraq" fails with the Buenos Aires Cultural Center bombing in 1996.

What possible reason could Iran have for wanting to kill Argentinian Jews? Why was this terror attack put forward? How did they benefit?

The only "advantage" I can see for Iran is that they appear to be the hardest of the hard boys among Muslims. "See how hard we are?" There is no other reason other than competition for Muslim prestige with bin Laden.

It doesn't make sense to attack Argentinian Jews since they had no connection to the state of Iran in any way. Only in consideration of Iran's prestige internationally as the proponents of jihad does this action appear even halfway rational.

However the idea that if we are just nice to people they'll go away and kill someone else is understandable. People hate the cost of war and would avoid it if they can.

My prediction is that eventually the Brits will toss Blair, replace him with Brown, who will pull out of Iraq AND Afghanistan, and offer various apologies. I don't think however it will provide much respite but will instead provide a weak image and provoke even bigger attacks. The Chamberlain-Churchill dynamic.

Note the Spanish did EXACTLY what bin Laden demanded and got: another attempted train bombing, a plot to assasinate Judge Garzon, and a plot to commit mass murder at World Cup events.

There just isn't any way out of the conflict except victory.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at July 9, 2005 11:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This analysis of "if only we hadn't pissed Muslims off by invading Afghanistan and Iraq" fails with the Buenos Aires Cultural Center bombing in 1996.

What possible reason could Iran have for wanting to kill Argentinian Jews? Why was this terror attack put forward? How did they benefit?

The only "advantage" I can see for Iran is that they appear to be the hardest of the hard boys among Muslims. "See how hard we are?" There is no other reason other than competition for Muslim prestige with bin Laden.

It doesn't make sense to attack Argentinian Jews since they had no connection to the state of Iran in any way. Only in consideration of Iran's prestige internationally as the proponents of jihad does this action appear even halfway rational.

However the idea that if we are just nice to people they'll go away and kill someone else is understandable. People hate the cost of war and would avoid it if they can.

My prediction is that eventually the Brits will toss Blair, replace him with Brown, who will pull out of Iraq AND Afghanistan, and offer various apologies. I don't think however it will provide much respite but will instead provide a weak image and provoke even bigger attacks. The Chamberlain-Churchill dynamic.

Note the Spanish did EXACTLY what bin Laden demanded and got: another attempted train bombing, a plot to assasinate Judge Garzon, and a plot to commit mass murder at World Cup events.

There just isn't any way out of the conflict except victory.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at July 9, 2005 11:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Kevin wrote: How do you retaliate for an act that has not been committed upon you? If AQ wasn't involved in Iraq, what injury has been committed to them from the invasion? And how can the Western Media belive we have given AQ moral license to retaliate by our actions in Iraq, when AQ was never supposedly there in the first place?

This is parsing just a little too pointedly, don't you think? For one thing, we have no way of knowing that the word OBL actually used (translated as "retaliate") had the same connotation in Arabic as it does in English. For another, even if it did, OBL has made fairly clear, I think, that he takes any action against any Muslim state/population anywhere in the world as an offense against him and his cause.

I no more think this comment of his confirms an al Qaeda presence in Iraq pre-invasion than I think the Downing Street Memo confirms that the Bush Administration lied (and I use that word specifially) in the run up to the Iraq War.

Now, if you want to believe al Qaeda was in Iraq, go ahead. But this is spurious proof at best.

Posted by: NYCmoderate at July 10, 2005 01:35 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Nicley put, Kevin

Posted by: Tommy G at July 10, 2005 01:36 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Iran has declared their intentions by their choice for president ( not elected by the people but by the men in power ). Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a terrorist and accomplished killer. He preaches hatred and invited Iran into the fight between the modern world and Islamofascism. This is a confrontation that has been brewing for decades, it is only now that the West understands that war was declared long ago.

It is a stroke a genius that President Bush has prepared a place for us to meet these guys rather than inviting them to counseling sessions here in America - Iraq. When fighting an enemy that wears no uniform, heeds no laws, and passes through borders and countries with ease, we don't have the luxury of chasing them down through soveriegn lands, thus, we have procured a plot of land with which to invite them to come knock us off the top of the hill, and they are coming out of the woodworks to do so. The are coming to us - and finding us a little better prepared for the meeting than the Americans they slaughtered in NY and Philly. It was convenient for us that Saddam invited us in, otherwise we would truly be at a loss as to how to round up these killers that are spread all through the Arab world.

I think the odds are little more even now. If the Brits react with the same tenacity today that they did when they were being bombed in WWII - this only unites Allies in WOT. If they react with the same cowardice of the Spaniards, we are all in for more of the same.

