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Steve Gilliard, 1964-2007

It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog, passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.

To those who have come to trust The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects and interest categories where others feared to tread.

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photo by lindsay beyerstein


Al Qaeda in Iraq?

Courtesy of Jim MacDonald at Making Light, the White House apparently planned for the postwar increase in terrorist activity in Iraq by, um, invading Iraq. Image courtesy of

From CNN today:
WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Bush is expected to use declassified intelligence about Osama bin Laden to defend his Iraq war policy during a commencement address Wednesday.

Declassified because Bush is in trouble, with his approval ratings heading for places that not even Nixon got to.
The intelligence says that in 2005 bin Laden planned to use Iraq as a base from which to launch attacks in the United States, according to White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

Bin Laden planned to use Iraq in 2005. Bush started his war in 2003. How in the world does this show any kind of link between al Qaeda and Iraq? How can this possibly justify the Iraq war?
Johndroe said the intelligence was declassified so Bush could discuss it during graduation ceremonies set for 11:15 a.m. at the Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut.

How very convenient. And how very pathetic.
The speech will be aimed at defending a key part of the president’s war strategy — the contention that the United States cannot withdraw from Iraq because al Qaeda would fill the vacuum in the Middle East.

Oh, I see. Once you’ve started kicking the tar baby you can’t stop because that baby got tar on you.

Surely bin Laden noticed that the US was in Iraq in 2005? This presupposes that bin Laden thought that the ongoing occupation of Iraq wasn’t a reason for him not to use Iraq as a base from which to launch attacks in the United States. Presumably the continuing occupation (and the increasing chaos that goes with it) still isn’t a deterrent.
“This shows why we believe al Qaeda wants to use Iraq as a safe haven,” said Johndroe. He added the president will talk about al Qaeda’s “strong interest in using Iraq as a safe haven to plot and plan attacks on the United States and other countries.”

And how will staying in Iraq for another ten years and 50,000 US deaths help that situation? From al Qaeda’s point of view any chaotic failed state would do. Why do you suppose Iraq is a chaotic failed state today?
The decision also coincides with an ongoing push by the Democratic majority in Congress to force an end to U.S. involvement in Iraq.

Which majority was caused by, and which push is powered by, the overwhelming repudiation of Bush’s Iraq war by the American voters.
Bin Laden and a top lieutenant — Abu Faraj al-Libbi — planned to form a terror cell in Iraq in order to launch those attacks, Johndroe said.

Al-Libbi was a “senior al Qaeda manager” who in 2005 suggested to bin Laden that bin Laden send Egyptian-born Hamza Rabia to Iraq to help plan attacks on American soil, Johndroe said.

Or, possibly, a guy who once delivered pizzas to someone with a name similar to someone who may have belonged to al Qaeda. Notice that this is still 2005, two years after Bush started his war.
Johndroe noted that bin Laden later suggested to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, then leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, that America should be his top priority.

If I recall correctly, the word at the time was that bin Laden had sent to al-Zarqawi words to the effect of “Why are you shooting at Muslims? America should be your top priority.”
That was followed in the spring of 2005 with bin Laden’s ordering Rabia to brief al-Zarqawi on plans to attack the United States, Johndroe said.

Possibly by putting Lite-Brites on bridges in Boston.
Johndroe added the intelligence indicates al-Libbi later suggested Rabia should be sent to Iraq to carry out those operations.

Is Iraq really a good place for anyone to plan operations outside of Iraq? It strikes me that the international airport isn’t really in good order. That the embassies aren’t routinely issuing visas. Aside from getting combat training in operating against real US soldiers who are using real US tactics and real US equipment, from al Qaeda’s point of view what advantage does Iraq have over any other place in the world?
But al-Libbi was captured in Pakistan and taken into CIA custody in May 2005. After al-Libbi’s capture, the CIA’s former acting director, John McLaughlin, described him as bin Laden’s chief operating officer, the No. 3 man in al Qaeda.
Which means that this “intelligence” was almost certainly extracted under torture, which means that it’s almost certainly a complete fantasy. As in “nonsense.” As in not based on “reality” as you and I understand the term. Al-Libbi would have confessed to wanting to form a terror cell in Grand Fenwick if that’s what his questioners wanted to hear.

More desperation from the Bush White House as they attempt to defend the indefensible.