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al Qaeda’s Tet offensive

Posted by Richard on August 16, 2007

Commentators and pundits have been pondering the meaning of al Qaeda's horrific truck bomb attacks in far northern, peaceful, Iraqi Kurdistan. What prompted them to attack a small, isolated ethnic group, far from U.S. troops, the surge, and disputed territory? Most missed the point.

This attack wasn't aimed at the Yazidis, or at the Kurdistan region, or even at the government of Iraq. It was aimed squarely at NBC, ABC, CBS, and the United States Congress. The Yazidi villages were just a convenient, low-risk target on which to unleash the maximum possible carnage. The reason for killing hundreds of Yazidis is to shock and dismay Americans. Expect more such "media events" between now and September 15.

Today's column by Ralph Peters addresses the issue well (emphasis added):

The victims were ethnic Kurd Yazidis, members of a minor sect with pre-Islamic roots. Muslim extremists condemn them (wrongly) as devil worshippers. The Yazidis live on the fringes of society.

That's one of the two reasons al Qaeda targeted those settlements: The terrorist leaders realize now that the carnage they wrought on fellow Muslims backfired, turning once-sympathetic Sunni Arabs against them. The fanatics calculated that Iraqis wouldn't care much about the Yazidis.

But the second reason for those dramatic bombings was that al Qaeda needs to portray Iraq as a continuing failure of U.S. policy. Those dead and maimed Yazidis were just props: The intended audience was Congress.

Al Qaeda has been badly battered. It's lost top leaders and thousands of cadres. Even more painful for the Islamists, they've lost ground among the people of Iraq, including former allies. Iraqis got a good taste of al Qaeda. Now they're spitting it out.

The foreign terrorists slaughtering the innocent recognize that their only remaining hope of pulling off a come-from-way-behind win is to convince your senator and your congressman or -woman that it's politically expedient to hand a default victory to a defeated al Qaeda.

Peters goes on to explain that, barring the triumph of the "peace at any price" crowd here at home, and despite the likelihood of more massive bloodshed in the near term, the Petraeus plan is working well and the longer-term outlook in Iraq is pretty good. Read the whole thing.

The Islamofascists in general and al Qaeda in particular are masters of media manipulation and propaganda (the founders of the movement learned at the side of the Nazis). They're also keen students of history, and they know all about the 1968 Tet offensive, in which Viet Cong forces were defeated and decimated at every turn, but won a huge victory on the public relations front, leading Walter Cronkite to declare Vietnam a failure and destroying public support for the conflict.

Will al Qaeda be able to replicate Tet? I don't think so. For one thing, the media environment has changed, and we no longer rely on a Walter Cronkite to tell us "that's the way it is." Hardly anyone watches the Katie Courics and Keith Olbermans today. And in any case, if they try to paint an al Qaeda Tet as a tremendous defeat for the U.S., the new media will quickly counter with evidence to the contrary.

But they will no doubt try, and it will get ugly. 

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