Posted by: Evrviglnt at July 10, 2005 02:29 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Commentators: Anyone who is generalizing about "liberals" or "conservatives" when it comes to current foreign policy is either clueless or selling something.

There is no meaningful liberal-conservative bifurcation of foreign policy ideology but a wide variety of schools including: realists, internationalists, neocon/human rights ideologues, interventionists, isolationists, globalization evangelists (and critics), soft power advocates, clash of civilization adherents, 4th generation of warfare zeolots, Rumsfeld haters, and those, like me, that believe Microsoft controls everything.

Brent Scowcroft said it best: we are in a period of profound strategic confusion as to how to act in the world and it shows. Those who pretend to think that one party or the other has a clue which direction it is going -- not to mention whether that is the right direction -- aren't paying attention to detail.


Posted by: POTUS B at July 10, 2005 06:34 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

From The American Conservative

http://amconmag.com/2005_07_18/article.html

The Logic of Suicide Terrorism

It’s the occupation, not the fundamentalism

Posted by: p.lukasiak at July 10, 2005 09:02 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Germany has foiled several attempts at bombings including one at the Christmas Market in Strasbourg designed to damage the Cathedral. There are several razzia in Germany arresting terrorists and putting them on trial....................no doubt it never makes Anglo-Saxon newspapers or media channels...............................


These terrorists are not sitting down writing newspaper articles or preparing for a discussion forum nor are they doing interviews with Larry King..................they are NIHILISTS...................they like destruction. They are psychotic and whatever else their drug-taking and mental debility has reduced them to..................they do NOT care whom they kill, they do not have any rational goals......................they want to destroy.

Himmler did not level the city of Warsaw in August 1944 destroying every single building because he had a rational goal in mind; nor did Hitler propose replacing the city of Moscow with an artificial lake; or the city of St Petersburg with complete eradication because he was trying to win people over........................it was done because of a complete contempt for human life, an obsessional desire to expunge first Jews then Poles from the face of the earth and to reduce Central Europeans to the level of helots serving as disposable serfs and having no moral or economic value.

But no doubt someone out there could have reached out to him to inquire about his troubled childhood, how Himmler was frustrated at being refused a job with the Munich Police, and how cognitive therapy and colonic irrigation would have made these men paragons of virtue and made the Waffen-SS less like the Teutonic Knights and more like St John's Ambulance.

Then again, fantasists are the danger we face...............and they are not all terrorists...............some of the fantasists are apologists

Posted by: Rick at July 10, 2005 11:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Let me be more clear. Whether you call yourself a liberal, conservative, moderate, realist, globalist, humanist or environmentalist in your position on Iraq, if you hold both the following statements to be true you are not making a logical arguement:

"Iraq and Al Qaeda have no relationship."

"If we hadn't been involved in Iraq, AQ and its associates wouldn't be bombing Madrid and London."

The second statement invalidates the first.

If you believe that Iraq and AQ have no relationship, then you also must also believe the London and Madrid bombings were carried out for some other reason and may have occurred regardless of our involvement in Iraq.

On the other hand, if you believe the London and Madrid bombings result from the war in Iraq, then you directly link AQ to the Iraq war.

You cannot have it both ways.

Intelligent people can debate the nature of the relationship - AQ tied to Hussein's government, AQ wants the infidels out of the Holy Land, AQ fear of a working democracy in the Middle East, etc. We're dealing with a very complex problem and there are many relationships that must be identified and optimized to solve it. But to move the discussion forward, we must remove those who say there was no relationship (and thus no positive effect on AQ could come from the invasion), while simultaneously blaming the Iraq war for the bombings, from the arena of serious debate.

Posted by: Kevin at July 10, 2005 03:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Kevin, the answer to your conundrum is quite simple. Many Iraq critics believe that there was no link between Iraq and al queda PRIOR to OIF, but plenty of linkage AFTER OIF. Nothing inconsistent about that at all -- you CAN have it both ways. For example, one organization that agrees with that assessment is the CIA.

Posted by: POTUS B at July 10, 2005 04:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Kevin, again: On the other hand, if you believe the London and Madrid bombings result from the war in Iraq, then you directly link AQ to the Iraq war.

But for your argument to have any meaning, you have to make the distinction between pre- and post-invasion Iraq. I don't (and I think most don't, though I've no doubt you'll be able to dig up some quotes to the contrary) doubt that there's a connection NOW between al Qaeda and people in operating in Iraq. I do, however, strongly question the notion that there was any connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda BEFORE the invasion.

