POLITICS-US: Bush’s al Qaeda Problem
Analysis by Khody Akhavi

WASHINGTON, Jul 5 (IPS) – As U.S. President George W. Bush’s military adventure flounders in Iraq, his administration appears to be increasingly depicting the conflict as a struggle between the U.S.-led Coalition forces and the archetypal terrorist threat posed by the shadowy “radicals and extremists” of al Qaeda, often to the exclusion of other political actors in the mainly Sunni insurgency.

Once a target among many, al Qaeda was last month declared by the U.S. commanders in Iraq as the number one enemy. Yet the terrorist organisation, once described by Anthony H. Cordesman, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), as an “informal, overlapping…group of networks,” has become more than just a prominent player in Iraq’s amorphous and oft-misunderstood insurgency, which includes former Ba’athists and other insurgent groups with nationalist orientations.

In the public discourse, the group has become the “icon of jihad”.

The U.S. counter-insurgency strategy appears set on exaggerating al Qaeda’s role and bolstering its identity as an archetypal menace and convenient label to describe the most sensational and gruesome suicide attacks in Iraq, even though the group’s number of operations are often dwarfed by those claimed by other factions, according to recent Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty report documenting the use of media by Sunni insurgents in Iraq.

During an Independence Day address yesterday to the West Virginia Air National Guard, Bush reiterated the threat posed by al Qaeda, and did so with nearly identical language and posturing found in so many previous presidential speeches.

“Many of the spectacular car bombings and killings you see are as a result of al Qaeda — the very same folks that attacked us on September the 11th. A major enemy in Iraq is the same enemy that dared attack the United States on that fateful day,” he said.

“Al Qaeda hasn’t given up its objectives inside Iraq. And that is to cause enough chaos and confusion so America would leave, and they would be able to establish their safe haven from which to do two things: to further spread their ideology; and to plan and plot attacks against the United States,” he said.

Bush also once again reinforced the widely discredited links between Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist government and al Qaeda.

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