There's so much in this article in today's NY Times
to comment about:
BAGHDAD, June 22 — The operational commander of troops battling to drive fighters with Al Qaeda from Baquba said Friday that 80 percent of the top Qaeda leaders in the city fled before the American-led offensive began earlier this week. He compared their flight with the escape of Qaeda leaders from Falluja ahead of an American offensive that recaptured that city in 2004.
In an otherwise upbeat assessment, Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the second-ranking American commander in Iraq, told reporters that leaders of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia had been alerted to the Baquba offensive by widespread public discussion of the American plan to clear the city before the attack began. He portrayed the Qaeda leaders’ escape as cowardice, saying that “when the fight comes, they leave,” abandoning “midlevel” Qaeda leaders and fighters to face the might of American troops — just, he said, as they did in Falluja.
Some American officers in Baquba have placed blame for the Qaeda leaders’ flight on public remarks about the offensive in the days before it began by top American commanders, including Gen. David H. Petraeus, the overall commander in Iraq. But General Odierno cast the issue in broader terms, saying Qaeda leaders were bound to know an attack was coming in light of President Bush’s decision to pour nearly 30,000 additional troops into the fight in a bid to secure Baghdad and areas around the capital that have been insurgent strongholds. That included Baquba, which lies 40 miles north.
First, although I know Americans have short memories, it is not too hard to remember all the hype about this attack on Baquba
that we've had in the past few days. The story was that this was an "entirely new" thrust by the U.S. to catch the enemy in his stronghold and trap him there, rather than play "whack-a-mole" as we have in the past. Well, despite the "entirely new" thrust, we clearly got the same result (Falluja
) that we had in the past. Good going guys!
And, just why did we get that result? Well, it's because of all that hype about the "entirely new" thrust. The enemy listens to our hype, it seems, and responds accordingly. In this case, by getting out of the line of fire.
Now, to go one step further, instead of giving the enemy credit for having some common sense and stepping out of the line of fire we accuse them of "cowardice" and unseemly behavior. I guess it's their fault
that we didn't trap them.
However, my biggest criticism of this article
by the usually careful John Burns is the cavalier way in which these insurgents are repeatedly called al Qaeda
fighters. Now, back in the days of Falluja
, they were referred to as "insurgents," not as "Qaeda
" because they were largely not Qaeda
. My guess is that the same thing is still true but that the latest propaganda strategy by our Prez
& Co. is to call everyone and everything that harms us "Qaeda
." The vast bulk of the insurgency in Iraq is simply not al Qaeda
, and, even the ones that call themselves "Qaeda
in Mesopotamia" are at best only loosely affiliated -- if they are affiliated at all -- with al Qaeda
. However, the word has obviously gone out to the commanders in the field to call every enemy "Qaeda
." And, John Burns takes the bait and runs with it.
Welcome back, Judy Miller.
Update: Glenn Greenwald has a good deal more on this trend in the press to parrot the government's propaganda line on this, here