Again, I have no doubt you'll bring up that Zarqwai (sp?) was apparently physically in Iraq during Saddam's reign. But I've seen no compelling evidence that he had particularly strong ties to either Osama bin Laden or the Hussein regime. In fact, wasn't he in any area of Iraq controlled by anti-Saddam forces?

Posted by: NYCmoderate at July 10, 2005 04:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I am surprised they bombed London................it is a second home to most Arabs and is the centre of the Arabic Press, Al-Jazeera, and most Arab dissident/terror groups................strange to foul their own nest and must have been terribly disappointing to MI6.

I suppose they will go for Warsaw next. Personally Iraq is a red-herring, these loons always find a reason ex-post for their love of violence and killing and they like to do it in the shadows.

London is home to a lot of Irishmen but it did not stop them fouling that nest either; how many IRA bombers blended in in Kilburn ?

I suppose it is the price we have to bear when dealing with primitive tribes............what was it Kipling called it "The White Man's Burden" ?

Posted by: Rick at July 10, 2005 06:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This whole argument is misdirection. The questions aren't what are the terrorists going to do, and will there be terrorists. The answers are (a) as much as they can and (b) yes. The real question is can terrorists hide out among sympathetic populations. Here is where Afghanistan, Iraq, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and all the rest have the impact: there's both a qualitative and a quantitative dimension. That is, how many passive supporters there are, and how committed they are. Actual or perceived injustice on the part of the West incents passive supporters to remain supporters, when what we want them to do is cease support, and turn people in. It also increases the numbers of passive supporters.


WRT the ag subsidies v. warfighting argument: dollars (and pounds) may be fungible, but many other key assets are not. Intelligence professionals, soecial forces, executive attention, etc etc -- you can name off a zillion ways that deciding that one particular foreign policy goal is going to be a top priority will necessarily make other foreign policy goals much more difficult to attain. With ag subsidies, it's only the money -- and at least on the US part, this is no part of the executive decisonmaking process.

Posted by: CharleyCarp at July 10, 2005 06:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

we must remove those who say there was no relationship (and thus no positive effect on AQ could come from the invasion), while simultaneously blaming the Iraq war for the bombings, from the arena of serious debate.

It seems to me that if anyone is going to have to be removed from the arena of serious debate, it's going to have to be those who cannot understand the simplest logic. I am walking down the street. I see a man I don't know yelling at a woman I don't know and threatening to strike her. I say: 'hey, settle down there.' Or maybe I call out to her -- 'You OK?' Or I call the police. If you think any of this proves that I had a relationship with her before I walked by, or even while watching the situation, you're missing the boat.

AQ sees a parade going in a direction it likes, and immediately announces that it is leading the parade. Doesn't mean it is leading the parade, just that it wants to be seen as leading the parade.

AQ doesn't have to fear establishment of a democracy in Iraq to see great opportunity in being seen as a principal opponent of the US there.

Posted by: CharleyCarp at July 10, 2005 06:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

OK, one more, then I'll stop.

The invasion of Iraq allowed AQ to stop playing defense in AF and PK, and go to offense in IR. There's no downside for AQ to coming into IR: if they lose -- and I would guess they would expect to do so -- they can blame Shi'ite heresy, US overhwleming power, and, I'm sure they'll find a way, Israel. But fighting the crusader in IR -- rather than on their own doorstep -- is just as good a strategic concept for AQ as it is for US.

That we are doing the IR thing in a particularly hamhanded way -- Abu G, Bremer's early pronouncements, too few troops, making Ba'athists allies of AQ -- is just a bonus to AQ.

'Winning" in Iraq isn't really a victory for the US (as we are accomplishing Iran's strategic objectives rather than our own) if you look at costs and benefits, while "losing" in Iraq is still a victory for AQ, as it fought the good fight against crusader injustice.

Posted by: CharleyCarp at July 10, 2005 06:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

POTUS B and NYCModerate, thanks for weighing in.

Don't confuse "relationship" meaning a direct tie between AQ and the Hussein government with "relationship" meaning a direct link in achieving our goals and stopping AQ from achieving theirs. One is a legal justification for invasion; the other is a strategic one.

Let's take the before/after argument apart:

Assume pre-invasion Iraq was of no importance to AQ. They had no assets in the country, no future plans in Iraq, or links to WMD. They could care less if Saddam was deposed or the government became a secular democracy. Let a million infidels move in and set up churches and synagogues next to every mosque.

OBL wakes up one morning and can't believe this land with no importance to him whatsoever has suddenly become a way for him to further his goals elsewhere. AQ moves into Iraq because of its: (a) close geographical proximity to the AQ leadership, (b) steady stream of troops and reserves to tie up the US military, (c) convenient cultural cover, (d) access to necessary weapons and supplies, and (e) use as a new and convenient propaganda vehicle. In short, it’s just a convenient place to kill westerners and develop talent to achieve AQ’s real objectives - which by definition lie outside of Iraq.

