FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

McCain’s Al Qaeda Scare

During his recent trip to Iraq, Republican presidential candidate John McCain proclaimed,

“Well, it’s common knowledge and has been reported in the media that Al Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran. That’s well known. And it’s unfortunate.”

According to the New York Times, Senator Joseph Lieberman, who was traveling with McCain, whispered in his ear that such was highly unlikely since Iran is a Shiite country and al-Qaeda is a Sunni group.

That caused McCain to issue an embarrassing apology and correction: “I’m sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not Al Qaeda.”

Why would McCain be eager to bring up al-Qaeda in the context of Iraq, a country that the U.S. government invaded in a war of aggression, as well as Iran, a country that U.S. officials are still contemplating attacking?

The reason is that McCain is not a dumb politician. Like both President Bush and Vice-President Cheney, he knows the visceral and emotional reaction he is able to arouse within many Americans the minute they hear the words “Al-Qaeda,” words that McCain knows immediately tend to short-circuit any reasonable and rationale thinking.

We witnessed this phenomenon with respect to two other words soon after 9/11. What were those two words? “The terrorists.” U.S. officials soon discovered that whenever they emitted those two words–“the terrorists”–the knees of many American men (and women) would immediately begin quivering and quaking, ending any chance of reasoned, rational thinking. Hearing any mention of “the terrorists,” people’s minds would immediately be filled with catastrophic thoughts in which the terrorists were going to invade and conquer America, taking over the IRS and the public schools.

This is, of course, how we got such things as the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, the NSA spying, Gitmo, torture, kidnapping, rendition, cancellation of habeas corpus, and all the rest of the infringements on privacy and civil liberties. U.S. officials had been trying for years to achieve expanded powers, usually under the guise of the war on drugs, but had had difficulty doing so. Periodic usage of those two words–“the terrorists”–after 9/11 disintegrated potential opposition to the assumption and exercise of such powers.

This phenomenon is not significantly different with respect to the term “al Qaeda,” which is why U.S. officials have come to adopting it when referring to the death, destruction, and suffering in Iraq. In order to salve the consciences of Americans who might be struggling with the fact that their government has killed and maimed countless Iraqis in a war of aggresssion, U.S. officials have learned that the best thing to do is simply use the term “al Qaeda” in response to reports of deaths or suffering in Iraq.

The idea is that by employing the term “al Qaeda,” the minds of Americans will immediately be shifted to the 9/11 attacks and will subconsciously associate those attacks with killings in Iraq, enabling people to convince themselves that the death and destruction in Iraq is all because of “al Qaeda.”

That’s undoubtedly why Vice President Cheney has been doing everything he can to cause people to think that there was a partnership between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. By convincing Americans that such a connection existed, Americans wouldn’t have to feel bad about all the Iraqis killed and maimed during the invasion and occupation. As CNN reported on June 18, 2004, Cheney claimed that the evidence is “overwhelming” that al-Qaeda had a relationship with Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. “There clearly was a relationship. It’s been testified to. The evidence is overwhelming,” Cheney said.

Alas, along comes an exhaustive Pentagon study released last week that involved a careful review of 600,000 Iraqi documents captured after the invasion. And guess what! The Pentagon study found no link between Saddam Hussein, Iraq, and al Qaeda.

Of course, even that report is unlikely to discourage U.S. officials from employing “al Qaeda” whenever new deaths are reported in Iraq. They know how powerful the term is within the minds of the American people. For example, just last March, in response to the deaths of 23 people from bombs and shootings, a U.S. military official exclaimed, “Coalition forces believe Al-Qaeda is responsible for these murders.”

Are there, in fact, members of Al Qaeda in Iraq? Undoubtedly, along with many other foreigners who have come to the defense and aid of the Iraqi insurgents, just as U.S. officials, Osama bin Laden, and other foreigners came to the defense of Afghani insurgents after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

In fact, one of the groups of Iraqi insurgents that has arisen after the U.S. invasion of Iraq is entitled “Al Qaeda in Iraq,” which U.S. officials use to maximum propaganda effect in the hopes that their invasion of a country that never attacked the United States could become justified in the minds of the American people.

So, in applying the term “Al Qaeda” to Iran, McCain was doing nothing more than what U.S. officials have been doing for years with respect to Iraq. He just got caught in a flagrant misuse of the term, causing him to have to apologize and retract what he had said.

JACOB HORNBERGER is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

December 19, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russophobia and the Specter of War
Jonathan Cook
American Public’s Backing for One-State Solution Falls on Deaf Ears
Daniel Warner
1968: The Year That Will Not Go Away
Arshad Khan
Developing Country Issues at COP24 … and a Bit of Good News for Solar Power and Carbon Capture
Kenneth Surin
Trump’s African Pivot: Another Swipe at China
Patrick Bond
South Africa Searches for a Financial Parachute, Now That a $170 Billion Foreign Debt Cliff Looms
Tom Clifford
Trade for Hostages? Trump’s New Approach to China
Binoy Kampmark
May Days in Britain
John Feffer
Globalists Really Are Ruining Your Life
John O'Kane
Drops and the Dropped: Diversity and the Midterm Elections
December 18, 2018
Charles Pierson
Where No Corn Has Grown Before: Better Living Through Climate Change?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Waters of American Democracy
Patrick Cockburn
Will Anger in Washington Over the Murder of Khashoggi End the War in Yemen?
George Ochenski
Trump is on the Ropes, But the Pillage of Natural Resources Continues
Farzana Versey
Tribals, Missionaries and Hindutva
Robert Hunziker
Is COP24 One More Big Bust?
David Macaray
The Truth About Nursing Homes
Nino Pagliccia
Have the Russian Military Aircrafts in Venezuela Breached the Door to “America’s Backyard”?
Paul Edwards
Make America Grate Again
David Rosnick
The Impact of OPEC on Climate Change
Binoy Kampmark
The Kosovo Blunder: Moving Towards a Standing Army
Andrew Stewart
Shine a Light for Immigration Rights in Providence
December 17, 2018
Susan Abulhawa
Marc Lamont Hill’s Detractors are the True Anti-Semites
Jake Palmer
Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Fights Proposal to Keep It From Looting Medicare
David Rosen
December 17th: International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
Binoy Kampmark
The Case that Dare Not Speak Its Name: the Conviction of Cardinal Pell
Dave Lindorff
Making Trump and Other Climate Criminals Pay
Bill Martin
Seeing Yellow
Julian Vigo
The World Google Controls and Surveillance Capitalism
ANIS SHIVANI
What is Neoliberalism?
James Haught
Evangelicals Vote, “Nones” Falter
Vacy Vlanza
The Australian Prime Minister’s Rapture for Jerusalem
Martin Billheimer
Late Year’s Hits for the Hanging Sock
Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail