Media darling Condi-Condi had a long interview with the New York Times editorial board on 09/26/06. Some of her answers were, uh, a bit strange:
Now let me speak to the Iraq issue specifically. It is also true that Zarqawi, when he reemerged in Iraq, and let me say reemerged because he was there before the war, had a strategy of trying to make Iraq a focal point for al-Qaida and a focal point for a new Jihad in Iraq. There’s no doubt about that. In fact, we’ve revealed all kinds of things about his communications between – the communications between him and the al-Qaida leadership, things that were found on his computer about trying to recruit Iraqis to his al-Qaida fold.
Zarqawi, who headed the group he called Al Qaida in Mesopotamia until his death earlier this year, was in the Kurdish area of Iraq prior to the war, an area that Saddam did not control. American and British free-fly zones provided support for what was a de facto Kurdish enclave. Zarqawi's presence in Iraq was often used prewar to suggest a link between Al Qaida and Saddam, although it's uncertain (even unlikely) that Zarqawi had links to Al Qaida before the war. (For that matter, how closely his "Al Qaida in Mesopotamia" worked with Osama bin Ladin's group is even questionable.)
By deliberately blurring Zarqawi's prewar and wartime situations in Iraq, Condi-Condi is still trying to suggest a Saddam/terrorism/Al Qaida connection, even though she denies trying to do so.
She also emphasized one of the administration's favorite talking points in this statement:
So there are plenty of excuses and plenty of arguments as to why people ought to go and fight these so-called Western forces. They didn’t need Iraq to do that. They attacked us on September 11th before anybody had even thought of overthrowing Saddam Hussein. And they have attacked in places where the countries were involved in Afghanistan, they’ve attacked in places where the countries aren’t involved anywhere. They’ve attacked without regard to what your policies happen to be. (my emphasis)
The Cheney-Bush administration, and Tony Blair as well, keep insisting that US and British policies have nothing to do with jihadists targeting the US or European Union countries. This is just silly. Of course US policies, from the Iraq War to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and many other things do affect the jihadists' thinking and targeting.
That doesn't mean the US can or should change our policies in a way that would completely stop angering radical Sunni Salafist jihad groups. That's neither desirable nor feasbile in the foreseeable future.
But it does mean we should be realistic about the dynamics of the jihadist problem. Mindless ideological assertions that "they hate us for our freedoms" or whatever serve more to blur reality than to bring it into focus.
She also makes a big point about a supposed backlash of Sunnis against the foreign jihadists in Iraq.
Gareth Porter discusses the issue of the relationship of the Iraqi Sunni population to the foreign jihadists in U.S. Writes Sunni Resistance Out of Anbar Story Inter Press Services 09/28/06. Porter discusses efforts over the last year to exploit divisions in the hotly contested Anbar province between domestic insurgents and foreign fighters:
From late November 2005 to February 2006, U.S. command spokesman Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch made the fundamental conflict between the Sunni insurgents and al Qaeda a major theme of his briefings. Lynch told reporters, "The local insurgents have become part of the solution."
But the Sunni solution included the demand that the United States set a date for withdrawal in return for their ending the insurgency and cooperating with an Iraqi government against al Qaeda. And in the interim period before a final withdrawal, the Sunnis wanted the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Anbar, along with the largely Shiite army units they had sent in to control the city.
At a meeting at a U.S. base in Ramadi in December 2005, reported by the London Sunday Times last February, a former Iraqi general, Saab al-Rawi, representing the Iraqi Sunni insurgents in the province, asked Gen. George Casey, the senior U.S. commander in Iraq, for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Ramadi and their replacement by a brigade of former soldiers from the area.
But Casey angrily refused, accusing al-Rawi of wanting a U.S. pullout so the insurgents could take over the city. The Iraqi general recalled that his forces had protected the city for six months after the fall of Saddam's regime. "You have not protected this city and can never do so," said al-Rawi, "for you are foreigners here - unwanted and unwelcome."
By March, the distinctions between the domestic insurgency and foreign jihadists had dropped down the military's memory hole:
Instead of touting them as important to the solution to the al Qaeda problem, the U.S. military command began to act as though the United States didn't need Sunni armed organisations at all.
In his Mar. 9 briefing, Gen. Lynch dropped the distinction between the Sunni armed organisations and al Qaeda. "The people of Iraq are uniting against the insurgency," he declared. And he added, "Remember, democracy equals failure for the insurgency."
A review of the transcripts of U.S. command briefings since then reveals that the command spokesman has systematically avoided any comment suggesting that there is a third alternative to al Qaeda control over Anbar and occupation by U.S. and Shiite troops.
In other words, Condi-Condi's statement on this to the New York Times editiorialists seems to be off-message from the military version of the last several months.