In fact, many people believe this scenario to be true. They say Iraq was a mistake, that we “attacked the wrong country” and that we’ve squandered our forces in a “quagmire” while letting the real war slip away. (Bonus points for linking US Senators with each statement)

But then the following statement is false: "If we hadn't been involved in Iraq, AQ and its associates wouldn't be bombing Madrid and London."

If OIF was a strategic mistake in the GWOT, causing no damage to AQ but providing it a golden opportunity to fight the coalition on friendly terrain, then there is no reason to bomb in retaliation – AQ was not harmed by the invasion. In fact, if Iraq isn’t central to OBL’s plans, why not tie up the coalition forces for as long as possible while working on your real objectives elsewhere?

On the other hand, assume Iraq is important to achieving AQ’s larger goals and objectives – whether they were actively involved in pre-invasion Iraq or not. Then losing (control, access, influence, or whatever else is strategic to their plan) in Iraq would be a setback for AQ. Since attacks on London and Madrid might weaken support for the effort and increase the possibility of a coalition withdrawal, they could be central to AQ’s larger strategy. In this instance, the bombings could result from the coalition’s invasion but they’re also evidence that the invasion is threatening or impairing AQ’s ability to achieve its goals.

It also makes this statement false: "There is no relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda."

Back to the pre-/post-invasion premise: Can’t it be true that Iraq wasn’t relevant to AQ before the invasion, but OIF made it relevant?

No.

If Iraq has strategic value in the GWOT, this value was not created by the invasion; it was strategically valuable before the invasion as well. The importance of Iraq in this sense – and why there was a “relationship” between Iraq, AQ and the coalition from the beginning – is due to Iraq’s central geographic location to AQ’s goals and Iraq’s resources (including a Muslim population that can support one side or the other while influencing the rest of the world).

You can argue the strategic value of winning in Iraq has gone up considerably for both sides. But you cannot argue that Iraq had zero strategic value to Al Qaeda prior to the invasion and is now vitally important to achieving their objectives.

Therefore, you can argue the coalition’s leaders were fools – attacking a country with no relationship to AQ – and that AQ legitimately retaliated against us because of OIF.

But you can’t logically hold both positions at the same time.

Posted by: Kevin at July 11, 2005 12:57 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

CharleyCarp: You may not have a relationship with that woman prior to the incident and you may step in to defend her, but you also wouldn’t simultaneously claim you were harmed by her attack, that you reserve the right to retaliate against other’s in the attacker’s group on her behalf, or that beating off her attackers was central to your own safety.

You also wouldn’t continue to defend her or carry out any of the other activities if the woman realized she was only being offered help getting her groceries up the steps and asked you to stop intervening on her behalf.

In that regard, your argument is logically consistent but doesn’t represent the situation in Iraq.

Posted by: kevin at July 11, 2005 12:59 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

There are some good points made here - as well as some very weak ones. My analysis is this:

Al Qaeda and Hussein's regime NEVER had a relationship. Intelligence reports confirmed this over a year ago, when the spin justifying the invasion was proved to be exactly that - spin. That said, a basic analysis would confirm this. Al Qaeda's aims largely are based upon the desire to establish a Pan Islamic Caliphate based on Wahibist principles across Southern Spain, North Africa, the Middle East, and across to SE Asia, and in the process of creating this state they seek to drive out any and all Western influences as infidels.

However Hussein's Baathist regime ran largely on a secular basis - not as an Islamic Theocracy. Ergo whilst the main enemy for Al Qaeda at the moment is Western Nations and any western connections into the Islamic world, eventually Hussein also would have had to go or convert to Al Qaeda's philosophy, as a baathist secular regime does not fit into AQ's plans for a Pan Islamic Caliphate. Giving Husseins ruthless suppression of the Kurds and his conflict with Iran I personally believe it would be very unlikely he would ever accede to Al Qaeda's plans. Therefore it should be obvious that suggestions of formalised connections between Hussein's regime and AQ are largely illogical. This doesn't rule out low level unofficial contact, but I suspect such cases would be on a individualised basis.

However - as has been pointed out by some commenters here, AL Qaeda are more than happy to use the Iraq war as an excuse or justification for carrying out attacks on any Western targets. Its a handy smoke screen to create division at home. A division not helped by the intractability of both sides of the war debate I might add (afterall we should be looking for middle ground here rather than taking pot shots at each other). That said to directly attribute this incident to the Iraq invasion is a little disingenious and shows a lack of understanding of AQ's stated aims. An attack on London and other Western targets has been on the cards since 9/11 and probably before.

