Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Performing conflatio in Michigan

In a speech in East Grand Rapids, Michigan, on April 20th, George W. Bush mostly talked about events in Iraq and his boundless hopes for his current escalation of the conflict. He managed to mention September 11th eight times, continuing his efforts to meld Iraq, al Qaeda and 9/11 in the public imagination.

Bush and Cheney should spend more time reading the official publications of the U.S. Army. In his indispensible Fiasco (2006), Thomas E. Ricks quotes a study of the Iraq "war of choice" published by the Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) of the Army War College:
Of particular concern has been the conflation of al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's Iraq as a single, undifferentiated terrorist threat...

"This was a strategic error of the first order because it ignored crucial differences between the two in character, threat level, and susceptibility to U.S. deterrence and military action. The result has been an unnecessary preventive war of choice against a deterred Iraq that has created a new front in the Middle East for Islamic terrorism and diverted attention and resources away from securing the American homeland against further assault by an undeterrable al Qaeda. The war against Iraq was not integral to the GWOT [Global War on Terrorism] but rather a detour from it...

[The occupation of Iraq] has stressed the U.S> Army to the breaking point.
Ricks adds, in case we missed it the first time: "This was not some politician or pundit offering that assessment but an official publication of the U.S. Army" [though a disclaimer in the report's introduction states, in familiar boilerplate language, that the views expressed "do not necessarily reflect the offi cial policy or position" of the Army, Defense Department or U.S government].

The SSI report (available online) also notes:
The administration has postulated a multiplicity of enemies, including rogue states; weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferators; terrorist organizations of global, regional, and national scope; and terrorism itself. It also seems to have conflated them into a monolithic threat, and in so doing has subordinated strategic clarity to the moral clarity it strives for in foreign policy and may have set the United States on a course of open-ended and gratuitous conflict with states and nonstate entities that pose no serious threat to the United States.
The SSI report, published in December 2003, has proven all too prophetic.

PHOTO: Aftermath of a suicide bombing in Baghdad, August 2006.

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