What the Neo-Cons hath wrought:
In Washington, D.C., last week, intelligence officials at a brainstorming session debated whether Al Qaeda’s top commander had gotten his hands on nuclear materials. In Dublin, U.S. investigators met with counterparts to look into a financier allegedly funneling money to the Qaeda boss. In Amman, Jordan, as three American-owned hotels mopped blood off their floors and hospitals tallied 57 dead from the country’s worst terrorist outrage, no one doubted who was to blame: the same Qaeda bigwig. It wasn’t Osama bin Laden who had everyone’s attention. It was the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi.
Afghanistan used to be the place to go for terrorist training, funding and real-world experience in battle. Not anymore. Iraq has become, in President George W. Bush’s words, “the central front” in the war on terror. And compared with distant Afghanistan, Iraq has more fighting, more people, more money and a far better strategic position in the heart of the Middle East. If Afghanistan under the Taliban was a backwoods school for terrorism, Iraq is an urban university. “Bin Laden and Zawahiri remain in the leadership’s safe haven in Afghanistan,” says a senior Taliban official who uses the nom de guerre Abu Zabihullah. “But Iraq is where the fierce encounters take place, where we recruit and dispatch fighters and where jihad’s spirit thrives.”
First off, this should mercifully put a pillow over the face of the ridiculous “flypaper theory”
Some time before the Iraq war, I found myself musing out loud to someone close to the inner circles of the Bush administration. We were talking about the post-war scenario, something that even then was a source of some worry even to gung-ho hawks like myself. I don’t recall the precise conversation but I voiced some worries about what might happen if an occupied Iraq became a target for international terrorism. Wouldn’t U.S. soldiers become sitting ducks? What was to stop al Qaeda using Iraq as a battleground in the war against the West? Or Hizbollah? Or even Hamas? Not to mention the Syrians and Iranians, who would persumably be terrified at the thought of an actual living, breathing democracy emerging in the monolithically repressive Arab world.
And what he said surprised me. If the terrorists leave us alone in Iraq, fine, he said. But if they come and get us, even better. Far more advantageous to fight terror using trained soldiers in Iraq than trying to defend civilians in New York or London. “Think of it as a flytrap,” he ventured. Iraq would not simply be a test-case for Muslim democracy; it would be the first stage in a real and aggressive war against the terrorists and their sponsors in Ryadh and Damascus and Tehran. Operation Flytrap had been born.
I subsequently aired this theory on my blog, and received incredulous responses. Readers chimed in with objections. Wouldn’t that mean essentially using U.S. soldiers as bait? Isn’t this too cynical and devious a strategy? Isn’t there a limitless supply of jihadists just longing to mix it up with the U.S. in a terrain they know better than we do? What on earth are you talking about?
But as the weeks and months have gone by, that conversation has stuck by me. It wasn’t a retroactive justification of the mixture of progress and chaos we now see in the Sunni regions of Iraq – so I couldn’t dismiss it as desperate post-hoc spin. If it wasn’t a central part of the strategy from the beginning, it was surely a Plan B. And from statements from key Bush officials in the past couple of months, it’s clear that it’s now very close to Plan A.
What else did president Bush mean when he challenged the terror-masters to “bring ’em on,” in Iraq? Those are not the words of a man seeking merely to pacify a country, but to continue waging war against terrorism. On August 25, Donald Rumsfeld said to a group called the veterans of Foreign Wars: “In Iraq moreover weÂ¹re dealing not just with regime remnants but also with tens of thousands of criminals that were released from the jails by the regime before it fell, as well as terrorists and foreign fighters who have entered the country over the borders to try to oppose the Coalition. They pose a challenge to be sure but they also pose an opportunity because Coalition forces can deal with the terrorists now in Iraq instead of having to deal with those terrorists elsewhere, including the United States.” Opportunity knocks.
So much for that.
Secondly we see that, due to an administration suffering from adult ADHD, we didn’t finish the job in Afghanistan because it looked like we could have much more fun over in Iraq. Only there, in a spectacular display of uninteded consequences, we have created a Camp Lejeune for terrorists who graduate and then move on to ply their trade elsewhere. But that’s okay since they’re not doing it here…for the moment.
No wonder the world hates us.