McCain, the Retired Military "Analysts" and the Myth of al-Qaeda in Iraq

I am quoted in this NYT piece today on John McCain’s allegations that the US is fighting “al-Qaeda” in Iraq and that there is a danger of “al-Qaeda” taking over the country if the US leaves.

Those allegations don’t make any sense. McCain contradicts himself because he sometimes warns that the Shiites or Iran will take over Iraq. He doesn’t seem to realize that the US presided over the ascension to power in Iraq of pro-Iranian Shiite parties like Nuri al-Maliki’s Islamic Mission Party and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim’s Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. So which is it? There is a danger that pro-Iranian Shiites will take over (which is anyway what we have engineered) or that al-Qaeda will? It is not as if they can coexist. Since the Shiites are 60 percent and by now well armed and trained, and since the Sunni Arabs are only 17 percent of the population and since only about 1 percent of them perhaps supports Salafi radicalism–how can the latter hope to take over?

Even if McCain only means, as his campaign manager tried to suggest, that “al-Qaeda” could take over the Sunni Arab areas of Iraq, that doesn’t make any sense either (McCain has actually alleged that al-Qaeda would take over the whole country.) The Salafi radicals have lost in al-Anbar Province. Diyala Province, one of the other three predominantly Sunni areas, is ruled by pro-Iranian Shiites. That leaves Salahuddin and Ninevah Provinces. Among the major military forces in Ninevah is the Kurdish Peshmerga, some of them integrated e.g. into the Mosul police force. Hint: The Kurds don’t like “al-Qaeda”, i.e. Salafi radicalism. Jalal Talabani is a socialist.

So the Shiites and the Kurds among the Iraqis, now more powerful than the Sunni Arabs, would never allow a radical Salafi mini-state in their midst. They would crush them. And substantial segments of the Iraqi Sunni population have already helped crush them.

Moreover, Shiite Iran, secular Turkey, Baathist Syria and monarchical Jordan would never put up with a Salafi radical mini-state on their borders. They would crush it. Jordan’s secret police already appear to have played a role in killing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian terrorist who had his own “Monotheism and Holy War” organization that for PR purposes he at one point rechristened “al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia” (he actually never got along with Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri).

McCain’s whole discourse on Iraq is just a typical rightwing Washington fantasy made up in order to get you to spend $15 billion a month on his friends in the military industrial complex and to get you to allow him to gut the US constitution and the Bill of Rights.

The NYT revealed today that the Pentagon and the Bush administration has been propagandizing retired military “analysts” who appear frequently as talking heads on television, to ensure that the Bush point of view has hegemony on the airwaves. Bill Maher has joked that we have heard from two sets of analysts, the generals and the retired generals. It is these secret networks of corrupt agents of influence that have Orwellized our society in recent years. And it will go on unless the public wakes up and demands a change. If you see a network or cable news segment with *only* Establishment commentators (i.e. two retired generals, or one and someone from the American Enterprise Institute), then get up an email campaign to complain to the anchor. Threaten an advertiser boycott. Our country is in danger from this stuff. McCain gets his ridiculous talking points on Iraq from these corrupt “analysts” and people like them inside the Pentagon.

In fact, it is well known that Defense Intelligence Agency analysts face trouble in writing reports on Iraq because they get stung by the Pentagon’s own propaganda machine! The Pentagon hired the Lincoln Group which in turn deployed secret agents for someone like Michael Rubin of AEI to manufacture sermons and other material and attribute them to Iraqis. So then the analysts read Rubin in Arabic translation and report him back to their bosses as Iraqi public opinion! Then Rubin defended this sort of thing to the NYT without revealing his links to Lincoln (just as the retired generals did not tell CNN about their secret links).

The kind of political pressures for conformity and ‘good news’ analysis of Iraq faced by the analysts is illustrated in Alex Rossmiller’s book, Still Broken (note: I make a cameo).

At the moment no guerrilla group in Iraq even calls itself al-Qaeda. Zarqawi’s organization appears to have collapsed in Ramadi with his death, which is a part of the story of the rise of pro-American ‘awakening councils’ there that no one mentions.

Here are the Open Source Center headlines about Sunni guerrilla activities in Iraq. These are found and translated by US intelligence:

‘ Ansar Al-Islam Claims Attack on Oil Tanker in Iraq

Al-Rashidin Army Claims 16 Apr Attack on US Hummer . . . ["The statement was attributed to Abu-al-Abbas Isa Bakr al-Iraqi, the Media Bureau, the Al-Rashidin Army, the Jihad and Change Front."]

Iraqi Armed Revolution Comments on Government Clashes with Al-Mahdi Army . . . [says "both sides want to seize power"]

Shield of Islam Brigade Claims Attack on Iraqi Forces in Baghdad

1920 Revolution Brigades Claims Attack on US Stryker Vehicle

Sa’d Bin-Abu-Waqqas Brigades Claim 3 Attacks on US, ‘Enemy’ Forces

Naqshabandi Order Claims 23 Operations Against US Forces 1-15 Mar’

Note that the 1920 Revolution Brigades fights against the Islamic State of Iraq and some of its cells have joined US-backed Awakening Councils. The Naqshbandi Order is a Sufi brotherhood and not radical Salafis at all. Some of these groups are probably fronts for Izzat Ibrahim Duri’s neo-Baath. None of these communiques mentions anything about “al-Qaeda” or Usama Bin Laden. Aside from the ‘Islamic State in Iraq,’ which seems to be a front for a small group of foreign fighters who have some local support in Diyala province, they are just Iraqi Sunnis, folks. A lot of them were in the Baath army six years ago. Opinion polling shows that a majority of Iraqi Sunnis says that a separation of religion and state is desirable, which is what you would expect from a population ruled by the secular Arab nationalist Baath Party for 25 years. The US has 24,000 or so Iraqis in custody but less than 150 foreign fighters. Doesn’t that tell you something?

McCain can’t come out and say we need to crush the Armed Iraqi Revolution, because that would be an admission that the US has been fighting Iraqis for 5 years and still hasn’t defeated them. So he and the Republican strategists and the retired generals and their Pentagon handlers make up this “al-Qaeda” business, as though people in Baquba would be gunning for Americans if Americans hadn’t invaded their country and turned it upside down.

It is the US military occupation of Iraq that is producing “al-Qaeda” wannabes, and if it is ended the Iraqis and their neighbors will polish those off tout de suite. Keep the military occupation going, as McCain desires, and you are running an incubator for terrorism against the US and its allies that has already produced hits on Madrid and the London Underground.

In other words, elect McCain, my friends, and you are summoning the awful genie of another 9/11. I said it. I mean it. I’m not taking it back. That man’s announced policies could well produce a blowback that will lead to the end of democracy in the United States. It is a momentous decision.