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July 27, 2007

According to the recent National Intelligence Estimate, a collaborative document reflecting the knowledge-base of the U.S. Intelligence community:

"Al Qaeda is and will remain the most serious threat to the Homeland, as it's central leadership continues to plan high-impact plots, while pushing others in extreme Sunni communities to mimic its efforts and to supplement its capabilities."

And President Bush seemed to echo this sentiment when, at a recent speech in West Virginia about our mission in Iraq, he evoked the name "al Qaeda" 27 times. "Many of the spectacular car bombings and killings you see are as a result of al Qaeda - the very same folks that attacked us on September 11th."

But how strong truly is the connection between the central al Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda in Iraq? Some experts argue that the war on terror, with global al Qaeda at its center as the recent NIE tells us, has little to do with the sectarian war in Iraq, and that our presence there and current tactics have actually worked to bolster al Qaeda's position in the world.

Brian Fishman, instructor at the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, explains to Bill Moyers that "Al Qaeda in Iraq" is connected to the central al Qaeda network "in name only," and that the group, "has attempted to brand itself as al Qaeda because that improves its position. That allows it to sort of up its stature. It's taken on a brand name. It's a franchise."

But whether or not al Qaeda in Iraq has extensive ties with Osama bin Laden, most sources agree that they are perpetrating extreme violence in the region nonetheless. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently said, "I believe that it is al Qaeda that has done the most in terms of trying to stoke sectarian violence, from the bombing of the Samarra mosque a year ago February to the second bombing of the mosque just a couple of weeks ago."

"No one is suggesting that al Qaeda does not exist in Iraq," asserts professor of Middle Eastern and Internal Affairs Fawaz Gerges. "The question on the the most effective means to strike against al Qaeda in Iraq?"

"I would argue...the American military presence in Iraq...has become a liability against America's vested interest...The longer we stay in Iraq, the more we help al Qaeda spread its ideology and tactics."

We want your input on this complicated issue. Talk back on the blog.
Watch BUYING THE WAR, Bill Moyers' and Kathy Hughes' recent report on the failures of the press during the lead up the Iraq war.

Watch THE COST OF WAR, Bill Moyers' recent essay on the true costs of the Iraq war.

Watch Bill Moyers' recent interview with professor and author, Marilyn B. Young, as they discuss the Iraq War and its connections to the war in Vietnam.
References and Reading:
Brian Fishman on Zarqawi and his Legacy: Selected Articles by Fawaz Gerges: National Intelligence Estimate: The Terrorist Threat to the US Homeland
"Al-Qa-'ida is and will remain the most serious threat to the Homeland, as it's central leadership continues to plan high-impact plots, while pushing others in extreme Sunni communities to mimic its efforts and to supplement its capabilities."

Read the latest assessment from the NYT Ombudsmen regarding use of the word "Al Qaeda" in connection to the Iraq war
"And in using the language of the administration, the newspaper has also failed at times to distinguish between Al Qaeda, the group that attacked the United States on Sept. 11, and Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, an Iraqi group that didn't even exist until after the American invasion."

Recent Comments by the Bush Administration regarding Al Qaeda and Iraq: Council on Foreign Relations
This nonpartisan research group has prepared various reports about Al Qaeda and its connections to Iraq including: Bush plays al Qaeda card to bolster support for Iraq policy
By Jonathan S. Landay, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS, June 28, 2007
"The reference, in a major speech at the Naval War College that referred to al Qaeda at least 27 times, seemed calculated to use lingering outrage over the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to bolster support for the current buildup of U.S. troops in Iraq, despite evidence that sending more troops hasn't reduced the violence or sped Iraqi government action on key issues."

More on Prussian military thinker Carl von Clausewitz

Bush Insists al Qaeda in Iraq Threatens U.S.
by Brian Knowlton, NEW YORK TIMES, July 24, 2007
"President George W. Bush argued forcefully today that an al Qaeda-affiliated group in Iraq is linked tightly to the central al Qaeda leadership, and that for American forces to leave Iraq without defeating the terror group would be 'dangerous for the world and disastrous for America.'"

