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Osama to the Rescue
Bush Calls In al-Qaeda Cavalry—Again

Peeping Sam

Whenever President Bush has faced oblivion — at the polls or in his approval rating — he’s had one ally more reliable than Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Fox News, Rugh Limbaugh and the American press corps put together: Osama bin Laden. All Bush needs to do is rub the Osama lamp, and out comes the genie to restore some luster to The Decider’s Global War on Everybody. Remember those timely video appearances by Osama before the 2002 and 2004 elections? Remember John Ashcroft’s recurrent Big Scares about impending attacks? The yo-yo use of the Department of Homeland Security’s color codes? The Alberto Gonzales Justice Department, with all its fantastic credibility, announcing one suspected terrorism bust after another? (Never mind that every one of those busts, including the latest alleged ploy to blow up John Kennedy Airport’s fuel depot, was based on evidence that never went beyond chatter. But when you need a bust, you pump one up.)

Now Bush is doing it in Iraq where, we are told, the biggest offensive against al-Qaeda has been launched. Question: isn’t that what we were told four and a half years ago? Don’t ask. Just tell:

American and Iraqi troops began major military operations north and south of Baghdad today, while deep in the south near the Iranian border, a ferocious battle between American troops and Shiite militants left at least 20 dead and wounded scores more, Iraqi and American officials. The clashes in Amara and Majjar al-Kabir, a pair of mostly Shiite towns just north of Basra, came as troops fanned out across Iraq in what American commanders have described as a broad offensive against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia in the provinces surrounding the capital.

Odd though, how most of the rest of the account downplays the essential fact here: the United States is now involved in a two-front war in Iraq, if not a three-front war—against those alleged al-Qaeda operatives (amazing how they can tell the difference between a Sunni’s allegiance to one length of beard versus another), against Sunni insurgents—the same Sunni insurgents, incidentally, whom the United States is now arming—and against the Shiite Mahdi army. But never underestimate the power of the New York Times to tap into its Judith Miller style of taking government propaganda at face value: “The operation led to the deaths of at least four terrorists as of this afternoon, Iraqi police said. Another 14 were arrested, and a large arms cache was seized, the police said.” And then this gem:

Lt. Col. Christoper Garver, an American military spokesman in Baghdad, confirmed that operations had begun, but he did not go into detail on their scope or location. “We have started some operations and we’re going to start some more,” he said.

It’s Vietnam’s Five O’Clock Follies all over again. Don’t fall for it. Nothing has changed in Iraq except this: the “surge” is now at full strength, it hasn’t made one damn bit of difference, casualties on all sides are as high as ever, the Iraqi government is as corrupt as its American overseers, and time is running out. This “offensive” against al-Qaeda is the latest ploy to make failure look less dismal.

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