Bush Falsehoods about Al-Qaeda in Iraq
Juan Cole writes in Informed Comment:
Bush gave a speech on Tuesday in which he made a large number inaccurate statements. Likely the recent Pentagon and White House practice of referring to all “insurgents” in Iraq as “al-Qaeda” was intended to lead up to this speech.
Bush maintained in his speech that the members of “al-Qaeda in Iraq” have pledged fealty (bay’at) to Usama Bin Laden. There is no evidence for this allegation. The foreign fighters who make up “al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia” are successors to previously-existing radical Muslim groups such as Ansar al-Islam and Monotheism and Holy War, both of which had distinct identities from al-Qaeda. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi even at one point forbade members of Monotheism and Holy War to give money to al-Qaeda. It is unlikely that they have all swung around behind Bin Laden, though some among the Saudi volunteers may have. As far back as 2005, Ansar al-Sunnah clearly feared the influence of Bin Laden and asked foreign volunteers to stop coming.
Bush made al-Qaeda in Iraq the central group in the insurgency. In fact, Pentagon statistics indicate that the US holds in captivity 19,000 Iraqis suspected of insurgent activities, whereas it has only 135 foreign fighters currently in custody. “Al-Qaeda in Iraq” is mostly foreign fighters. Obviously, it just is not that important, though it gets off some bombs, which is not to be taken lightly.