More questionable “al Qaeda in Iraq” claims

The LA Times reports this morning that “al Qaeda-allied militants” killed five U.S. soldiers on Saturday. There is, however, no evidence or reasoning behind this administration claim, and at this point it’s simply impossible to give the benefit of the doubt to administration claims even about such straightforward information as the loyalty and/or identity of militants.

Even assuming the attackers are correctly identified as Sunni, there is really no reason they couldn’t have been Baathists, or even just random Sunnis who have become militarized due to the U.S. presence or the continuing sectarian violence. The attack was somewhat sophisticated, but Iraqis have now had over four years to get up to speed on guerrilla tactics.

The labeling is something I’ve been looking at a lot recently — I was talking with a reporter not long ago who was asking me about the process of labeling fighters, i.e., how it was done, by whom, and with what evidence. Although I have some limited firsthand experience with that process, the huge increase in labeling fighters “al Qaeda” seems almost exclusively rhetorical. Even if our operations are more focused against AQI — something the tiny number of foreign detainees seems to belie — there’s no reason why the *attacks* of a relatively stable (and tiny) percentage of the insurgency would suddenly soar relative to the total number of hostile incidents. If anyone has seen solid reporting on precisely how militants are currently being labeled, I’d love to see it.

On a broader scale, with the government continuing to falter (the same article has Sunni leader Adnan Dulaimi, always a fiery character, warning of “Persian” dominance, an inflammatory swipe at the majority Shia), our efforts are, at best, independent of legitimate, sustainable improvements in the country. And as I’ve said before, people who think it can’t get much, much worse are sadly — and profoundly — mistaken.

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