So many enemies, so little time

It would be nice — or at least more convenient — if America could fight just one enemy at a time. But that’s seldom how it works.

World War II was called a world war for a reason: President Franklin Roosevelt might have preferred to take on only Imperial Japan, the nation that had attacked us. Instead, he had to lead the country into battle also against Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. He had to fight not only in the Pacific but in North Africa and Europe as well.

It’s astonishing how many otherwise smart people seem incapable of grasping this reality. Many have been making the peculiar argument that we shouldn’t worry too much about al Qaeda in Iraq because it’s somehow different from al Qaeda Not in Iraq. Consider the question a reporter asked of President Bush at a recent press conference:

But, sir … what evidence can you present to the American people that the people who attacked the United States on September the 11th are, in fact, the same people who are responsible for the bombings taking place in Iraq? What evidence can you present? And also, are you saying, sir, that al Qaeda in Iraq is the same organization being run by Osama bin Laden, himself?

Can you imagine, President Roosevelt being asked:

But, sir … what evidence can you present to the American people that the people who attacked the United States on December 7th are, in fact, the same people who are responsible for the so-called “blitz” bombings now taking place in London? What evidence can you present? And also, are you saying, sir, that those attacking London belong to the same organization as do those Japanese who are allegedly responsible for the attack on Pearl Harbor?

Reporters and other interested parties might spend a few minutes reviewing the latest National Intelligence Estimate. It states unequivocally that al Qaeda in Iraq is al Qaeda’s “most visible and capable affiliate and the only one known to have expressed a desire to attack the Homeland” here in the United States. In plain language: The consensus view of the U.S. intelligence community is that the most dangerous branch of the terrorist organization that attacked American on 9/11 is al Qaeda in Iraq.

A front-page story in The Washington Post this week further muddies the issue. It describes West Rashid, a Baghdad neighborhood currently controlled by Jaish al-Mahdi, the Shia militia led by the radical anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. The article asserts: “West Rashid confounds the prevailing narrative from top U.S. military officials that the Sunni insurgent group al Qaeda in Iraq is the city’s most formidable and disruptive force.”

That is flatly misleading: First, the fact that there are neighborhoods controlled by Jaish al-Mahid hardly constitutes proof — or even compelling evidence — that Sadr’s militia is “more formidable and disruptive” than al Qaeda, the group responsible for the vast majority of suicide bombings in Iraq. Second, top U.S. military officials have said consistently that the new “surge” strategy fully under way since June 15 includes an offensive against both al Qaeda strongholds and extremist militias.

If the United States does have an enemy more worrisome than al Qaeda, it’s Iran. For years, we have responded fecklessly to Iran’s acts of war — from the seizure of our embassy in 1979 to the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut by Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah, to the 1996 attack on our troops in Saudi Arabia to the undermining of our current missions throughout the Middle East.

Finally, last week — and with relatively little media attention — the Senate unanimously indicted Iran for murdering Americans in Iraq. It adopted Sen. Joseph Lieberman’s amendment to “Confront Iran on its Attacks on American Soldiers.”

Some of these attacks have been direct. Others have been carried out by militias — such as Jaish al-Mahdi — financed by Iran and, in many case, armed and trained on Iranian soil. Hezbollah also has come to Iraq to help slaughter Americans. The amendment notes that Iran has even been facilitating the entry of al Qaeda terrorists into Iraq. And the Tehran regime permits Ansar al-Sunna, an al Qaeda affiliate, to maintain a base in northwest Iran.

These combatants, Lieberman observed, “are responsible for the murder of hundreds of American soldiers, and thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians as well.”

So yes, America has a long list of “formidable and disruptive” enemies — in Iraq and elsewhere. That’s not just a “narrative.” It’s the truth — and it ought at least to be taken into account by those debating from which battlefields Americans should flee.

(Clifford D. May is the president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism.)


  1. gene

    Enemies…(sure) and we know our real enemies hang out in Wash DC, most at the white house. Many of our so called enemies have been acquired by this idiot we call a president. Hell, we have enough nukes to blow the world up a hundred times over. In that arena this nation is still the “bad boy on the street”.

    If we had a honest, sensible president backed up by a congress that wasn’t busy whoring itself and a nation that exported quality products at a reasonable price then mabe this world would be more peaceful. Add to all this evil, citizens who are interested in what they can get for nothing and “I want it all”….actually heard one of my family members say that…made me want to slap the living hell out of her but I don’t hit females. Simply said, we (this nation) is its worst on enemy. So now we have basically pissed the whole dam world off. Oh happy days, lost forever.

  2. erika morgan

    The lies create a very tangled web. For good or ill I’m not buying the fear-mongering any more. There is no credibility associated with the Bush/Cheney cabal, if they say it I know there is no truth to it period.