BBC News: Investigating Al Qaeda
This site offers a comprehensive history of al Qaeda along with recent articles highlighting its growing threat.

FRONTLINE: al Qaeda's New Front
FRONTLINE investigates the threat radical jihadists pose to Western Europe and its allies - including the United States.

Excerpts from al Qaeda's Training Manual
FRONTLINE offers a peak into the training involved in al Qaeda operations through these excerpts from an al Qaeda training manual found by police in Manchester, England, in a search of an al Qaeda member's home. It was originally translated into English and introduced as evidence in the 2001 embassy bombing trial in New York.

AMERICA AT A CROSSROADS: Jihad: The Men and Ideas behind al Qaeda
The AMERICAN AT A CROSSROADS series takes a look at modern, radical Islamic groups and explores the ideas and beliefs that inspire them, along with the challenges they pose for governments in the Middle East and the West.

MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base Profile on al Qaeda in Iraq
The MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base has profiled history, affiliations, locations, and tactics of terrorist groups operating across the world, with over 35 years of terrorism incident data and hundreds of group and leader profiles and trials. TKB also features interactive maps, statistical summaries, and analytical tools that can create custom graphs and tables.

America's Pakistan Dilemma
By Howard LaFranchi, CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR, July 23, 2007
"In debating what to do about Pakistan - after a grim National Intelligence Estimate last week found Al Qaeda to be re-energized from its bases there and planning new attacks against the US - the Bush administration is caught between a familiar rock and a hard place."

The Master Plan: For the new Theorists of Jihad, Al Qaeda is just the Beginning
By Lawrence Wright, THE NEW YORKER, September 11, 2006
Lawrence Wright takes a look at competing views of how al Qaeda and other jihadist groups should go forward. He discusses debates among leading jihadist thinkers in the wake of September 11, the toppling of the Taliban from power in afghanistan, and the Iraq War.

Franchising Al Qaeda
By Rita Katz and Josh Deven, BOSTON GLOBE, June 22, 2007
"Since 9/11, Al Qaeda's name has been applied liberally to numerous individuals and groups believed to be engaged in jihadist terrorism. However, while Al Qaeda does provide logistical and financial support to jihadist cells and continues to serve as the inspiration for countless jihadist groups across the globe, bin Laden does not allow any group to carry the brand name "Al Qaeda" without his approval. Groups wishing to join Al Qaeda officially must meet certain requirements before they are granted the right to adopt the name."

Top Qaeda Figure in Iraq a Myth
REUTERS, Jul 18, 2007
A senior operative for al Qaeda in Iraq who was caught this month has told his U.S. military interrogators a prominent al Qaeda-led group is just a front and its leader fictitious, a military spokesman said on Wednesday."

No Evidence Ties Al Qaeda to Recent Bombing of a Shiite Shrine
By Nancy A. Youssef, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS, June 29, 2007
"Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday that the U.S. has no 'hard evidence' that the Sunni Muslim insurgent group al Qaida in Iraq was responsible for the recent bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra, although Bush Administration officials cite the attack as proof that al Qaida in Iraq is stoking sectarian violence."

Al Qaeda in Iraq Figure Is in U.S. Custody
By Megan Greenwell and Karen DeYoung, WASHINGTON POST, July 19, 2007
"Officials in Washington said the announcement of Mashhadani's capture, two weeks after it occurred, was unrelated to White House efforts this week to emphasize tight links between al-Qaeda in Iraq and the organization headed by bin Laden."

portrait photos by Robin Holland

posted July 27, 2007
Also This Week:

Who exactly is the enemy in Iraq and how does al Qaeda fit in? Bill Moyers talks with West Point Instructor, Brian Fishman, and Middle Eastern and International Affairs Professor Fawaz Gerges, discussing the growing power of al Qaeda and its connections to the war in Iraq.

>A Brief History of al Qaeda

With corruption on the minds of many voters in the 2006 midterm elections, has the new Congress made real strides in curbing the abuse of earmarks?

Bill Moyers reflects upon sacrifice, democracy and war.

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