The president's speech yesterday was another surreal offering, but this time we got two shocking endorsements and amplifications of essential enemy propaganda points. According to George W. Bush, the reason we are in Iraq is ― in part ― to control its oil. Also, according to the president, there is a real danger that Osama bin Laden and his cohort could establish a caliphate over the swath of territory from Spain to the Phillipines. Here he is on oil, and what would happen to it if we left:
Extremists would control a key part of the world's energy supply, could blackmail and sabotage the global economy. They could use billions of dollars of oil revenues to buy weapons and pursue their deadly ambitions.
Out of the 20-30,000 people we have in custody in Iraq, 130 of them are non-Iraqi. Can anyone imagine the gang of idiots currently slaughtering innocent Iraqis with car bombs trying to run the oil infrastructure of a country the size of Iraq? Monitoring extraction, handling the logistics of getting oil through southern Iraq out to port and then dealing with multinationals and the sophisticated financial instruments used to remunerate oil producers? Could anything be more ridiculous?
Then we went on to the other nightmare scenario: American defeat in Iraq will birth a caliphate!
These extremists hope to impose that same dark vision across the Middle East by raising up a violent and radical caliphate that spans from Spain to Indonesia... And that is why they plot to attack us again. And that is why we must stay in the fight until the fight is won.
Who is writing this stuff? Chris Preble and I have written why al Qaeda has no hope of taking over Iraq in the wake of a U.S. withdrawal, but their reestablishing the caliphate is an even more ridiculous notion. But don't take it from me:
"I can see the whole Arab world falling into sectarian violence, so I can't see this caliphate happening," said London-based anthropologist Madawi al-Rasheed, referring to Sunni-Shi'ite tensions in Iraq and Lebanon.
"This is just part of (al Qaeda's) war of slogans."
Lebanese historian Kamal Salibi said the region had already failed to unite under the banner of Arab nationalism after World War Two.
"It didn't work with Arab nationalism, and with pan-Islamism it is working less," he said. "The likelihood that states would give up their sovereignty is now more remote than ever before."
"For most of the mainstream and less mainstream political parties of political Islam, the borders of the contemporary state have been accepted," said As'ad AbuKhalil from Lebanon, who teaches politics at the U.S. California State University.
"There is absolutely no credence to the notion that the quest for the caliphate is the overriding goal of the Islamist movement in the region."
It's disgraceful that the president is aping enemy propaganda, which no doubt gives people in the Islamic world the impression that we believe that al Qaeda is strong ― strong enough to have a shot at the caliphate that it gets mentioned in a presidential speech. The very idea is ridiculous. Al Qaeda is weak and should be destroyed, not revered as a world power.