After some thinking over the weekend (being Monday morning here), I've come to the conclusion that the threat of AQ really did crystallize in the mid-late 90's. That said its also a fallacy to suggest that Clinton was asleep at the wheel either. I think at the time Western intelligence didn't comprehend the scale or nature of AQ's plans. (I'll be the first to admit I have no concrete evidence to confirm this assertion). That said I did read some articles about 18 months ago that suggested that when Bush took power he underestimated the warnings given by the outgoing administration that serious terror attacks were being planned.

I personally think that the reason we have arrived at this juncture now, stems from the reliance of the global economy on oil, and the need for the major Oil producing states to be governed by stable open thinking governments. Without our reliance on Oil there would be a much lower need to be involved in the Middle East, and ergo we'd be a lesser target for AQ as there would be less western involvement in the region. (please note I'm not making an assertion that the invasion was about oil - although to deny it was an element in the reasoning why would also be wrong). The simple reality is without steady and secure supplies of Oil, the current global economy would collapse. We need oil and therefore we need a stable middle east. Unfortunately this is in direct conflict with the Aims of Al Qaeda, whos perverted "brand" of Islamic extremism has led to the current conflict.

Whilst this has been bubbling since the 60's its only been in the mid 80's to 90's that its moved from conflict predominantly aimed at Israel with Western Supporters as a secondary target, to America and the West in general as the main targets of terrorist activity. This is a little bit of a shallow analysis I'll admit, and its been a while since I last read any indepth analysis of terrorist activity in the 70's and 80's, but I think its largely accurate.

What I will say about Iraq, is that I truly hope the US can conclude the conflict quickly and effectively and create a stable democracy. Anything less will be a Pyrrhic Victory as it has diverted important resources and focus away from the GWOT. Afterall intelligence resources are finite, and a great deal of those resources are now utilised in Iraq rather than in other areas. Whilst some might consider it a useful honeypot, no analysis I've read yet has established that AQ and Zaqwiri (sp??) are not also using it as a honeypot to keep the US stuck in Iraq longer than it needs to be??

I'm advocating that the long term solution to this conflict will potentially require several of the following to take place:

1. Spread Freedom and democracy as a viable alternative to Islamic Extremism. By and Large this should be done the diplomatic pressure where possible given the high costs of the use of military force and the attendant difficulties we're seeing in implementing democracy in Iraq at gun point.

2. Retain our civil liberties and the other things inherent to our way of life. Lets not let our fear allowa us to submit to futher Patriot Acts and the like, which ultimately will make us more like them.

3. At the same time being vigilant and prepared for further attacks. Lets apportion blame where appropriate but focus on making sure we remove as many vunerabilities as possible without destroying our freedom.

4. When we do resort to using force, we err on the side of caution concerning the detainment of prisoners and their treatment. We prosecute those we have cases against and ensure that they are held under reasonable conditions. To do less is to fail to hold ourselves to the standards by which democracy and feedom are measured - which ultimately lessens its lure as an alternative to Religious Fanatacism. There is no room for democracy-lite. If we don't then we can't offer a viable alternative and in the very long run this may cost us more casualties by dragging the GWOT on longer.

5. We know out enemy. We take the time to understand why they do what they do. We stop using puerile labels like islamofacists (which is quite false - a more accurate label would be islamo-theocracists). We support moderate Islam particualrly when they are taking steps such as declaring a fatwa against bombings, and act to isolate Wahibism and other islamic extremist branchs of Islam, from moderate Islam.

6. We also act to isolate all forms of Religious extremism (from Hinduism, Christianity etc). All religious extremism is cancerous to society and needs to be isolated and starved of support until it withers and dies. Whilst Islamic extremism is front of mind, we should not forget than other forms of extremism may well be the next enemy. (Please note I'm not advocating repression of religious worship or expression - just those sects whose beliefs directly contravene and force rejection of fundamental principles of human rights)

I'm sure this is not exhaustive, but its my simple analysis and go forward plan from here. I welcome intelligent feedback!!!

Posted by: Aran Brown at July 11, 2005 01:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

There are some good points made here - as well as some very weak ones. My analysis is this:

Al Qaeda and Hussein's regime NEVER had a relationship. Intelligence reports confirmed this over a year ago, when the spin justifying the invasion was proved to be exactly that - spin. That said, a basic analysis would confirm this. Al Qaeda's aims largely are based upon the desire to establish a Pan Islamic Caliphate based on Wahibist principles across Southern Spain, North Africa, the Middle East, and across to SE Asia, and in the process of creating this state they seek to drive out any and all Western influences. Westerner are viewed as infidels and unworthy of touching Islamic soil.

