Wade's World

Just leave it where Jesus flang it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Al Qaeda or Civil War

Unfortunately, Iraqis suffered another bloody day in Baghdad, where more than 150 people were killed. From Reuters:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A suicide bomber lured a crowd of Shi'ite Muslim day laborers to his minivan and blew it up in Baghdad on Wednesday, killing 114 people in the bloodiest of a wave of attacks which killed more than 150 across the capital.

The bomber drew the men to his vehicle with promises of work before detonating the bomb, which contained up to 500 pounds (220 kg) of explosives, an Interior Ministry source said.

It was the second deadliest single attack since the U.S.-led invasion of March 2003.


National Public Radio's take, by Anne Garrels, was strikingly similar to Reuters. The Associated Press reports it this way:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- More than a dozen explosions ripped through the Iraqi capital in rapid succession Wednesday, killing at least 152 people and wounding 542 in a series of attacks that began with a suicide car bombing that targeted laborers assembled to find work for the day. Al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility.

Reuters also noted the Al Qaeda claim of responsibility, six paragraphs after the lede, but then immediately stumbles into the popular leftist spectre of civil war:

A police official said the attacks appeared coordinated. Iraq's al Qaeda claimed it was waging a nationwide suicide bombing campaign to avenge a military offensive on a rebel town.

A statement on an Islamist Web site often used by the Sunni Muslim militant group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi did not mention a specific attack, but said the campaign was in reprisal for a U.S.-Iraqi offensive in the northern town of Tal Afar.

"We would like to congratulate the Muslim nation and inform it the battle to avenge the Sunnis of Tal Afar has begun," it said.

Fears of civil war have grown ahead of an October 15 referendum on a new constitution for Iraq.


The AP also raises the civil war meme, albeit more subtley:

The blasts coincided with Iraqi lawmakers announcing the country's draft constitution was in its final form and would be sent to the United Nations for printing and distribution ahead of an Oct. 15 national referendum. Sunni Muslims, who form up the core of the insurgency, have vowed to defeat the basic law.

[snip]

With the constitution finally going to the printers for distribution ahead of the Oct. 15 referendum, Hussein Al-Shahristani, a leading Shiite lawmaker, said the latest changes included an apparent bow to demands from the Arab League that the country be described as a founding member of the 22-member pan-Arab body and that it was "committed to its charter."

But that amended clause falls short of demands by Sunnis, who wanted the country's Arab identity clearly spelled and mentions of federalism be struck from the document. They argue such language could ultimately lead to the disintegration of the multiethnic nation.

Still, the changes were significant after weeks of discussions on the draft. They included clarifying that water resource management was the federal government's responsibility and that the prime minister would have two deputies in the Cabinet.


Of course, there's nothing insidious about mentioning the ongoing Constitutional process in Iraq in a story about suicide bombing there. But the the clear implication of both stories is that the suicide bombings are in some manner precursors to the impending civil war between the Sunnis and the Shi'ites, and that the Constitutional process is a catalyst for that war. However, if Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attacks, and in fact explicitly stated that they are in retaliation for "the recent killing of about 200 militants from the city of Tal Afar by U.S. and Iraqi forces," in what way does the Consitutional debate amongst Iraqis figure into the bombings?

In other words, either the bombings were in retaliation for the Tal Afar offensive as claimed by Al Quaeda, or they were sparked by the contentious debate over the contents of the proposed Constitution. The Reuters story mentions that Sunnis make up the core of the insurgency, but does that mean they are necessarily allied with Al Aqaeda? So much so that they bombed a crowd of Iraqis to further the goal of repelling U.S. "invaders"? The left has long claimed that Al Qaeda was seeking to foment civil war with its attacks, and that is likely true on some level. But if that was the purpose of these particular attacks, then why claim a different reason, namely the assault on Tal Afar?

The truth is that civil war is not as inevitable as some would have you believe. I don't mean to suggest that it's impossible or that it would comes as a great shock if the situation in Iraq were to devolve into a civil war. But the window of where that was a great likelihood has passed with the elections in January and the subsequent campaign of inclusion seeking to draw as many Sunnis into the nation-building process as possible. Judging by the numbers of Sunnis who registerd to vote on the draft Constitution ("Iraq's Sunnis Register to Vote in Droves"), that campaign has been largely successful, and there doesn't seem to be as great a potential for civil war as there once may have been. To be sure, there are still Sunnis who will fight the U.S. and whatever Iraqi government that eventually results. But it will take more than some holdouts to launch a full-blown civil war.

Moreover, the question still remains unanswered as to what the connection is between Al Qaeda, who took responsibility for the recent blasts, and the beginning of a civil war based upon Sunni dissatisfaction with the Constitution. Neither the AP nor Reuters has answered that question, even as they implicitly raised it, nor are they likely to. Instead, they will continue to conflate the two (Al Qaeda and Sunnis; War on Terror and Iraqi Civil War) in an effort to channel the blame for every horrible thing in Iraq directly to the feet of the United States and it's "illegal" war. Nevermind the fact that prior to the Iraq War we were constantly reminded of how Bin Laden and Al Qaeda hated Saddam Hussein and the Ba'ath Party because of their secularism, and of how there was never any connection between the two. That the insurgent Sunnis and Al Qaeda appear on the same side of the ledger now is irrelevant and needless of explanation so long as it is clear to all that U.S. presence in Iraq and the Iraqi Constitution (a direct result of U.S. presence) are the source of all Iraqi ills. So needless of explanation is the apparent comraderie between insurgent Sunnis and Al Qaeda in fact, that both the AP and Reuters consider it appropriate to include the complaints of one group in a story about the other's retaliatory strikes.

One can only wonder what the spin will be once a Constitution is finally put into place and a permanent government elected.

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