Media Stunt: now referring to Iraqis as “Al-Qaeda”

It’s a curious thing that, over the past 10 – 12 days, the news from Iraq refers to the combatants there as “al-Qaeda” fighters. When did that happen?

Until a few days ago, the combatants in Iraq were “insurgents” or they were referred to as “Sunni” or “Shia” fighters in the Iraq Civil War. Suddenly, without evidence, without proof, without any semblance of fact, the US military command is referring to these combatants as “al-Qaeda”.

Welcome to the latest in Iraq propaganda.

That the Bush administration, and specifically its military commanders, decided to begin using the term “Al Qaeda” to designate “anyone and everyone we fight against or kill in Iraq” is obvious. All of a sudden, every time one of the top military commanders describes our latest operations or quantifies how many we killed, the enemy is referred to, almost exclusively now, as “Al Qaeda.”

But what is even more notable is that the establishment press has followed right along, just as enthusiastically. I don’t think the New York Times has published a story about Iraq in the last two weeks without stating that we are killing “Al Qaeda fighters,” capturing “Al Qaeda leaders,” and every new operation is against “Al Qaeda.”

The Times — typically in the form of the gullible and always-government-trusting “reporting” of Michael Gordon, though not only — makes this claim over and over, as prominently as possible, often without the slightest questioning, qualification, or doubt. If your only news about Iraq came from The New York Times, you would think that the war in Iraq is now indistinguishable from the initial stage of the war in Afghanistan — that we are there fighting against the people who hijacked those planes and flew them into our buildings: “Al Qaeda.”

What is so amazing about this new rhetorical development — not only from our military, but also from our “journalists” — is that, for years, it was too shameless and false even for the Bush administration to use. Even at the height of their propaganda offensives about the war, the furthest Bush officials were willing to go was to use the generic term “terrorists” for everyone we are fighting in Iraq, as in: “we cannot surrender to the terrorists by withdrawing” and “we must stay on the offensive against terrorists.”

But after his 2004 re-election was secure, even the President acknowledged that “Al Qaeda” was the smallest component of the “enemies” we are fighting in Iraq:

A clear strategy begins with a clear understanding of the enemy we face. The enemy in Iraq is a combination of rejectionists, Saddamists and terrorists. The rejectionists are by far the largest group. These are ordinary Iraqis, mostly Sunni Arabs, who miss the privileged status they had under the regime of Saddam Hussein — and they reject an Iraq in which they are no longer the dominant group. . . .

The second group that makes up the enemy in Iraq is smaller, but more determined. It contains former regime loyalists who held positions of power under Saddam Hussein — people who still harbor dreams of returning to power. These hard-core Saddamists are trying to foment anti-democratic sentiment amongst the larger Sunni community. . . .

The third group is the smallest, but the most lethal: the terrorists affiliated with or inspired by al Qaeda.

And note that even for the “smallest” group among those we are fighting in Iraq, the president described them not as “Al Qaeda,” but as those “affiliated with or inspired by al Qaeda.” Claiming that our enemy in Iraq was comprised primarily or largely of “Al Qaeda” was too patently false even for the President to invoke in defense of his war.

But now, support for the war is at an all-time low and war supporters are truly desperate to find a way to stay in Iraq. So the administration has thrown any remnants of rhetorical caution to the wind, overtly calling everyone we are fighting “Al Qaeda.” (story from


5 Responses

  1. […] It’s a curious thing that, over the past 10 – 12 days, the news from Iraq refers to the combatants Read full story… […]

  2. I put this on my blog the other day. The nyt actually acknowledged this yesterday, to their credit. They were one of the ones uncritically reporting this stuff.

  3. I can’t disagree with you more on this one. First you call it a Media stunt, then you say it’s the administration. Which is it? These are two different entities on two completely different sides. You’re not actually suggesting that NYT’s is on Bush’s side and helping him to promote this do you?

    There have been many recent reports of the links from Iran to al Qaeda. And what does it really matter if you are fighting al Qaeda or a group linked to al Qaeda?

    Now, I know, certain verbage is used based on the influence of that verbage. It is the same reason ‘illegal aliens’ are now ‘undocumented workers’ (or even undocumented citizens if you’re Harry Reid). I just fail to follow your trail from President to Media, considering the Times is one of the most liberal, anti-Bush papers in the country.

    Most people are against the war in Iraq because they don’t understand the war in Iraq. They still think that we’re out there fighting other countries like Us vs the Germans in WW2. It doesn’t work this way, your fighting an ideal that crosses several countries and tribes and refuses to fight for a country but rather an ideology. You could probably call them something different every day, but I bet you could tie a bunch of them back to al Qaeda.

    Just the other day, Iran’s president called on the importance of Iraq as a keystone for the caliphate (but thats not important for the paper to report, even though his video was an 1hr and 1/2 long).

  4. Hi Al,

    thanks for commenting. I didn’t actually write the article, it is a repost from one I read on (note the end of the post). However, I do agree that everything keeps getting twisted around in regards to termonolgy, intent, and our presumed success in Iraq. I voted for Bush (and his administration) in 2004, but I am very disappointed.

    you said the following in your reply:

    “It doesn’t work this way, your fighting an ideal that corsses several countries and tribes and refuses to fight for a country but rather an ideology.”

    This is why I am disturbed about the war. A fight for or against an ideal is not winnable. It’s like having a “war on drug use”. Sure we can make some progress, but it will never end unless we define a concrete opponent/enemy… not an action (i.e. terrorism)

  5. Sorry Justin, just the way it appeared on the site, I just assumed you wrote it. I usually like your articles (which makes for boring replys) so I decided to reply to this one! ha

    I agree with you on the ‘defining an enemy instead of an action’. My question to you, and anyone else out there reading, is how?

    It could be a Dr, a neighbor, an Iraqi, a Brit. How do you define that which defies definition? It’s an ideology of a religion, it’s not actually the religion itself, but only a faction. How do you seperate them?

    It will be the toughest war we will ever fight.

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