It's true: Iraq is a quagmire

But the real story is not something you have heard

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We're floundering in a quagmire in Iraq. Our strategy is flawed, and it's too late to change it. Our resources have been squandered, our best people killed, we're hated by the natives and our reputation around the world is circling the drain. We must withdraw.


Jack Kelly is a columnist for the Post-Gazette and The Toledo Blade (jkelly@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1476).

No, I'm not channeling Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. I'm channeling Osama bin Laden, for whom the war in Iraq has been a catastrophe. Al-Qaida had little presence in Iraq during the regime of Saddam Hussein. But once he was toppled, al-Qaida's chieftains decided to make Iraq the central front in the global jihad against the Great Satan.

"The most important and serious issue today for the whole world is this third world war, which the Crusader-Zionist coalition began against the Islamic nation," Osama bin Laden said in an audiotape posted on Islamic Web sites in December 2004. "It is raging in the land of the Two Rivers. The world's millstone and pillar is Baghdad, the capital of the caliphate."

Jihadis, money and weapons were poured into Iraq. All for naught. Al-Qaida has been driven from every neighborhood in Baghdad, Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil, the U.S. commander there, said Nov. 7. This follows the expulsion of al-Qaida from two previous "capitals" of its Islamic Republic of Iraq, Ramadi and Baquba.

Al-Qaida is evacuating populated areas and is trying to establish hideouts in the Hamrin mountains in northern Iraq, with U.S. and Iraqi security forces, and former insurgent allies who have turned on them, in hot pursuit. Forty-five al-Qaida leaders were killed or captured in October alone.

Al-Qaida's support in the Muslim world has plummeted, partly because of the terror group's lack of success in Iraq, more because al-Qaida's attacks have mostly killed Muslim civilians.

"Iraq has proved to be the graveyard, not just of many al-Qaida operatives, but of the organization's reputation as a defender of Islam," said StrategyPage.

Canadian columnist David Warren speculated some years ago that enticing al-Qaida to fight there was one of the reasons why President Bush decided to invade Iraq. The administration has made so many egregious mistakes that I doubt the "flypaper" strategy was deliberate. But it has worked out that way. It may have been a mistake for the United States to go to war in Iraq. But it's pretty clear now it was a blunder for al-Qaida to have done so.

You may not be aware of the calamities that have befallen al-Qaida, because our news media have paid scant attention to them.

"The situation has changed so unmistakably and so swiftly that we should be reading proud headlines daily," said Ralph Peters, a retired Army lieutenant colonel. "Where are they?"

Richard Benedetto was for many years the White House correspondent for USA Today. Now retired, he teaches journalism at American University in Washington, D.C.

When U.S. troop deaths hit a monthly high in April, that was front-page news in most major newspapers, Mr. Benedetto noted. But when U.S. troop deaths fell in October to their lowest levels in 17 months, that news was buried on page A-14 of The Washington Post and mentioned on Page A-12 in The New York Times. (The Post-Gazette put the story on the front page.)

"I asked the class if burying or ignoring the story indicated an anti-war bias on the part of the editors or their papers," Mr. Benedetto said. "While some students said yes ... most attributed the decision to poor news judgment. They were being generous."

Mr. Peters suspects the paucity of news coverage from Iraq these days is because "things are going annoyingly well."

Rich Lowry agrees. "The United States may be the only country in world history that reverse-propagandizes itself, magnifying its setbacks and ignoring its successes so that nothing can disturb what Sen. Joe Lieberman calls the 'narrative of defeat,' " he wrote in National Review.

If what Mr. Peters, Mr. Benedetto and Mr. Lowry suspect is true, it must have pained The Associated Press to see a correspondent write Wednesday: "The trend toward better security is indisputable." It'll be interesting to see which newspapers run the AP story, and where in the paper they place it.

"We've won the war in the real Iraq, but few people in America are familiar with anything other than its make-believe version," said the Mudville Gazette's "Greyhawk," a soldier currently serving his second tour in Iraq.



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