Still Can’t Identify the Enemy


Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) this morning called AQI our “primary enemy” in Iraq. TPM Reader JH objects:

Why is it that all we’re are hearing from these “hearings” is ” al-Qaeda in Iraq”? This is bullshit and should be pointed out as such. Al Qaeda in Iraq is about 2% of the problem at most, yet that is all we are hearing.

Estimates vary on what percentage AQI represents of the insurgent/sectarian/militia forces, but JH is right. AQI is a fraction of the insurgency, five percent at most, probably less. In the words of one analyst, it is a “microscopic terrorist organization.”

Yet, since the White House last year took to lumping all non-governmental armed groups under the AQI umbrella, the debate has subtly shifted from whether we’re stuck in the midst of a civil war in Iraq to whether our efforts to stamp out terrorism (AQI) is worth the cost. In other words, the bamboozlement largely worked.

Meanwhile, even those who have signed on to the AQI myth can’t keep it straight. Is it Shiite? Sunni? Oh, whatever:

MCCAIN: There are numerous threats to security in Iraq and the future of Iraq. Do you still view Al Qaida in Iraq as a major threat?

PETRAEUS: It is still a major threat, though it is certainly not as major a threat as it was, say, 15 months ago.

MCCAIN: Certainly not an obscure sect of the Shiites overall…


MCCAIN: … or Sunnis or anybody else.

It’s Sunni.


David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.