'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

The Blame Game

Well-coordinated anti-Shiite attacks rocked Iraq today killing on the order of hundreds. The bombings took place at shrines crowded with Muslims honoring the rites of Ashoura, the most important holiday of the Shiite calendar.

The Bush administration would like us to believe that all of the terrorism taking place in Iraq is the work of Baath-party loyalists, former members of the Hussein regime, or outside agitators. And, unsurprisingly, in this case, many reports in the Western press included the comments of CPA officials or of members of America's puppet regime, the Iraqi Governing Council, claiming the recent Karbala and Baghdad bombings were the work of al-Qaeda , for example, here's an excerpt from the Christian Science Monitor's coverage:

Indeed, the US-led coalition said the attacks bore the hallmarks of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian Islamic militant suspected of ties to Al Qaeda who has been accused of orchestrating most of the suicide bombings that have beset Iraq in recent weeks.

The important thing to understand about claims such as the above, is that they are just that, claims. No one knows with any certainty who is behind these bombings. The picture we're getting of Iraq is so blurry there was initially some doubt about the elementary facts of the Karbala bombings -- whether they were the result of suicide bombers or mortar attacks. For instance, here they were suicide bombers; and here they were rocket attacks. Given such confusions over the basic facts of an important story, one shouldn't have a lot of confidence in the non-elementary commentary and analysis found in many news stories about the identity and motives of the perpetrators.

The case for believing al-Qaeda is responsible for the Karbala bombings is completely circumstantial -- a letter turned up a few weeks ago in which Zarqawi urged al-Qaeda to foment civil war in Iraq. The thing is there's not a lot of reason to believe in either the authenticity of the letter or of Zarqawi's connection to al-Qaeda , and, given the Bush administration's vested interest in portraying Iraq as a stable country, good reason to be skeptical. Here's Ritt Goldstein by way of the Asia Times:

According to US sources, Zarqawi allegedly leads Ansar al-Islam, a group that "clearly is supported to some degree by al-Qaeda", said US General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Describing Zarqawi, the US State Department says he is "a close associate of Osama bin Laden". But also according to official US sources, Zarqawi's relationship to bin Laden is "uncertain", and he instead leads a Jordanian extremist group, al-Tawhid. And most notably, a recent report by the intelligence branch of the US Department of State stressed that al-Qaeda and Ansar appear quite unrelated and independent of each other, though last Thursday media reports by US officials have again claimed the contrary. But while contradictions abound, the killing has continued, with speculation existing that the Iraq war's hawks are manipulating its description for their own purposes, Zarqawi's alleged letter providing an example.

In the alleged letter to al-Qaeda, Zarqawi invites the group to Iraq in hopes of initiating a sequence of attacks which will set off civil war. However, US officials have long claimed that al-Qaeda is already in Iraq. This past week, US civil administrator L Paul Bremer charged that the last several months have marked an upsurge of Iraqi attacks by "the professional terrorists of al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Islam".

Of course, a most curious thing is that if indeed al-Qaeda is in the country, why did it need to be invited to Iraq by Zarqawi? And the US military does claim the alleged letter is authentic. But such "confusion" has been evident since US Secretary of State Colin Powell's UN address of a year ago.

[ ... ]

According to the Washington-area defense think-tank Global Security, only 2.8 percent of those arrested in Iraq have been non-Iraqis. But accusations of foreign terrorists and links to al-Qaeda do serve to obscure the domestic factors driving Iraq violence - think Lebanese civil war - and in the "war on terror" they also serve to legitimize the war effort. And should civil war break out, the Bush administration has its alleged Zarqawi letter showing who's to blame.

Furthermore, previous suicide bombers have been shown conclusively to have been Iraqis not foreign agents: (from "Iraq suicide bombers appear to be natives", LA Times, 3/1/04)

Namir Awaad was a suicide bomber made in Iraq.

There is no evidence he belonged to al-Qaida or trained in a terrorist camp. He spent 23 apparently uneventful years on the planet until the chilly morning of Dec. 9.

That's when the slender, bearded loner strode up to a Bradley fighting vehicle guarding a U.S. Army base here and detonated a backpack bomb, blowing himself apart and injuring a soldier.

Because a quirk of physics left his face intact, Awaad became one of the few suicide bombers in Iraq to be definitively identified.

BushCo's claims that al-Qaeda is responsible for all of the terrorism in Iraq is understandable wishful thinking. Understandable, because if they were to look truthfully at the situation they would have to face the fact that civil war in Iraq is probably already underway.

(thanks to Cosmic Iguana for the LA Times link)

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