  3. Grok

    Mr. May,
    Pehaps you should study the history of the events you write about to justify Bush’s blunder.
    The Germans delivered a formal declaration of war against the US on December 11, 1941, and Italy was a signatory to the declaration. So FDR did not charge out and attack peple willy nilly, he responded to the threat at hand, a tactic Bush should have employed.

  4. adamrussell

    Perhaps we should consider whether we have enough enemies that we could stop making new ones?

  5. JoyfulC

    Sigh. Back so soon, Mr. May?

    I thought it was the President, himself, who insisted that the enemy in Iraq is the same enemy that attacked us on 9/11. The current administration does everything from hint this to flat out state it, but every time someone calls them on it, they’re labelled “unintelligent” for daring to ask for clarification.

    But once again, you are correct. The US may face more than one enemy. Right now, many of us believe that President Bush used the wrong tool for the wrong job by using the military to deal with the “threat” in Iraq. (And let’s be very clear-eyed about this — compared to what we have now, the “threat” in Iraq was practically non-existant at the time President Bush declared war. The threat we now face in Iraq was caused by the invasion and occupation.) Still, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that another enemy may emerge — or a current enemy may emerge under different circumstances — where the military might truly represent the best response.

    As bitter a pill as it may be to swallow, President Bush made a serious miscalculation with respect to Iraq. Every day he stubbornly continues making the mistake is one more day it’s going to take to recover from it. The money and manpower that’s going into Iraq today would be better spent here at home, shoring up our defenses, making it harder for terrorists to strike us here. We obviously have no control over what’s going on in Iraq, but at least here at home, we could make some real progress beefing up security. All these years after 9/11, it’s tragic to see how vulnerable we’ve left ourselves with respect to transportation, chemical plants, refineries, power grids, etc. The money and the effort we’re p*ssing up against a wall in Iraq needs to come home now and make a difference — while there’s still time to do so!

  6. Wayne K Dolik

    Very well said JoyfulC. Your points are well stated. These Neocons must be high on something. Perhaps they’re overdosed on to much testosterone! These fools go threw life always looking to blame someone else. With them, it’s always blame the other guy.

    And, it’s always someone else’s kid who has to go to war.

  7. Carl Nemo

    Hi JoyfulC…

    “As bitter a pill as it may be to swallow, President Bush made a serious miscalculation with respect to Iraq.” **
    Basically your reply to Cliff May’s editorial is appropo, but the bottom line concerning the Bush gameplan was and is to use Iraq as part of a plan to shakedown the American taxpayer. On the eve of Gulf War I the average American thought it was simply a case of “bad ol’ Saddam” attacking Kuwait to steal their oil when in fact in his mind he was repatrioting a renegade “county” that had split itself off from the greater Iraq in the past. Kuwait had also been “slant” drilling for oil across the border into Iraqi oil reserves for some time too; stealing oil from Iraq.

    So before Saddam attacked Kuwait he asked our Ambassador April Glaspie to feel out Washington on the issue. Instead of them saying up-front that it was out of the question and there would be grave consequences; the U.S., through James Baker via Glaspie “greenlighted” him to do with Kuwait whatvever he wanted?! The rest is history with Bush 41 coming out on the eve of the attack as this was “The Dawning of a New World Order” and a “Thousand Points of Light” nonsense, all NWO jargon which he stated publicly on national television. More than a decade goes by and now it’s time for G.W. Bush to attack Iraq and to mine more MIC bucks courtesy of another “engineered” Iraqi conflict. I’ll supply a link to the April Glaspie~Saddam Hussein transcript of she telling him that it would be none of our; i.e, U.S. concern if he invaded Kuwait!? The links I’m supplying will hopefully clear up for all time what our motivations are relative to Iraq and the region. Saddam’s gone, but he provided a superb springboard for the shadowy MIC to make a bundle off the never-ending intrigues of the region going back for a hundred plus years. He was our ally, our enemy and basically a superb “straw man” to both focus and deflect our real reasons for being there, including Britain; i.e, the making of MIC BUCKS (Mcbucks)…! :))

    In summation George Bush did not miscalculate anything concerning the PNAC/Vulcan/MIC/AIPAC engineered attack
    on Iraq the second time. It was in the planning stages for a long time and sure enough a veritable taxpayer fortune has been wasted on this deadly debacle. If anything, Bushco is sweating bullets because he might not be able to protract it until the end of his term; ie., if there’s even going to be an end of his term in office. He may become America’s first dictator as Julius Caesar was to ancient Rome, may the gods forbid! The Bush family has been making money in the shadows off the waging of war for a long, long time. H.W. Bush’s father, Prescott Bush did so during WWII.

    I urge readers to make the effort to read the content of the supplied links and let it percolate into your consciousness;i.e, the fact the American people and the world have been taken for a deadly ride by these aforementioned mattoids.

    Carl Nemo **==