Tristero at Hullabaloo published a blog post the other day that made me frown.
Al-Qaeda As Catch-All Term
Glenn Greenwald rightly takes Kenneth Pollack to task for this idiocy from the NY Times:
Some other analysts do not object to Mr. McCain’s portraying the insurgency (or multiple insurgencies) in Iraq as that of Al Qaeda. They say he is using a “perfectly reasonable catchall phrase” that, although it may be out of place in an academic setting, is acceptable on the campaign trail, [emphasis: Greenwald’s] a place that “does not lend itself to long-winded explanations of what we really are facing,” said Kenneth M. Pollack, research director at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.
What Glenn doesn’t realize is something that Pollack surely knows, which is that Philip Bobbitt is trying to make the catch-all “al Qaeda” academically acceptable as well. From a review of Bobbitt’s latest:
Bobbitt’s central premise is that today’s Islamic terrorist network, which he calls Al Qaeda for short…
I frowned because a few weeks ago in conversation I heard two adults discussing how sane and level-headed John McCain was and I said, “No, no. He’s batshit crazy, which will be unmistakable at some point soon.” MaCain had already begun conflating Sunni and Shi’ite, Madhi Army and al-Qaeda, which is inexcusable but sounded like a mistake the first time, the second time, even the third. Twice, Joe Lieberman whispered in McCain’s ear and McCain corrected himself. The sixth and seventh time the candidate misspoke, it was apparent to keen observers a pattern had developed. Hopefully, I thought, a good night’s sleep and a little gingko biloba might fix up the old coot. He’s disqualified himself from serious consideration for the office in question by virtue of being unable to state who’s the actual enemy we’re pretending to fight, but maybe he’ll be okay at dinner parties. Except, that’s not what’s happening here.
This morning, Pete turned on CNN while we did that daily How Many Fingers Am I Holding Up? ritual. While I was in the “Three – no, two!” phase, our blond newscaster talked and talked and talked. Each story seemed unbelievable to her. The sound of her voice reminded me of Drew Barrymore’s Jillian on Family Guy, which is already annoying before coffee. Then our story turned to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr – that’s who we were looking at – but the broadcaster talked about “al-Qaeda in Iraq.” I sat up straight and growled. She went on to say al-Sadr had indeed warned the Iraqi government to cut out what it’s doing. I have no opinion about who is good or bad in this situation, and I won’t be drawn into discussion of it.
What pissed me off beyond the ability to speak was the presumption that I, CNN viewer coming to on Sunday morning, don’t know that al-Sadr is Shi’ite, allied with Iran and al-Qaeda is profoundly, deeply Sunni, allied with Saudi Arabia, and these two groups are not fucking conspiring. They hate each other so much, so thoroughly and for so many hundreds of years they haven’t joined up to destroy the occupation.
Sure, it’s all about me, and by me, I mean news-watching registered voters. Here is a related CNN story that is more clear about who’s who, but not by much.
CNN has some explaining to do. Care to ask them to try?
Update: Crooks and Liars takes up Intellectual laziness and the ‘al Qaeda’ shorthand as our chief diplomat calls al-Sadr “coward.”