However Hussein's Baathist regime ran largely on a secular basis - not as an Islamic Theocracy. Ergo whilst the main enemy for Al Qaeda at the moment is Western Nations and any western connections into the Islamic world, eventually Hussein also would have had to go or convert to Al Qaeda's philosophy, as a baathist secular regime does not fit into AQ's plans for a Pan Islamic Caliphate. Giving Husseins ruthless suppression of the Kurds and his conflict with Iran I personally believe it would be very unlikely he would ever submit to Al Qaeda's plans. Therefore it should be obvious that suggestions of formalised connections between Hussein's regime and AQ are largely illogical. This doesn't rule out low level unofficial contact, but I suspect such cases would be on a individualised basis.

However - as has been pointed out by some commenters here, AL Qaeda are more than happy to use the Iraq war as an excuse or justification for carrying out attacks on any Western targets. Its a handy smoke screen to create division at home. A division not helped by the intractability of both sides of the war debate I might add (afterall we should be looking for middle ground here rather than taking pot shots at each other). That said to directly attribute this incident to the Iraq invasion is a little disingenious and shows a lack of understanding of AQ's stated aims. An attack on London and other Western targets has been on the cards since 9/11 and probably before.

After some thinking over the weekend (being Monday morning here), I've come to the conclusion that the threat of AQ really did crystallize in the mid-late 90's. That said its also a fallacy to suggest that Clinton was asleep at the wheel either. I think at the time Western intelligence didn't comprehend the scale or nature of AQ's plans. (I'll be the first to admit I have no concrete evidence to confirm this assertion). That said I did read some articles about 18 months ago that suggested that when Bush took power he underestimated the warnings given by the outgoing administration that serious terror attacks were being planned.

I personally think that the reason we have arrived at this juncture now, stems from the reliance of the global economy on oil, and the need for the major Oil producing states to be governed by stable open thinking governments. Without our reliance on Oil there would be a much lower need to be involved in the Middle East, and ergo we'd be a lesser target for AQ as there would be less western involvement in the region. (please note I'm not making an assertion that the invasion was about oil - although to deny it was an element in the reasoning why would also be wrong). The simple reality is without steady and secure supplies of Oil, the current global economy would collapse. We need oil and therefore we need a stable middle east. Unfortunately this is in direct conflict with the Aims of Al Qaeda, whos perverted "brand" of Islamic extremism has led to the current conflict.

Whilst this has been bubbling since the 60's its only been in the mid 80's to 90's that its moved from conflict predominantly aimed at Israel with Western Supporters as a secondary target, to America and the West in general as the main targets of terrorist activity. This is a little bit of a shallow analysis I'll admit, and its been a while since I last read any indepth analysis of terrorist activity in the 70's and 80's, but I think its largely accurate.

What I will say about Iraq, is that I truly hope the US can conclude the conflict quickly and effectively and create a stable democracy. Anything less will be a Pyrrhic Victory as it has diverted important resources and focus away from the GWOT. Afterall intelligence resources are finite, and a great deal of those resources are now utilised in Iraq rather than in other areas. Whilst some might consider it a useful honeypot, no analysis I've read yet has established that AQ and Zaqwiri (sp??) are not also using it as a honeypot to keep the US stuck in Iraq longer than it needs to be??

I'm advocating that the long term solution to this conflict will potentially require several of the following to take place:

1. Spread Freedom and democracy as a viable alternative to Islamic Extremism. By and Large this should be done the diplomatic pressure where possible given the high costs of the use of military force and the attendant difficulties we're seeing in implementing democracy in Iraq at gun point.

2. Retain our civil liberties and the other things inherent to our way of life. Lets not let our fear allowa us to submit to futher Patriot Acts and the like, which ultimately will make us more like them.

3. At the same time being vigilant and prepared for further attacks. Lets apportion blame where appropriate but focus on making sure we remove as many vunerabilities as possible without destroying our freedom.

4. When we do resort to using force, we err on the side of caution concerning the detainment of prisoners and their treatment. We prosecute those we have cases against and ensure that they are held under reasonable conditions. To do less is to fail to hold ourselves to the standards by which democracy and feedom are measured - which ultimately lessens its lure as an alternative to Religious Fanatacism. There is no room for democracy-lite. If we don't then we can't offer a viable alternative and in the very long run this may cost us more casualties by dragging the GWOT on longer.

5. We know out enemy. We take the time to understand why they do what they do. We stop using puerile labels like islamofacists (which is quite false - a more accurate label would be islamo-theocracists). We support moderate Islam particualrly when they are taking steps such as declaring a fatwa against bombings, and act to isolate Wahibism and other islamic extremist branchs of Islam, from moderate Islam.

