Tuesday, November 20, 2007

It's All About The Benjamins

It turns out that in addition to being motivated by resentment of the US occupation, Iraqi insurgents are also strongly influenced by the money Al Qaeda in Iraq pays them to carry out attacks. That, according to a WaPo telephone interview with an AQI mid-level management type currently detained by the Iraqi military. The similarities to how we've gotten Sunni tribes in Anbar to target AQI instead of American troops are strikingly obvious and warrant no discussion.

But the article also brought to mind a point I'd been meaning to make about the confusion in Iraq War terminology. For most of the first three years of the war, the term "insurgency" referred (perhaps inaccurately so) to the combined activities of Iraqi Sunnis and foreign agents of AQI. Earlier this year, though, there was a push to distinguish between the two and increasingly identify AQI as the source of all our problems. Then last month, it was reported that AQI was on the verge of extinction, largely as a result of the celebrated Anbar Awakening. So now here we are, back to reading about "the insurgency" or "insurgents" in articles that are ostensibly referring to AQI, but whose agents are now Iraqis and whose viability may or may not be "significantly more upbeat than the one offered by Iraqi and U.S. officials".

Back in June, Josh Marshall addressed the question of terminology, and I think it bears a re-examination. Amid all the reports of progress and reduced casualties in Iraq, as well as those documenting the violence's migration (if in reduced intensity) to the north of Iraq, it would be useful to know just who it is we're fighting over there now. For starters, I'd like to know exactly who is currently participating in attacks, who and what they're targeting (which is not the same thing as who actually gets hit), and whether or not they represent new participants in the insurgency or seasoned veterans. The last point is significant, because if the insurgency is able to regenerate its ranks, it means that while violence might be dropping, the aggregate number of violent actors might very well be increasing, something that reflects badly on hopes of longterm reconciliation.

Of course, none of that is possible if the major media outlets give the administration a pass by parroting its newspeak.

Posted by Judah in:  Iraq   

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