The True Legacy of Bush’s War in Iraq: Breeding Generations of Al-Qaeda

John Glaser, January 04, 2013

In the US foreign policy community, one major legacy of George W. Bush’s war in Iraq is that it gave Iraq to the Shiites and thus to Iran. There is some focus on the fact that the administration lied the country into war, and almost none on the fact that this led to hundreds of thousands of deaths and unimaginable suffering for millions of Iraqis. Among the “foreign policy community,” the geo-political legacy is that the war was a gift to Iran, which no longer faces a neighboring nemesis and is exponentially better positioned for the regional dominance it seeks.

That is true, and it was a massive strategic blunder for policymakers in Washington aiming to maintain regional hegemony over the Middle East. But a better illustration of the war’s legacy is what is going on in Syria right now: al-Qaeda jihadists, bred in the wake of the American invasion and who flooded to Iraq to fight the Crusaders, are now an actual entity that has flooded over the border into Syria to fight the next holy war. The fact that the Syrian rebels are largely made up of extremists is one of the major factors persuading Washington not to intervene militarily.

Al-Qaeda in Syria (formerly al-Qaeda in Iraq) is preventing what would probably be a par for the course humanitarian intervention against the Assad regime and making the prospect of terrorist rebels sacking Damascus and rising to political power a dangerous reality. That should be considered by the elite foreign policy community to be at least as big a geo-strategic loss as Iran’s new regional stature.

The huge spectacle and sheer enormity of the terror of 9/11 has helped reinforce an illusion about al-Qaeda at that time. Despite what the greatest terrorist attack on US soil in American history would seem to indicate, they were a small group, marginalized everywhere they went. They were a small group of extremists peculiarly obsessed with US military troops in Saudi Arabia. They used Israel-Palestine, resentment towards US-supported dictators and the sanctions-enabled genocide in Iraq to excite the Muslim masses to their cause, but nobody rose up like they’d hoped.

And then Iraq happened. The 2006 National Intelligence Estimate on Trends in Global Terrorism said that the Iraq war was “breeding deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement.” The former head of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center Robert Grenier said the war “has convinced many Muslims that the United States is the enemy of Islam and is attacking Muslims, and they have become jihadists as a result of their experience in Iraq.”

Bush’s maniacal foreign policy gave global appeal to al-Qaeda’s militant anti-US brand. And now the US is faced with several independent off-shoots that draw inspiration from the comparatively small original clan. There is al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, many of whose members fought the rebel war in Libya and were themselves veteran jihadis in Iraq. Groups in Syria like Jabhat al-Nusra, which the US State Department last month officially designated a Global Terrorist organization, identifying the group as an offshoot of al-Qaeda in Iraq. And al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which according to Washington has coordinated at least a few attempted attacks on the US.

Now, President Obama’s so-called “counter-terrorism” policies have been equally counterproductive. His surge in Afghanistan, his relentless secret drone war in Pakistan and Yemen, his shortsighted intervention in Libya, and his limited backing of Syrian rebels have all contributed to the bolstering of al-Qaead groups.

But there is not enough emphasis on Bush’s contributions here, specifically the extent to which the Iraq war contributed. That legacy is not just the strategic blunder of an unnecessary war that failed to yield sufficient geo-political gains. It is one of creating an entirely new and larger generation of al-Qaeda terrorists.




23 Responses to “The True Legacy of Bush’s War in Iraq: Breeding Generations of Al-Qaeda”

  1. Though it was often mentioned and often repeated, the fact that what might be claimed as the one success out of the Iraqi invasion was the perpetuation of a ready supply of generational anti-US followers remains generally below the radar for the American people. The comment that our "Heroes" are fighting "over there" to protect our "freedom" clouds the minds and obscures the reality of the opposite being true. Perhaps it's a case of the American people not wanting to believe that they fell for the ruse and that the deaths and lost treasure were, in fact, completely in vain. Perhaps it's a case of the American people not wanting to believe that the leaders of the country might do something so damaging to the country – something the country will be paying for long after those responsible are long gone. Perhaps the American people are actually stupid and really don't care.

    But make no mistake, we will hear from the enemies we have foolishly created again. And given the people we have become – the people we have voted to represent us – we will double-down and seal our fate as a country.

    As Nietzsche says: He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.

  2. [...] The True Legacy of Bush’s War in Iraq: Breeding Generations of Al-Qaeda [...]

  3. Bankers became powerful through lending to warring monarchs and governing politicians and it should be no surprise that this is their preferred method of maintaining their power.

    War between kingdoms and nations carried the risk of the loosing side defaulting (although this rarely happened – c.f. "reparations") so the present system where one superpower wages perpetual war in – rather then against – nations and borrows lavishly both to both destroy and rebuild provides a single default creditor and suits bankers admirably. The bankers enablers in the MIC also find that using other peoples money to enrich their pals and themselves is hard to beat.

    So yes, perhaps "the American people are actually stupid and really don't care" – but in this they are no different from most of the people all over the world.

  4. [...] True Legacy of Bush’s War in Iraq: Breeding Generations of al-Qaeda [...]

  5. Benghazi is more Bush's fault than to his protege Obama.

  6. [...] Lynch doesn’t emphasize here is the rather obvious fact that it would have continued the Iraq War legacy of breeding generations of anti-American sentiment and al-Qaeda [...]

  7. [...] Lynch doesn’t emphasize here is the rather obvious fact that it would have continued the Iraq War legacy of breeding generations of anti-American sentiment and al-Qaeda [...]

  8. [...] with Iran, ten years of training for jihadists to become battle-hardened warriors many of whom are now fighting in Syria, the creation of massive blowback that provides endless recruits for al Qaeda-type [...]

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