I've been wondering for the past couple of weeks now how it came to be that all of sudden that the enemy in Iraq went from being "Sunni insurgents" and "Shia insurgents" to "al Qaeda."
Why, exactly, is this important?
In my view, when one wages war, prudence, military planning, common freaking sense and other factors like the History of the Known World skew in favor of the idea that one fights best when one knows just whom it is that one is going to war with.
Or, against. Either is correct. We were at war with Germany in World War Two. Look it up. At the same time, we were in a war against Japan. Again, look it up.
Why do you you get a better result in those wars where you know who you've gone to war with/against? A good example, and there are certainly many, many more, is the idea that when you know who you are fighting and hence who you are supposed to be killing, you are much less likely to kill the wrong people.
Not killing the wrong people has the happy side effect of making it more likely that those you do kill are the right people--the ones who are actually "at war" with you. Both of these things, killing the right people while not killing the wrong people, are right up there (dare we say #1 and #2?) on any well-conceived list of military objectives.
Just one of the problems we have in Iraq is that we don't have the luxury of knowing who the enemy is in this particular conflict.
Sunni? Shia? Al qaeda?
There sure as hell wasn't any al qaeda in Iraq when this war started. We all know that.
Therefore, what I believe is happening is what has been happening since Day 1: we are, once again, being lied to about a fundamental element of this war. Perhaps the fundamental element of this mindless, needless war.
Glen Greenwald of Salon cites numerous examples of this shift in media coverage of a war against "insurgents" to a war against al qaeda:
Each of these articles typically (though not always) initially refers to "Al Qaeda in Iraq" or "Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia," as though they are nothing more than the Iraqi branch office of the group that launched the 9/11 attacks. The articles then proceed to refer to the group only as "Qaeda," and repeatedly quote U.S. military officials quantifying the amount of "Qaeda fighters" we killed. Hence, what we are doing in Iraq is going after and killing members of the group which flew the planes into our buildings. Who could possibly be against that?
It's a long story, but I think an important one.
Anyway, just something I've been thinking about. And to think I was going to write something about "The Summer of Laura."