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  • Tuesday, February 20, 2007


    With these straws we will build a mighty raft

    Smash cobbles together a collection of symbolic gestures and supposed slights into the USS Momentum Shift.
    Fearing a repeat of the lawlessness and vandalism which occured in January, several groups are banding together to stand in opposition to this group of radicals. A group of Vietnam veterans calling themselves "A Gathering of Eagles" will stand vigil over the Vietnam Wall. Another group, "Move America Forward," will caravan from San Francisco to Washington DC, where they will set up a patriotic counter-rally on the National Mall.


    At the same time, blogger NZ Bear established a new advocacy group, "The Victory Caucus." By week's end, his new website had recieved over 100,000 visits, and 3,400 had registered to join the group. If you think this is small potatoes, consider that this is exactly how the left-wing advocacy group MoveOn.org got started in 1998, at the height of President Clinton's impeachment crisis.


    Moqtada al-Sadr is in hiding, and al Qaeda in Iraq is dying.

    The momentum has shifted. Did you feel it?
    Eh. Not really.

    Al Qaeda:
    'AL QAEDA," President Bush declared confidently in October, "is on the run." The extremists, he said, had "played their hand." The masterminds of the organization had been "brought to justice."

    But just as we underestimated Al Qaeda before 9/11, we risk making the same mistake now. Although Al Qaeda is often spoken of as if it is in retreat — a broken and beaten organization incapable of mounting attacks, its leadership cut off, living in caves somewhere in remotest Waziristan — the truth is that the organization is not on the run but on the march. It has regrouped and reorganized from the setbacks it suffered during the initial phases of the global war on terrorism and is marshaling its forces to continue the epic struggle begun more than 10 years ago.

    Rather than being degraded to the point that it can threaten only softer, more accessible targets like hotels and mass transit, Al Qaeda is very much sticking with its classic playbook of simultaneous, spectacular strikes against even hardened objectives. In other words, we have more to fear from this resilient organization, not less.


    Al Qaeda's stunning resurrection, before the very eyes of American military forces stationed across the border in southern Afghanistan, begs the question of how the most powerful country in the world can launch a six-year, no-holds-barred, global war on terrorism — at great cost to its pocketbook and international standing — only to find the main target of these Herculean efforts still alive and kicking.

    In retrospect, it appears that Iraq blinded us to the possibility of an Al Qaeda renaissance. The United States' entanglement there has consumed the attention and resources of our country's military and intelligence communities — at precisely the time that Osama bin Laden and other senior Al Qaeda commanders were in their most desperate straits and stood to benefit most from this distraction. What's more, even as we took solace in the president's argument that we were "fighting terrorists over there, so that we don't have to fight them here," Al Qaeda was regrouping.
    Why is Al Qaeda resurgent? Glad you asked:
    About two dozen men from Tetouan and nearby towns in the Rif Mountains have traveled to Iraq in the past 18 months to volunteer as fighters or suicide bombers, according to local residents and officials. Moroccan authorities said the men were recruited by international terrorist networks affiliated with al-Qaeda that have deepened their roots in North Africa since the invasion of Iraq four years ago.


    Foreign fighters in Iraq account for only a small percentage of the combatants attacking U.S. troops and their Iraqi allies. U.S. military officials and independent analysts peg the number at no more than a few thousand. But as the war drags on, it continues to serve as a powerful rallying tool for radical Islamic networks around the world that have developed recruiting pipelines as far afield as Europe and Southeast Asia.

    In a rare coordinated assault on an American combat outpost north of Baghdad, suicide bombers drove one or more cars laden with explosives into the compound on Monday, while other insurgents opened fire in the ensuing chaos, according to witnesses and the American military. Two American soldiers were killed and at least 17 were wounded.

    The brazen attack, which was followed by gun battles and an evacuation of the wounded by American helicopters, was almost surely the work of Sunni militants, most likely Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, according to American and Iraqi officials.

    It appeared to be part of a renewed drive by insurgents in recent weeks as more American and Iraqi troops flood the streets of Baghdad and thousands of marines head to western Anbar Province to try to stem the violence. Hundreds of Iraqis have died in a recent wave of car bombings in Baghdad and elsewhere.

    Violence continued in Baghdad today, as a bomb in a truck carrying chlorine gas killed at least five people and injured many more, including many women and children poisoned by the gas, police said.

    A car bomb near a food market in southeast Baghdad killed 5 and wounded 20. And another car bomb in southeast Baghdad killed 3 and wounded 14, near a gas station hit by a car bomb two weeks ago.

    Insurgents have been able to shoot down more helicopters through coordinated assaults, captured documents suggest, and American and Iraqi military officials say they are concerned that militants are moving to areas where the American troop presence remains thin.
    Where Smash sees the light at the end of the tunnel, I see an oncoming train. Better stock up on Victory Caucus beer steins, I smell collectors items.


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