Seeing Al Qaeda Around Every Corner
AS domestic support for the war in Iraq continues to melt away, President Bush and the United States military in Baghdad are increasingly pointing to a single villain on the battlefield: Al Qaeda.So recognizing a problem is always a positive but only if you try to do something about it. The Bush/Cheney/neocon cabal is trying to sell a lie. Will the Times call them on it?
Bush mentioned the terrorist group 27 times in a recent speech on Iraq at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. In West Virginia on the Fourth of July, he declared, “We must defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq.” The Associated Press reported last month that although some 30 groups have claimed credit for attacks on United States and Iraqi government targets, press releases from the American military focus overwhelmingly on Al Qaeda.
Why Bush and the military are emphasizing Al Qaeda to the virtual exclusion of other sources of violence in Iraq is an important story. So is the question of how well their version of events squares with the facts of a murky and rapidly changing situation on the ground.
But these are stories you haven’t been reading in The Times in recent weeks as the newspaper has slipped into a routine of quoting the president and the military uncritically about Al Qaeda’s role in Iraq — and sometimes citing the group itself without attribution.
And in using the language of the administration, the newspaper has also failed at times to distinguish between Al Qaeda, the group that attacked the United States on Sept. 11, and Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, an Iraqi group that didn’t even exist until after the American invasion.
On Thursday, she and her deputy, Ethan Bronner, circulated a memo with guidelines on how to distinguish Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia from bin Laden’s Al Qaeda.We will see if that does it.
It’s a good move. I’d have been happier still if The Times had helped its readers by doing a deeper job of reporting on the administration’s drive to make Al Qaeda the singular enemy in Iraq.