Monday, February 19, 2007

The Fraud of War: Taking the Bait

Last month the Washington Post ran this bit of head-slapping idiocy by Liz Cheney, daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, flogging the strictly Dickly meme that opposition to Maximum Ruler's "troope surge" is unpatriotic, helps the terrorists and is hurting the troops. To be sure, the piece is barely worthy of the bottom of a bird cage and I certainly can't fault anyone who feels moved to slam her for this literary vomit. Volumes could be written to dismantle her deceitful straw-man arguments and, I have to admit, the idea of doing so is very tempting.

However, some responses are more useful than others. In fact, some well-intentioned responses can not only miss the mark but actually serve to advance Ms. Cheney's position. For example, I found a piece in Consortium News written in response to Ms. Cheney entitled, "Who Helps the Terrorists?" by Robert Parry.

To make a long story short, Parry cites purportedly intercepted letters released by the Pentagon in July 2005 as the foundation of his otherwise valid argument that the Iraq war is counterproductive (mistake) . Reportedly taken during the raids that killed Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the letters are said to have been written to him by Al Qaeda's No. 2 man, Ayman al Zawahiri.

I outlined my problem with his approach in the comments section of his post. However, because I found his post several days after it was published my response was late. As such, he probably hasn't even seen it, which would explain his non-response. Because of that, I am reposting my response here for posterity (corrected for grammar and style) and as a springboard for future anti-war rants...


I read your post and thought about blogging it myself. But upon fact-checking I decided not to and here's why.

I followed your link to a previous Consortium News post entitled, "Al-Qaeda’s Fragile Foothold" which, in turn, links to the infamous "Atiyah Letter" you reference here. From that letter you've excerpted the following passage"...
Indeed, prolonging the war is in our interest, with God’s permission.
...and claimed that by "the war" Atiyah is referring to our war in Iraq. I don't believe that conclusion is clear at all given the context of the sentence. Here is the same excerpt presented in context...
The most important thing is that you continue in your jihad in Iraq, and that you be patient and forbearing, even in weakness, and even with fewer operations; even if each day had half of the number of current daily operations, that is not a problem, or even less than that. So, do not be hasty. The most important thing is that the jihad continues with steadfastness and firm rooting, and that it grows in terms of supporters, strength, clarity of justification, and visible proof each day. Indeed, prolonging the war is in our interest, with God’s permission. The best acts are those that last, however few they may be, provided that we guard against mistakes building up and that we have integration in the jihadist enterprise. The only thing that you have to fear is yourselves and your own mistakes, not your enemy. By God, your enemy will never defeat you as long as you are patient and steadfast, not having caused damage that is great or frequent; and you seek help in God. It is the grace of God and the grace of the Supporter, and the Almighty will not neglect us. "Now surely the help of God is nigh".
Within that context it would appear to me that "the war" being referenced here is Atiyah's jihad, not the US campaign in Iraq. It is the continuance of this jihad that suits Al Qaeda's interests.

This conclusion is further supported in the earlier "Zawahiri Letter" that you also quoted in "Al Qaeda's Fragile Foothold". The passage you quoted...
"The mujahaddin must not have their mission end with the expulsion of the Americans from Iraq, and then lay down their weapons, and silence the fighting zeal."
...was written within a very different context than you seem to suggest. In it, Zawahiri is describing his vision of the jihad in 4 proposed stages, the first of which is very clearly to expel the US from Iraq. I quote from the translated text of that letter:
So we must think for a long time about our next steps and how we want to attain it, and it is my humble opinion that the Jihad in Iraq requires several incremental goals:

The first stage: Expel the Americans from Iraq.

The second stage: Establish an Islamic authority or amirate, then develop it and support it until it achieves the level of a caliphate- over as much territory as you can to spread its power in Iraq, i.e., in Sunni areas, is in order to fill the void stemming from the departure of the Americans, immediately upon their exit and before un-Islamic forces attempt to fill this void, whether those whom the Americans will leave behind them, or those among the un-Islamic forces who will try to jump at taking power.

There is no doubt that this amirate will enter into a fierce struggle with the foreign infidel forces, and those supporting them among the local forces, to put it in a state of constant preoccupation with defending itself, to make it impossible for it to establish a stable state which could proclaim a caliphate, and to keep the Jihadist groups in a constant state of war, until these forces find a chance to annihilate them.

The third stage: Extend the jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq.

The fourth stage: It may coincide with what came before: the clash with Israel, because Israel was established only to challenge any new Islamic entity.
As you can see, according to this letter the jihad will continue even after the primary goal of expelling the US is achieved. So, again, it's the continuance of the jihad, not the US occupation, that is said to be in Al Qaeda's interests. So you can see why I have some problems with your conclusions.

Before I go, I'd like to add that these are not the ravings of some right-wing flamer. I'm very much on your side here and agree with you 100% about the war and the damage it will do to the world. I just don't believe you're approaching the subject from the right angle in this case.

It seems to me that you may have taken the bait and inadvertently led your readers to a series of documents that actually support the Bush Administration's position.

