We speak with Middle East analyst Rahul Mahajan the 130,000 U.S. troops stationed in Iraq and President Bush’s rare reference to Osama bin Laden in his primetime address. [includes rush transcript]
- Rahul Mahajan, author of “Full Spectrum Dominance: U.S. Power in Iraq and Beyond.” He runs a blog at empirenotes.org. He joins us on the line from Austin, Texas.
AMY GOODMAN: As we turn now to another clip of President Bush from his speech last night at Fort Bragg.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Some wonder whether Iraq is a central front in the war on terror. Among the terrorists, there is no debate. Here are the words of Osama bin Laden. 'This third world war is raging in Iraq. The whole world is watching this war.' He says it will end in victory and glory or misery and humiliation. The terrorists know that the outcome will leave them emboldened or defeated. So they are waging a campaign of murder and destruction. And there is no limit to the innocent lives they are willing to take.
We see the nature of the enemy in terrorists who exploded car bombs along a busy shopping street in Baghdad, including one outside a mosque. We see the nature of the enemy in terrorists who sent a suicide bomber to a teaching hospital in Mosul. We see the nature of the enemy in terrorists who behead civilian hostages and broadcast their atrocities for the world to see.
These are savage acts of violence, but they have not brought the terrorists any closer to achieving their strategic objectives. The terrorists, both foreign and Iraqi, failed to stop the transfer of sovereignty. They failed to break our coalition and force a mass withdrawal by our allies. They failed to incite an Iraqi civil war. They failed to prevent free elections. They failed to stop the formation of a democratic Iraqi government that represents all of Iraq’s diverse population. And they failed to stop Iraqis from signing up in large number with the police forces and the army to defend their new democracy.
The lesson of this experience is clear. The terrorists can kill the innocent, but they cannot stop the advance of freedom. The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September the 11th, if we abandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi, and if we yield the future of the Middle East to men like bin Laden. For the sake of our nation’s security, this will not happen on my watch.
AMY GOODMAN: President Bush speaking at Fort Bragg. We are joined on the line from Austin by Rahul Mahajan. He is the author of Full Spectrum Dominance: U.S. Power in Iraq and Beyond, runs a blog called EmpireNotes.org. Welcome to Democracy Now! Your response to President Bush’s comments.
RAHUL MAHAJAN: Well, you know, in a way there was almost nothing in them to respond to. But let me take one of the specific points that I think there’s a great deal of confusion about here. If you have been reading the news, you know that on Sunday the Times of London reported that some U.S. military officers are in negotiations with some insurgent or resistance factions. And one of the things that has gone, I think, less noticed and less reported is that at one point talk turned to the idea of the other factions turning over Zarqawi and some of his people or turning against them, and their response basically was at this point with us under attack and under occupation by the United States, we’re not going to turn against any Muslim from anywhere who has come to help us fight against our enemy.
Now, I personally don’t think that Zarqawi and factions like that that are trying to incite a Sunni-Shia civil war are actually helping the Iraqis against their enemy, but it’s perfectly understandable that in a situation where they are occupied and they see one of their primary problems as the presence of massive numbers of foreign fighters from the United States and Britain, that that is how they’re going to see Zarqawi, that there’s going to be an inability for the resistance to separate itself completely from small sectarian terrorist factions. There’s going to be an inability for the Iraqi people to try to deal with that because it’s very difficult for them to disentangle, in a sense, that these people as — disentangle them as in their minds as being their allies.
This is why — this is one of the reasons why in order to bring any kind of clarity to this situation, the United States has to withdraw. If it withdraws and part of the settlement is, in fact, that all Iraqi forces that will negotiate with each other, which includes the mainstream politicians now, it includes most of the resistance, it includes Muqtada al-Sadr, but it does not include Zarqawi and people like that. Then as the U.S. is withdrawing, and these other factions can easily come together and negotiate and agree to deal with the terrorism problem they have. In the absence of a withdrawal, however, just the reverse dynamic happens, and more and more of the resistance factions feel as if Zarqawi is on their side.
AMY GOODMAN: Were you surprised to hear President Bush even mention bin Laden and the comments of Porter Goss, the Director of Central Intelligence saying that he knows where bin Laden is in Pakistan.
RAHUL MAHAJAN: Frankly, I think Porter Goss’s comments were outright fatuity. I mean, no matter how cynical the administration may be, it’s impossible to believe they actually have a clear sense of where bin Laden is, that troops know where they are and that nobody is talking about the fact that they know where he is and they’re simply not capturing him. But, no, I wasn’t surprised to hear Bush mention bin Laden. Bin Laden is a very convenient name for him. He totally ignored the name for years. There had been times when bin Laden is brought up, he says 'Oh, well, I'm not really concerned about him.’ But he always knew in the back of his mind that he could trot him out whenever he wanted in order to justify virtually anything he is doing. Although, you know, you would have to be insane to go to war against North Korea, if he did he would surely be trotting bin Laden out for that, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you for being with us, Rahul Mahajan, author of Full Spectrum Dominance. Also, Faiza Jarrar, Iraqi blogger speaking to us from Amman, Patrick Cockburn and Karen Kwiatkowski, who is the former Pentagon insider who has talked so much about what has happened there.