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April 4, 2004
Pincus Spins

Walter Pincus puts on a ballet of spin in today's Washington Post, as he tries to wrap readers around the inherent contradictions in his analysis that a degraded al-Qaeda, an ineffectual Osama bin Laden, and the replacement of terrorist leadership with less-capable candidates is somehow bad news:

The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq has accelerated the spread of Osama bin Laden's anti-Americanism among once local Islamic militant movements, increasing danger to the United States as the al Qaeda network is becoming less able to mount attacks, according to senior intelligence officials at the CIA and State Department.

At the same time, the Sunni Triangle has become a training ground for foreign Islamic jihadists who are slipping into Iraq to join former Saddam Hussein loyalists to test themselves against U.S. and coalition forces, these officials say.

Translation: the attacks on al-Qaeda and their state sponsorship has made them increasingly unable to mount attacks on their own. In the meantime, would-be terrorists are flooding into a narrow geographical area in order to square off against the American military -- instead of dispersing themselves throughout the world, and specifically the US, to murder American civilians.

So far, sounds great to me.

After that, Pincus relates the usual blather about how American military action created anti-American feelings amongst Islamofascists, and how that hatred has pushed the groups to link up where they previously were more concerned with local leadership issues. I see. I was unaware that groups like Hezb' Allah and Islamic Jihad loved Americans before the fall of 2001. That must have been why they kept kidnapping them in Lebanon in the 1980s; they just couldn't spend enough quality time with Yanks before that. And even though ignoring bin Laden's previous provocations, like attacking Khobar Towers, the two American embassies in Africa, and the USS Cole obviously encouraged that string of increasingly aggressive attacks, Pincus somehow gets the impression that they really stopped liking us in October 2001, when we invaded Afghanistan.

Since attacks in East Africa, on the USS Cole, and on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, al Qaeda has lost its sanctuary in Afghanistan. Its once top-down control of terrorist operations now is in the hands of less experienced people.

That makes it less clear what roles al Qaeda played in recent bombings in Bali, Istanbul, Riyadh, Tunisia, Casablanca and Madrid. Authorities said that local extremists carried out these attacks, although Black said a possible al Qaeda leadership connection to Madrid is still under investigation.

More bad news -- al-Qaeda doesn't have its address any more in Afghanistan. How short-sighted we were to dislodge them! I guess Pincus argues that we were better off knowing where they were, so we could find them later on. You know, in case they did something really nasty, like discriminate against women and gays. [Oh, wait ... never mind.] As far as their role being less clear in the laundry list of car-bombings Pincus lists, it's only less clear if you don't accept their taking responsibility for almost every single one of them. Madrid, clearly, was not the work of "local extremists," as Basques generally don't chant in Arabic before blowing themselves up to avoid arrest.

That may be the single silliest paragraph published in the Washington Post this year.

Black and the senior intelligence analyst said it would be a mistake to believe the United States faces a monolithic terrorist threat. "Before Iraq, al Qaeda had some success with like-minded organizations conducting operations," the analyst said.

The only people who believe that are people who think all history began on 9/11/01. Besides, the real threat isn't the asymmetrical groups themselves, it's their financial and strategic support from terrorism-sponsoring states. That's why we've acted against states since then -- to impress upon them that supporting terrorists no longer carries zero risk.

As the United States and its allies have systematically captured and killed almost 70 percent of the al Qaeda leadership, bin Laden and his top deputy, Ayman Zawahiri, are on the run and unable to provide operational leadership. Bin Laden's effectiveness as a plotter of terrorist acts has been "greatly reduced," Black said.

Black told the House panel that bin Laden maintains some contact with the remaining leadership but command and control is handled by younger and less experienced leaders. Bin Laden, Black said, "spends most of his time trying to figure out, you know, how they're going to come for me and is this going to be the day."

Anyone want to guess why this was left to the bottom of the article? Anyone? Oh, come now ... let's not always see the same same hands. It's because Pincus wants to promote the view that taking an active approach to terrorism is ultimately futile, since other people will also hate us for taking al-Qaeda and its state sponsors out. Pincus keeps spinning, but he remains essentially in the same defeatist place, blaming the US for Islamofascist hatred. It's the Spanish impulse, and the events of the last week should have made clear how irrelevant those concerns are when people hate you not for what you do or say, but for the fact of your existence.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 4, 2004 10:41 AM

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