BRAND NEW IRAQ, ONLY SIX-HUNDRED BILLION DOLLARS! WHO WANTS TO PLAY?

Continuing to man the "Surge Success!" booth at the Bush Country Fair, neocon carnie Reuel Marc Gerecht looks at the bright side of life:

Regarding the Iraq war and jihadism, two facts stand out. First, if we make a comparison with the Soviet-Afghan war of 1979-89, which was the baptismal font for al-Qaeda, what's most striking is how few foreign holy warriors have gone to Mesopotamia since the U.S. invasion in 2003.

What's impressive about this is that for years the Bush administration and the neocon apparat relentlessly inflated the numbers of foreign fighters in Iraq, first in an effort to deny the genuinely indigenous, nationalist nature of the insurgency (after first denying the insurgency's existence for over a year), and then to tie Iraq to the broader war on terror by over-representing al-Qaeda's role there (something which only caused al-Qaeda's stock to rise in the Middle East). Don't you remember, these guys had a whole "flypaper" theory worked out, in which terrorists from throughout the region would be attracted to Iraq, and, immediately after getting off the bus ("Baghdad! Just like I pictured it! Minarets, and everything!") stumble into a hail of American machine-gun fire. There was just one tiny flaw in the plan: It was bollocks. Jihadis didn't just come and die, though many of them did, they came and learned. They experimented, refined, innovated, and generally took great advantage of the terrorism laboratory with which the U.S. provided them. Though fewer mujahideen traveled to Iraq than did to Afghanistan, thanks to the power of the internets they have been able to have an immeasurably greater effect in the dissemination of terrorist propaganda, methods and tactics throughout the world.

Gerecht:

A second striking fact about Islamism and the Iraq war is that the arrival of foreign holy warriors is deradicalizing the local population -- the exact opposite of what happened in Afghanistan...If bin Ladenism is now on the decline -- and it may well be among Arabs -- then Iraq has played an essential part in battering the movement's spiritual appeal.

First, I suppose if you define "radicalism" as "Wahabbism", this is true. But, of course, Wahabbism was never popular in Iraq, at least not until the U.S. got there. As for Islamism, it is now effectively the law of the land. Second, I simply can't keep up with how often these guys seem to redefine success in Iraq. Understand that Gerecht himself previously wrote that "As long as [bin Laden] lives, we have lost the war against radical Islamic terrorism" ...and now he celebrates the possible, maybe, could be, you never know, decline of "bin Ladenism" as a benefit of the Iraq war. (I'm sure the hundreds of thousands of dead and maimed Iraqis are grateful to have contributed to this possible, maybe, could be, you never know outcome.) While on a darkly satirical level I appreciate that Gerecht's new line of pro-war bull directly contradicts previous lines of pro-war bull, it must be understood that there is simply no way to draw a smiley face on all this, no calculus that can justify the costs of this debacle, no way that the Iraq war ends up as a net positive for the region, or for the U.S. Any productive debate over where to go from here must begin with that.

--Matthew Duss

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