McClatchy: Bush Conflates Al-Qaeda Claims

"... President Bush on Thursday called al Qaida "the main enemy" in Iraq, an assertion rejected by his administration's senior intelligence ..."

Editor & Publisher, June 29, 2007

NEW YORK For the past week, E&P has noted the Bush administration's rising use of blaming much of the insurgency in Iraq on al-Qaeda operatives. Some news outlets have gone all along with this, others not. We pointed out that McClatchy Newspapers seemed to be questioning this trend.

"We cannot attribute all the violence in Iraq to al Qaida," retired Army Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq before becoming an opponent of Bush's strategy there, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday. "Al Qaida is certainly a component, but there's larger components."

Today McClatchy's Jonathan Landay, in a report from Washington, threw more cold water on this. His article opened as follows.

Facing eroding support for his Iraq policy, even among Republicans, President Bush on Thursday called al Qaida "the main enemy" in Iraq, an assertion rejected by his administration's senior intelligence analysts.

The reference, in a major speech at the Naval War College that referred to al Qaida at least 27 times, seemed calculated to use lingering outrage over the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to bolster support for the current buildup of U.S. troops in Iraq, despite evidence that sending more troops hasn't reduced the violence or sped Iraqi government action on key issues.

Bush called al Qaida in Iraq the perpetrator of the worst violence racking that country and said it was the same group that had carried out the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington.

"Al Qaida is the main enemy for Shia, Sunni and Kurds alike," Bush asserted. "Al Qaida's responsible for the most sensational killings in Iraq. They're responsible for the sensational killings on U.S. soil."

U.S. military and intelligence officials, however, say that Iraqis with ties to al Qaida are only a small fraction of the threat to American troops. The group known as al Qaida in Iraq didn't exist before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, didn't pledge its loyalty to al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden until October 2004 and isn't controlled by bin Laden or his top aides.

Bush's references to al Qaida came just days after Republican Sens. Richard Lugar of Indiana, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and George Voinovich of Ohio broke with Bush over his Iraq strategy and joined calls to begin an American withdrawal.

"The only way they think they can rally people is by blaming al Qaida," said Vincent Cannistraro, a former chief of the CIA's Counter-Terrorism Center who's critical of the administration's strategy.

Original title: "McClatchy: Bush Wrong to Blame Iraq Woes Mainly on Al-Qaeda"

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