6. We also act to isolate all forms of Religious extremism (from Hinduism, Christianity etc). All religious extremism is cancerous to society and needs to be isolated and starved of support until it withers and dies. Whilst Islamic extremism is front of mind, we should not forget than other forms of extremism may well be the next enemy. (Please note I'm not advocating repression of religious worship or expression - just those sects whose beliefs directly contravene and force rejection of fundamental principles of human rights)

I'm sure this is not exhaustive, but its my simple analysis and go forward plan from here. I welcome intelligent feedback!!!

Posted by: Aran Brown at July 11, 2005 01:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Erk bitten by the double post bug again....

Posted by: Aran Brown at July 11, 2005 02:49 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't a group linked to Al Qaeda launch attacks on the Paris Metro in the 1990's? Also, I believe that Bin Laden had an attack on the European Parliament (which is, I'm guessing, in Belgium) foiled in 2000 or 2001. And I recall the Yemeni bombers who attacked the French tanker saying that they'd prefer it had been American or Israeli, but that "they are all infidels".

It seems that the Iraq connection fits perfectly, except where it doesn't.

Also, while the connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda is vague and has not been proven in its specifics, the evidence exists and is growing. The CIA initially dismissed the idea, as Aran says, but is shifting its opinions in light of evidence uncovered post-invasion. Hayes' Weekly Standard writings survey the various pieces in the puzzle very well; whether or not you believe each and every one, the big picture suggests a relationship that involved formal connections and cooperation. To say that they "NEVER had a relationship" seems highly speculative, in light of what is known.

Posted by: BJ at July 11, 2005 12:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Aran, Some good comments there but I must take exception to this defense of the Clinton admin - indeed the entire Western political establishment during the 1990's.

AQ was indeed up and running then - the African Embassy bombings ring a bell?

That was a classis AQ operation

OBL was operating out of Sudan at the time - which sheds quite a bit of light on the whole "we should have just done Aghanistan" rationale ( I personally think it very likely OBL is in Iran - where MANY senior Taliban and AQ found refuge ) - in short - you can't get one man or change one country

I would also like to comment on this point made by NYCmoderate above

"For another, even if it did, OBL has made fairly clear, I think, that he takes any action against any Muslim state/population anywhere in the world as an offense against him and his cause "

Please try to understand these nihlist's - they hate moderate muslims the most of all. The use the traditional hatred of infidels ( unclean persons like you and me ) as a usefull tool

AQ has killed more muslims than any other sort of people - including folks from our great city

OBL uses our efforts in Iraq to sing a song of muslim unity in his effort to establish the new caliphate - which would be a complete disaster for ALL muslims

The people in Iraq don't want his help

But too many in the West buy this "they are ALL offended" stuff - as if OBL cares about the lives of muslims

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at July 11, 2005 02:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Cheer Pogue. I whole heartedly agree that OBL has killed as many if not more Muslims than others. Unless you subscribe to his brand of Wahabist Nihilism then you are an infidel and must be driven out. I do wonder if moderate muslims are viewed as misguided sheep rather than infidels, but at the end of the day if you ain't on OBL's bus then you will eventually be targeted.

I personally question whether Western Intelligence in the 90's forsaw attacks on Western Targets IN Western Nations. Whilst the Embassy Bombing's were absolutely an indicator of the increased focus on Western and US targets in particular, most of the pre 9/11 attacks occured overseas on "softer" targets. I don't really have any evidence to support this, but if there had been really credible intel than attacks on the US mainland were being planned then surely security measues would have been implemented prior to 9/11. Either that or BOTH the Clinton and Bush Adminisitrations were grossly negligent in the duty to the American people.

BJ, As I said I wouldn't rule out low level individual connections between a corrupt regime like Husseins and AQ, but if you read my analysis, I cannot support an assertion of more than that. OBL views anyone who doesn't subscribe to his Nihilist Wahabist logic must be removed or exterminated and Baathist Ideology is fundamentally different to Wahabism, and as a non Islamic regime, simply doesn't fit into AQ'a stated aims. Given Husseins general MO I also don't believe that there really was much in it for him either. Aside from attacking the US, AQ had nothing to offer Hussein. It wouldn't help him retain his grip on power, (and in the long run would have sought to depose him) and given that his WMD programme (as we now know) didn't really exist there wasn't a lot of opportunity for trade - and therefore unable to supply Husseins other key desire for $$.

That said if there is information to the contrary I'll happily retract!