That alone wouldn't be a bad thing necessarily if it were still the truth. But the possibility that these letters are forgeries, black propaganda planted for our amusement and befuddlement, has been raised... more than once, in fact. So, it can be argued that we're doing ourselves no favors by basing our anti-war arguments on these documents. Please take note.

I usually enjoy your work and hope you do continue to fight the good fight.

Take care and please excuse the lengthy response. I'm long-winded.

Now, clearly I have no problem with Parry's contention that the war in Iraq does more to further Al Qaeda's cause than anyone in the US "mainstream", right or left, seems willing to admit. This is clearly the case and it's an argument that needs to made forcefully.

However, there's a danger in making the case carelessly. By seizing upon "intelligence" that consists of what I am convinced are forged documents, Parry has unwittingly planted the exact seed in his own readers that BushCo wants planted. That alone wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing if it were still a seed of truth, but the strong possibility that these documents are forgeries mitigates that possibility almost completely in my mind.

What's more, he simultaneously discredits his own case against the war by misunderstanding and misquoting what those forged documents actually say. That he did it on a prominent "net roots", alternative media site like Consortium News, no less, only doubles the pain.


Indications of Forgery

If there are any lingering doubts about these documents being forgeries, if the links in the above comments are not convincing enough, there is more.

Just last week NPR ran an unrelated segment on Morning Edition entitled, "The Partisans of Ali: The Origins of the Shia-Sunni Split", the first in a series detailing the history behind the Sunni-Shiite schism in Islam. In it correspondent David Shuster covered some of the history which, coincidentally, highlights the more damning anomalies in those letters.

For instance, the "Zawahiri Letter" contains a reference to "the grandson of the Prophet Imam al Hussein Bin Ali" as "Imam". The funny thing about that reference is best explained in Shuster's report. Describing the turmoil in Islam that followed the death of the Prophet Muhammad, Shuster reports:

"There was a dispute in the community of Muslims in present-day Saudi Arabia over the question of succession," says Augustus Norton, author of Hezbollah: A Short History. "That is to say, who is the rightful successor to the Prophet?"

Most of the Prophet Muhammad's followers wanted the community of Muslims to determine who would succeed him. A smaller group thought that someone from his family should take up his mantle. They favored Ali, who was married to Muhammad's daughter, Fatimah.


The Sunnis prevailed and chose a successor to be the first caliph.

Eventually, Ali was chosen as the fourth caliph, but not before violent conflict broke out. Two of the earliest caliphs were murdered. War erupted when Ali became caliph, and he too was killed in fighting in the year 661 near the town of Kufa, now in present-day Iraq.

The violence and war split the small community of Muslims into two branches that would never reunite.

The war continued with Ali's son, Hussein, leading the Shia. "Hussein rejected the rule of the caliph at the time," says Vali Nasr, author of The Shia Revival. "He stood up to the caliph's very large army on the battlefield. He and 72 members of his family and companions fought against a very large Arab army of the caliph. They were all massacred."

Hussein was decapitated and his head was carried in tribute to the Sunni caliph in Damascus. His body was left on the battlefield at Karbala. Later it was buried there.

It is the symbolism of Hussein's death that holds so much spiritual power for Shia.

So we see here that Hussein was never a recognized Caliph in the Sunni tradition, a fact underscored by his beheading at their hands. So it seems unlikely that Ayman al Zawahiri, an Egyptian Sunni -- a strict, fundamental extremist at that -- would refer to the Shiite martyr Hussein as "Imam". He's more likely to regard Hussein as a heretic.

But wait, there's more:

The Shia called their leaders imam, Ali being the first, Hussein the third. They commemorate Hussein's death every year in a public ritual of self-flagellation and mourning known as Ashura.


The significance of the imams is one of the fundamental differences that separate the two branches of Islam. The imams have taken on a spiritual significance that no clerics in Sunni Islam enjoy.

"Some of the Sunnis believe that some of the Shia are actually attributing almost divine qualities to the imams, and this is a great sin," Gause says, "because it is associating human beings with the divinity. And if there is one thing that's central to Islamic teaching, it is the oneness of God."

That sucking sound you hear is all the credibility of the letters in question leaving the building. These anomalies, taken in conjunction with the Pentagon's public admission, that it had been intentionally planting manufactured propaganda about Zarqawi lead to only one reasonable conclusion. The letters are forgeries.

Have we learned nothing from the well-documented campaign of fraud that led us into Iraq in the first place? Did the forged Niger documents, hyped as evidence of Saddam's alleged attempts to procure uranium, teach us nothing? Perhaps I should spell it out.

YOU CANNOT TRUST ANY PRONOUNCEMENTS FROM THE US GOVERNMENT REGARDING THE WAR. DO NOT ACCEPT THEM AT FACE VALUE. The most you can do with them is to try to glean whatever morsels of truth may exist between the lines but it is probably best to just disregard them completely.

And why is no one curious about who forged those Niger documents anyway? Shouldn't we want to know that?

But I digress.