Saturday, July 02, 2005

Are Two Shadowy Characters Holding US Hostage in Iraq?

Arab News
The Middle East's Leading English Language Daily

Are Two Shadowy Characters Holding US Hostage in Iraq?
Sarah Whalen

US Vice President Dick Cheney claims Iraq’s insurgency’s in its “last throes.” But Tuesday night, Cheney’s boss, President George W. Bush, all but said that a mere two insurgent leaders were stronger than ever, and all but running the whole Middle East show. US troops must stay in Iraq, declared Bush, or else “abandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi, and....yield the future of the Middle East to men like Bin Laden.”

Is the world’s mightiest army being held hostage in Iraq by two men who move almost wholly in shadows? Two men who are little more than a whispy, raspy, barely discernable voice on the airwaves, or a taunting message on the Internet ether? Two men so diabolically clever that they have evaded being killed or captured — for almost four years now — by the world’s mightiest army?

The strongest, best-armed fighting force in the world cannot find these two men. How strange, then, is Bush’s rationale? What then is the rest of our mission? Why, to train the Iraqi “security forces” to “continue to hunt down the terrorists and insurgents” and “to prevent Al-Qaeda and other foreign terrorists from turning Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taleban: A safe haven from which they could launch attacks on America and our friends.”

Run this by me again — the two bad guys we’ve been hunting down since Sept. 11, 2001, to absolutely no avail, are plunging the entire Middle East into a reign of terror, and we now expect the Iraqi “security forces” to round them up?

Eventually. After we tutor the Iraqis in the arts of war.

As though Iraq never had an army. As though through the millennia, Iraqis have had absolutely no idea about how to defend themselves, or engage in offensive war.

But back to rounding up Zarqawi and Bin Laden.

Well, maybe the Iraqis can do that. At least, their “security forces” have enough native Arabic speakers to figure out what Zarqawi and Bin Laden are actually saying. Because one thing we in the US don’t really know a lot about is this alleged “murderous ideology” that Bush claims drives the general Middle East terrorists’ agenda. Bush describes it as “a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom, rejects tolerance and despises all dissent.” Well, not to belittle that description, but it sounds a lot like what American Democrats say about Republicans. Sounds like a Kerry-Bush debate. And it also sounds like how neocons and Israelis now speak of Islam.

To explain why we must run Zarqawi and Bin Laden to ground and, in the event we don’t, for whatever reasons, then to teach the Iraqis to do this, Bush, citing no evidence whatsoever, claims the Sept.11 terrorists and those now terrorizing US troops in Iraq are one and the same: “Many of the terrorists who kill innocent men, women, and children on the streets of Baghdad are followers of the same murderous ideology that took the lives of our citizens in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania. There’s only one course of action against them: To defeat them abroad before they attack us at home.”

Strange. What exactly do Baathists and Al-Qaeda followers have in common? Bush should enlighten us, if he really knows something. Surely MEMRI, the Israeli-based Middle East Media Research Institute run by retired Israeli Army intelligence officers, has sent Bush a memo by now. And as for “defeating them abroad before they attack us at home,” well, the last time Osama Bin Laden purportedly said anything coherent, he particularly said he had sent “them” — his terrorists — there — to America — because we were in Saudi Arabia.

And not to put too fine a point on it, but...haven’t “they” already “attacked us at home?” Wasn’t that what 9/11 was all about?

And then there’s that mysterious reference to “murderous ideology” again.

Some Americans were hoping for Bush to name a departure date for getting out of Iraq. This he refused to do, saying that it would discourage the Iraqi people, and give advantage to Bin Laden and Zarqawi, allowing them to simply wait out US troops. But by definition, the Bin Ladens and Zarqawis can always wait it out. Because despite all our best intentions and efforts, Americans are not at home in the Middle East. We are “away” while there, whereas the Bin Ladens, Zarqawis and their followers are all at home. So Bush’s departure date may be as early as the approaching interim US Senate and Congressional elections.

Bush has, oh, about a year and a half to make something happen in the Middle East. That’s a departure date of sorts. Or at least a date where he will have to make a much better, more convincing speech than the one he gave Tuesday night.