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A reality-based view of Iraq

Attywood | July 25, 2007

As you may have heard, President Bush has decided to stake his legacy on proving that one of the two big lies that preceded the Iraq war -- a link between al-Qaeda and Iraq -- is real, even if that link came about because of our invasion and occupation:

In an afternoon speech to military personnel, Bush will warn that al-Qaida anywhere remains a catastrophic threat to the U.S., nowhere more so than from its base in Iraq.
Bush declassified information about al-Qaida's operation for his speech. His goal is to show that al-Qaida in Iraq is a core part of the overall terror network _ a direct jab at those who say U.S. troops in Iraq are bogged down against the wrong enemy.

In fact, if you listened to the Bush speech, you would think that al-Qaeda was pretty much our only foe over there.

This is why I would urge everyone to read an article posted today on the excellent journalism website, Nieman Reports, that was written by Richard Engel of NBC News (pictured at top), who has literally covered the war from Day One. His piece -- perhaps intentionally, perhaps not -- serves as a rebuttal to the White House. He lists our many military problems, and al-Qaeda barely rates:

As pilgrims marched by our Baghdad bureau on their way to Karbala, I could hear them chant: "Kul yom Ashura! Kul ard Karbala!" or "Every day is Ashura! All land is Karbala!" Simply put, they were saying, everyday and everywhere in Iraq, Shi'ites are reliving Hussein's battles in Karbala. There was no talk of democracy or the Ba'ath Party, Saddam Hussein or the U.S. troop "surge," or other subjects that dominate the Iraq debate in the United States. Instead, it is apparent that many of Iraq's Shi'ites believe they are fighting a different war from the one many in the United States see their troops engaged in here, and for different reasons.

Many Sunni groups in Iraq are also fighting a war that seems to have little in common with the official U.S. and Iraqi characterization of the conflict. Al-Qaeda in Iraq and its allies recently formed an umbrella group they call Dowlit al-Islam, or the Islamic State in Iraq. After the group claimed responsibility for bombing the Iraqi parliament building in Baghdad's Green Zone in April, the group issued an Internet statement explaining its motivation. The group said the suicide bomber who attacked parliament's cafeteria and killed one lawmaker was motivated to kill "the traitors and collaborators" who had sold out to a "Zionist-Persian" conspiracy to control Iraq. From what they wrote, they seem to believe they are fighting Israel, Iran and their agents, not the U.S. mission to bring democracy to Iraq.

Read Engel's whole piece -- and think about whether this is a war, or "wars" as he notes, that America should be in the middle of.

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