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Giving Osama What He Really Wants

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The Republican National Committee has released a new campaign ad to rally the GOP base and other voters by showing threatening quotes from al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden followed by the pitch: "These are the stakes. Vote Nov. 7."

President George W. Bush has flogged the same theme in lashing Democrats who favor a military withdrawal from Iraq.

"If we were to follow the Democrats' prescriptions and withdraw from Iraq, we would be fulfilling Osama bin Laden's highest aspirations," Bush said at an Oct. 19 campaign speech in La Plume, Pennsylvania. "We should at least be able to agree that the path to victory is not to do precisely what the terrorists want."

But these appeals from the RNC and Bush ignore U.S. intelligence information indicating that what al-Qaeda really wants is for the United States to remain bogged down in Iraq so the terrorist band can use the American occupation to recruit and train a new generation of jihadists, who can then be deployed against targets outside Iraq.

In effect, Bush and bin Laden share a common goal in Iraq. They both want U.S. forces to "stay the course."

Recently disclosed internal al-Qaeda communiqu├ęs make clear that bin Laden's terrorist band is counting on a long-term U.S. occupation of Iraq to build its movement.


In a letter, dated Dec. 11, 2005, a senior al-Qaeda operative known as "Atiyah" lectured the then-leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, on the necessity of taking a long view and building ties with elements of the Sunni-led Iraqi insurgency who have little in common with al-Qaeda except hatred of the Americans.

Atiyah told Zarqawi that "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." [Emphasis added.]

The "Atiyah letter" like a previously intercepted message attributed to al-Qaeda's second-in-command Ayman Zawahiri suggests that a U.S. military pullout in 2005 or earlier would have been disastrous for al-Qaeda's militants in Iraq, which are estimated at only about 5 to 10 percent of the anti-U.S. fighters.

Without the U.S. military presence to serve as a rallying cry and a unifying force, the al-Qaeda contingent faced disintegration from desertions and attacks from Iraqi insurgents who resented the wanton bloodshed committed by Zarqawi's non-Iraqi terrorists.

The "Zawahiri letter," which was dated July 9, 2005, said a rapid American military withdrawal could have caused the foreign jihadists, who had flocked to Iraq to battle the Americans, to simply give up the fight and go home.

"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," said the "Zawahiri letter," according to a text released by the U.S. Director of National Intelligence.

The "Atiyah letter," which was discovered by U.S. authorities at the time of Zarqawi's death on June 7, 2006, and was translated by the U.S. military's Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, also stressed the vulnerability of al-Qaeda's position in Iraq and the need to buy time.

"Know that we, like all mujahaddin, are still weak," Atiyah told Zarqawi. "We have not yet reached a level of stability. We have no alternative but to not squander any element of the foundations of strength or any helper or supporter." [For details, see Consortiumnews.com's "Al-Qaeda's Fragile Foothold."]

Into al-Qaeda's Hands

So, by extending the U.S. occupation of Iraq rather than looking for an early exit Bush has played into al-Qaeda's hands. Indeed, looking back over Bush's almost six years in office, his actions or some might say his blunders have repeatedly benefited bin Laden's strategies.

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http://www.consortiumnews.com

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at more...)
 
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