Posted by: Aran Brown at July 12, 2005 04:10 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I personally question whether Western Intelligence in the 90's forsaw attacks on Western Targets IN Western Nations.

How could they not?

I can't be the only one who remembers the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City.

The one in 1993, that is.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Trade_Center_bombing

Read the article. One of the guys who carried it out was a nephew of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed- gee, that name sounds familiar- and was travelling on an Iraqi passport. Odd coincidence, that.

Would anyone care to re-assert that there was no relationship at all between the government of Iraq and al Qaeda prior to the US invasion in 2003?

Posted by: rosignol at July 12, 2005 12:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Not supporting the assertion is very different from asserting yourself that there was "NEVER a connection", or that intelligence has "confirmed" anything. In fact, the US intelligence community once argued (unconvincingly, in my opinion) against the connection, but is now moving away from that stance, not confirming it.

It's a not-subtle distinction.

As for the reasons why you don't believe in the cooperation, I disagree that Bin Laden would be unwilling to cooperate with an non-ideologically aligned nation if it might serve to further his aims. The safe haven and potential advanced weapons that Iraq could provide might certainly trump the ideological differences. And I imagine that cultivating a relationship with Al Qaeda would have been preferable to the alternative for Saddam. It might explain his move to more publicly embrace Islam in the 1990's, as well.

Posted by: BJ at July 12, 2005 12:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Fair Point Rosignol - I had forgotten that. However the implication of that is far more concerning then isn't it...

It shows that both the Clinton, and even more so the Bush Administrations were negligent in their duty to the American people. The Bush admin more so because there were some warnings from the outgoing Clinton Admin that serious strikes were being planned, and the attacks happened well after the Bush Administration took the reigns - it happened on his watch. But I have no wish to rehash this argument further, as I don't see how it will contribute to this thread.

BTW the Iraqi passpost is unlikely to be anything more than coincidence. Afterall many of the 9/11 terrorists came in on Saudi and other Middle Eastern Passports, - yet we're aren't rushing to accuse the House of Saud of being complicit in the attacks are we?

BJ,

Basically I stand by the never assertion - until clear evidence proves things to be contrary. For the reason i've explained. Your quite entitled to a different view. There isn't any clear evidence one way or the other, but because of the reasons I've posted above until I see clear evidence to the contrary I stand by the assertion of never a relationship. That's my side of the fence.

Yet that doesn' necessarily contradict the assertion of low level or individual contacts between individuals in Husseins regime with AQ operatives. AQ has money so its not inconceivable that there were individuals in Hussein's regime providing intel or low level assistance, but I personally don't believe that Hussein's regime or Hussein himself had any contact with AQ. There was nothing in it for Hussein given he DIDN'T have a WMD programme to speak of through which he could have supplied AQ with WMD components, and without those there was little other reason for AQ to deal with him, given the ideological differences...

On that note I've also seen nothing to confirm that OBL has cooperated with non aligned regimes. I'm not saying he hasn't - just that I can't recall (admittedly off the top of my head) any instance where he has cooperated in any real sense with non aligned regimes. In my opinion it doesn't fit with his OM from waht I've seen. But again no evidence one way of the other that I can recall, so I'm just making a judgement call here.

As I said that's my opinion based on the information I've found. You're more than entitled to yours of course, but unless I see some compelling evidence to the contrary then at this stage I'll stick to my stance... at least for the time being!

Posted by: Aran Brown at July 12, 2005 10:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Fair Point Rosignol - I had forgotten that. However the implication of that is far more concerning then isn't it...


Indeed.


It shows that both the Clinton, and even more so the Bush Administrations were negligent in their duty to the American people. The Bush admin more so because there were some warnings from the outgoing Clinton Admin that serious strikes were being planned, and the attacks happened well after the Bush Administration took the reigns - it happened on his watch. But I have no wish to rehash this argument further, as I don't see how it will contribute to this thread.


Do you recall how long it took to confirm officials for many posts back in 2001? Do you recall why?

Do you recall the embassy bombings in 1998?

Do you recall the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000?

Clinton had years to take care of the problem, Bush had months.

What basis do you have for concluding that Bush was more negligent than Clinton in this matter? A powerpoint presentation? Excuse me?


BTW the Iraqi passpost is unlikely to be anything more than coincidence. Afterall many of the 9/11 terrorists came in on Saudi and other Middle Eastern Passports, - yet we're aren't rushing to accuse the House of Saud of being complicit in the attacks are we?


I have difficulty imagining what circumstances might cause a Kuwaiti citizen to want to get an Iraqi passport, especially after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

Is it normal for a citizen of one country to travel with a passport of another?

Posted by: rosignol at July 13, 2005 09:04 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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