The Al Qaeda In Iraq Reality That Only Exists In Bush's Mind
President Bush took questions from the White House media for an hour, following the devastating report of consistent and neglegent failure from Iraq's Maliki government to successfully meet the 18 benchmarks set down by the Congress, as a condition of increased funding for the war, months ago.
Bush reacted aggressively to some questions. To others he smirked, smiled, giggled, seemingly oblivious to the rising tide of fury, disbelief and dangerous anger spreading through the country, and infesting Capitol Hill.
Don't try and dictate war policy, he told the media, aiming his threat at both the Congress and the journalists stepping over the line between asking questions and making bold statements, some of which examplify the emotions of tens of millions of Americans today.
Congress, Bush said, had no right, and no business, trying to manage the war. Bush consistently, infuriatingly, portrayed the war in Iraq as some kind of showdown with Al Qaeda, even though Republican senators, the CIA, think tanks, serving generals and numerous branches of American intelligence agencies repeatedly state that while Al Qaeda is a dangerous force in Iraq, it is not the primary force of even much of the violence and chaos. But Bush ignores them all. Al Qaeda as the new Nazis is the only hand he has left to play.
The spin is well and truly in :
On how Bush distorts the links between Al Qaeda and the Iraq insurgency, Al Qaeda and the majority of the violence and chaos in Iraq, and Bush claims that Al Qaeda in Iraq were "the same" people who attacked the US on 9/11 :
Hours later, the Democratic-controlled House responded by voting almost totally along party lines to require that the United States withdraw most combat troops from Iraq by April 1.The 223-to-201 House vote, in which just four Republicans broke with their party, came as the White House continued its intense effort to stem a growing tide of Republican defections on the war. Officials from the White House — beginning with the president himself — have been reaching out to party members all week, trying to persuade them to wait until September to pass judgment on Mr. Bush’s current military strategy of sending more troops to quell the sectarian fighting and pursue insurgents.
The Senate has so far fallen well short of the 60 votes needed to approve a troop withdrawal, but more votes are expected there next week.At a morning news conference where he released a mixed progress report on his troop buildup, Mr. Bush repeatedly invoked the threat of Al Qaeda as a reason to stick with his strategy, saying the group he referred to as Al Qaeda in Iraq “has sworn allegiance to Osama bin Laden.”
The president acknowledged that public opinion might be against him — he said that “sometimes the decisions you make and the consequences don’t enable you to be loved” — but suggested that Congress was overstepping its constitutional role by trying to force a change of policy on him.
“I don’t think Congress ought to be running the war,” Mr. Bush said. “I think they ought to be funding the troops.”
It is the first time since the Vietnam War that the legislative and executive branches have fought so bitterly over the president’s authority as commander in chief. Around the Capitol on Thursday morning, televisions were tuned into the White House news conference, as lawmakers and their aides passed around the White House’s status report on Iraq.
Lawmakers in both parties bristled at the president’s suggestion that Congress was overstepping its role in the war debate.Mr. Bush wants Congress to wait until September, when the top military commander in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus, and the top civilian official, Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, deliver a fuller assessment of progress of the troop buildup. But the president also said he was not “going to speculate on what my frame of mind will be,” at that time, and he would not say how he might react if the September report is as mixed as the one delivered Thursday.
Mr. Bush himself offered only lukewarm support for Mr. Maliki at Thursday’s news conference, declining to echo the praise he put forth in Jordan last November, when he proclaimed Mr. Maliki “the right guy for Iraq.” Asked if he still felt that way, the president responded, “I believe that he understands that there needs to be serious reconciliation, and they need to get law passed.”At the news conference, Mr. Bush was asked why — after failing to anticipate the sectarian divisions that would tear the country apart after the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s government — Americans should believe he has the vision for victory in Iraq. The president responded by appearing to lay blame for mistakes in the war directly on one of his military commanders at the beginning of the war, Gen. Tommy R. Franks, who led the invasion more than four years ago.
“Those are all legitimate question that I’m sure historians will analyze,” he said, adding that he had asked at the outset of the war whether his military commanders needed more troops. “My primary question to General Franks was: ‘Do you have what it takes to succeed, and do you have what it takes to succeed after you succeed in removing Saddam Hussein?’ And his answer was, ‘Yeah.’ ”
In rebuffing calls to bring troops home from Iraq, President Bush on Thursday employed a stark and ominous defense. “The same folks that are bombing innocent people in Iraq,” he said, “were the ones who attacked us in America on September the 11th, and that’s why what happens in Iraq matters to the security here at home.”
It is an argument Mr. Bush has been making with frequency in the past few months, as the challenges to the continuation of the war have grown. On Thursday alone, he referred at least 30 times to Al Qaeda or its presence in Iraq.But his references to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, and his assertions that it is the same group that attacked the United States in 2001, have greatly oversimplified the nature of the insurgency in Iraq and its relationship with the Qaeda leadership.
There is no question that the group is one of the most dangerous in Iraq. But Mr. Bush’s critics argue that he has overstated the Qaeda connection in an attempt to exploit the same kinds of post-Sept. 11 emotions that helped him win support for the invasion in the first place.
Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia did not exist before the Sept. 11 attacks. The Sunni group thrived as a magnet for recruiting and a force for violence largely because of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, which brought an American occupying force of more than 100,000 troops to the heart of the Middle East, and led to a Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad.
“The president wants to play on Al Qaeda because he thinks Americans understand the threat Al Qaeda poses,” said Bruce Riedel, an expert at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy and a former C.I.A. official. “But I don’t think he demonstrates that fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq precludes Al Qaeda from attacking America here tomorrow. Al Qaeda, both in Iraq and globally, thrives on the American occupation.”
The precise size of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia is not known. Estimates are that it may have from a few thousand to 5,000 fighters and perhaps twice as many supporters. While the membership of the group is mostly Iraqi, the role that foreigners play is crucial.
At first, Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia received financing from the broader Qaeda organization, American intelligence agencies have concluded. Now, however, the Iraq-based group sustains itself through kidnapping, smuggling and criminal activities and some foreign contributions.
The heated debate over Iraq has spilled over to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia as well. Mr. Bush has played up the group, talking about it as if it is on a par with the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks. War critics have often played down the significance of the group despite its gruesome record of suicide attacks and its widely suspected role in destroying a Shiite shrine in Samarra in February 2006 that set Iraq on the road to civil war.
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