...That the Bush administration, and specifically its military commanders, decided to begin using the term "Al Qaeda" to designate "anyone and everyeone we fight against or kill in Iraq" is obvious. All of a sudden, every time one of the top military commanders describes our latest operations or quantifies how many we killed, the enemy is referred to, almost exclusively now, as "Al Qaeda."
But what is even more notable is that the establishment press has followed right along, just as enthusiastically. I don't think the New York Times has published a story about Iraq in the last two weeks without stating that we are killing "Al Qaeda fighters," capturing "Al Qaeda leaders," and every new operation is against "Al Qaeda."
The Times -- typically in the form of the gullible and always-government-trusting "reporting" of Michael Gordon, though not only -- makes this claim over and over, as prominently as possible, often without the slightest questioning, qualification, or doubt. If your only news about Iraq came from The New York Times, you would think that the war in Iraq is now indistinguishable from the initial stage of the war in Afghanistan -- that we are there fighting against the people who hijacked those planes and flew them into our buildings: "Al Qaeda."
What is so amazing about this new rhetorical development -- not only from our military, but also from our "journalists" -- is that, for years, it was too shameless and false even for the Bush administration to use. Even at the height of their propaganda offensives about the war, the furthest Bush officials were willing to go was to use the generic term "terrorists" for everyone we are fighting in Iraq, as in: "we cannot surrender to the terrorists by withdrawing" and "we must stay on the offensive against terrorists."
But after his 2004 re-election was secure, even the President acknowledged that "Al Qaeda" was the smallest component of the "enemies" we are fighting in Iraq:
"A clear strategy begins with a clear understanding of the enemy we face. The enemy in Iraq is a combination of rejectionists, Saddamists and terrorists. The rejectionists are by far the largest group. These are ordinary Iraqis, mostly Sunni Arabs, who miss the privileged status they had under the regime of Saddam Hussein -- and they reject an Iraq in which they are no longer the dominant group. . . .
"The second group that makes up the enemy in Iraq is smaller, but more determined. It contains former regime loyalists who held positions of power under Saddam Hussein -- people who still harbor dreams of returning to power. These hard-core Saddamists are trying to foment anti-democratic sentiment amongst the larger Sunni community. . . .
"The third group is the smallest, but the most lethal: the terrorists affiliated with or inspired by al Qaeda."
And note that even for the "smallest" group among those we are fighting in Iraq, the president described them not as "Al Qaeda," but as those "affiliated with or inspired by al Qaeda." Claiming that our enemy in Iraq was comprised primarily or largely of "Al Qaeda" was too patently false even for the President to invoke in defense of his war.
But now, support for the war is at an all-time low and war supporters are truly desperate to find a way to stay in Iraq. So the administration has thrown any remnants of rhetorical caution to the wind, overtly calling everyone we are fighting "Al Qaeda." This strategy was first unveiled by Joe Lieberman when he went on Meet the Press in January and claimed that the U.S. was "attacked on 9/11 by the same enemy that we're fighting in Iraq today". Though Lieberman was widely mocked at the time for his incomparable willingness to spew even the most patent falsehoods to justify the occupation, our intrepid political press corps now dutifully follows right along...
Joe Lieberman, the Good DINOcrat, who obviously isn't Al Qaeda. He's Likud.
Greenwald goes on to chronicle the events of last week as reported in Pravda, with the surge against the Al Qaeda in Baghdad and the North, who mysteriously disappeared among the population. Because, of course, most insurgents are the population, and chances are they're using weapons against us we gave them two weeks ago. Oh: and they're also using them against the real Al Qaeda, 'cause they don't like Wahhabists.
...Making matters much worse, this tactic was exposed long, long ago. From the Christian Science Monitor in September, 2005:
"The US and Iraqi governments have vastly overstated the number of foreign fighters in Iraq, and most of them don't come from Saudi Arabia, according to a new report from the Washington-based Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS). According to a piece in The Guardian, this means the US and Iraq "feed the myth" that foreign fighters are the backbone of the insurgency. While the foreign fighters may stoke the insurgency flames, they make up only about 4 to 10 percent of the estimated 30,000 insurgents."
And in January of this year, the Cato Institute published a detailed analysis -- entitled "The Myth of an al Qaeda Takeover of Iraq" -- by Ted Galen Carpenter, its vice president for defense and foreign policy studies, documenting that claims of "Al Qaeda in Iraq" is "a canard that the perpetrators of the current catastrophe use to frighten people into supporting a fatally flawed, and seemingly endless, nation-building debacle."
What is always most striking about this is how uncritically our press passes on government claims...
Well, only surprising if you don't take into account that most our press is owned by the same corporations that are making money hand over fist on the Endless War on Terra.