Saturday, October 08, 2005

Terror: Crying Wolf, Playing Politics

The War in Context tracks breaking news and adds thoughtful perspective. Along with the David Goldenberg post, it raises some critical questions that ought to concern all of us:

Al Qaeda tells ally in Iraq to strive for global goals
By Douglas Jehl and Thom Shanker, New York Times, October 7, 2005
The second-ranking leader of Al Qaeda has warned the top militant in Iraq that attacks on civilians and videotaped executions committed by his followers threaten to jeopardize the broader extremist cause, a senior United States official said Thursday.The warning, from Ayman al-Zawahiri to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was spelled out in a 6,000-word letter, dated early in July, that was obtained by American forces conducting counterterrorism operations in Iraq, the official said in a briefing.Mr. Zawahiri said that Iraq had become "the place for the greatest battle of Islam in this era," but that Mr. Zarqawi's forces should keep in mind that it was only a stepping stone toward a broader victory for militant Islam across the Middle East."The mujahedeen must not have their mission end with the expulsion of the Americans from Iraq, and then lay down their weapons, and silence the fighting zeal," Mr. Zawahiri said in the letter, according to a partial translation provided by the official, who declined to provide verbatim translations of anything more than three sentences from the document. Under the ground rules for the briefing, the official cannot be identified. [complete article]

Comment -- Do al Qaeda and the Bush administration now have a coordinated communications strategy? I'd have to say that it was a stunning stroke of luck that the Zawahiri treatise came to light the same day that President Bush gave his "major" address on the war on terror. But no! The NYT's stalwart reporters inform us that "the official said the decision to disclose the letter was made independently of the speech." Who could doubt his word?Supposedly we're only being told about the letter's existence because the story had already been leaked to CBS and NBC - this, during the same week that we learned that a suspected spy was working in Dick Cheney's office. Of course in this case the fact that the story was "leaked" is not meant to imply that al Qaeda might have a mole in the White House. It does however beg the question as to how any responsible reporters would blithely repeat the assertion that the release of this news had nothing to do with Bush's speech.

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