Propagandist ?

A recent post by Bill Roggio demonstrates why he is not a propagandist in the pay of the Pentagon and why I, and a lot of other people who want to know what is going on in Iraq, have made Roggio a must read. It was recently reported that 270 al-Qaeda had been captured by local tribesmen in Western Iraq near al-Qaim. That was remarkably good news, and I imagined that it must have been a case of the locals knowing exactly where the foreign fighters were hiding and quickly rolling them up. However, it immediately struck Bill Roggio as unlikely that poorly trained local tribesmen could accomplish that much without a big and noticeable fight. So he checked. The result is this post, which concludes that no such thing could have happened.

While the news would be a positive development, it appears this story has little basis in fact. An inquiry to Lieutenant Colonel Dale Alford, the Battalion Commander of the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, whose unit is parked in the al-Qaim region and would be aware of such a massive operation, denies the report, “We have caught a number of foreign insurgents over the past couple of months and the tribes are providing us information and working with us, but nothing like the report” [referenced].

Now I was taken in by the report and believed it, but Bill Roggio was skeptical. I believed it because it fits into the larger pattern of a split between the al-Qaeda and the Sunni Iraqi inhabitants of central and western Iraq, which has been being reported by the MSM in the last month or so. Bill and others have been reporting that development for over a year. At first it came in the form of increased intelligence from Iraqis, followed by minor fighting between al-Qaeda and Iraqis, and finally by open announcements of hostility toward al-Qaeda and some major fighting. In his previous post – The Iraqi Divide Widens – Bill zooms back to give us an even larger picture. It is his ability to see and report these layers of context that is so valuable in his reporting, but, at the same time, his military experience gives him the ability to quickly sort fact from hopeful fiction.

When looked at from a higher level – the overall struggle against al-Qaeda in the Global War on Terror – the rejection of al-Qaeda by their Muslim brethren fighting against the forces of the West is a major strategic defeat for al-Qaeda. The premier terrorist group and self-proclaimed defenders of the faith could not maintain support in the heart of the Middle East among its most likely group of supporters: minority Sunnis subject to the rule of a Shiite-dominated government. This is part of the ideological struggle which is sorely missed in the popular reporting and analysis.

For those of us who want to understand what we are trying to accomplish and how we are progressing – or otherwise – in Iraq and how it connects to the Global War on Terror, Roggio’s work is of great value. When he pounces on a heartening, but false, report his credibility increases. Being human, he may sometimes get things wrong, but we know he is an honest reporter of considerable skill because of incidents like this. When he was attacked by the Washington post as possibly a paid propagandist for the Pentagon, it was the Washington Post we began to suspect of being in the propaganda business and who’s reports we stopped accepting at face value.

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