In a speech before the Associated General Contractors of America, President Bush proclaimed al-Qaeda the number one enemy in Iraq. â€œAl Qaeda is public enemy number one in Iraq. And all people of that society ought to come together and recognize the threat, unite against the threat and reconcile their differences. For America, the decision we face in Iraq is not whether we ought to take sides in a civil war, it’s whether we stay in the fight against the same international terrorist network that attacked us on 9/11. I strongly believe it’s in our national interest to stay in the fight,â€ Bush said.
There is one slight problem with the presidentâ€™s assessment, it isnâ€™t true. Evidence collected by our own military leads us to believe that over 90% of the attacks being carried out are perpetuated by Iraqis who are getting help from the two biggest state sponsors of terrorism Iran and Syria. In a 2005 interview with Gulf News, Major General Joseph Taluto said that he didnâ€™t know many insurgents there were, but “I think there is a small core of foreign fighters. I don’t know how big that is but there is some kind of capability here, and it’s being replenished. Then there is a group of former regime personnel they’re the facilitators. They make all the communications, move the money, they enable things to happen. Their goal isn’t the same as the foreign fighters but they’re using them to do what they want to do.â€ He also said that, “99.9 per cent of those captured fighting the US were Iraqis.â€
According to a June 2006 government report which was leaked to the New York Times, the insurgency in Iraq is financially self sustaining. The insurgents make $70-200 million a year by engaging in illegal activities like ransom, extortion, counterfeiting and oil smuggling. A March 2007 Iraqi public opinion found that 90% of Sunnis supported the violence against the U.S. troops. The official U.S. estimate is that there are only 12,000-20,000 insurgent fighters, but the Washington Post reported in June of 2006 that 90% of these fighters were Iraqi Sunnis.
The point here is that either the president is ignoring what his own military is telling him, or he is making his perception of the enemy fit his goals. It doesnâ€™t take a genius to conclude that when 90% of the fighters being arrested are Iraqis, then Iraqis must be the ones doing most of the fighting. Sunnis desperately want their privileged status and control of the government back that they enjoyed under the rule of Saddam Hussein. My big question is, if we are fighting a foreign force like al-Qaeda then why arenâ€™t we arresting more foreign fighters? The reality is that the insurgency is a home grown problem that is being funded and trained by nations like Iran, Syria, and some of the wealthy in Saudi Arabia. This isnâ€™t Bin Laden and 9/11. It is a different war, in a different place, for a different reason. Until we have an administration that is willing to acknowledge this, the United States will continue to flounder in Iraq.
Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at 411mania.com. Â His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at www.411mania.com/politics