With his earlier war rationales shattered, George W. Bush now says the Iraq War must be continued indefinitely because of the presence of foreign Islamic fighters – even though they are estimated to represent only a tiny fraction of the Iraqi insurgency and might well quit the struggle if U.S. troops were to leave Iraq.
In an Oct. 6 speech aimed at rallying U.S. public support for the Iraq War, Bush painted a harrowing picture of the consequences that would follow an American withdrawal. Bush warned of “a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia” and the strategic isolation of the United States.
Bush’s alarmist vision, however, clashes with both recent intelligence assessments on the significance of foreign fighters to the Iraq War and fears expressed in an intercepted letter purportedly written by al-Qaeda’s second-in-command Ayman Zawahiri to al-Qaeda’s chief in Iraq, Abu Musab Zarqawi.
The “Zawahiri letter” cautions that an American withdrawal might prompt the “mujahedeen” in Iraq to “lay down their weapons, and silence the fighting zeal.” To avert this military collapse, the letter calls for selling these foreign fighters on a broader vision of an Islamic “caliphate” in the Middle East, although nothing nearly as expansive as the global empire that Bush depicted.
Yet, a close reading of the “Zawihiri letter” – as posted
at the Web site of the U.S. director of national intelligence John Negroponte – reveals al-Qaeda to be a movement struggling with financial crises and lacking even a reliable means to get its messages out. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “‘Al-Qaeda Letter’ Belies Bush’s Iraq Claims
Viewed from the perspective of this al-Qaeda weakness – and from the evidence that the Iraq War is overwhelmingly an indigenous struggle – Bush’s new arguments look like they may be just the latest in a long string of Iraq lies and distortions.
By Robert Parry
October 16, 2005
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'