Belmont Club

The politics of memory

Hit by militants returning home from Iraq?Newsweek, commenting on “the car bombing outside the U.S. Embassy in Yemen, which killed 16 people Wednesday” says it is “a powerful reminder that Al Qaeda and its allies remain a lethal force on the Arabian Peninsula.”  The magazine came within an ace of accidentally admitting that Al Qaeda’s strategic home is in the Arabian Peninsula, not in Afghanistan. The source of Islamic extremism’s ideology and money isn’t in the Northwest Frontier Provinces. It’s in the Middle East. But Newsweek couldn’t resist adding: “Are Al Qaeda fighters returning home from Iraq to launch new attacks against U.S. targets?”

The logical conclusion to this kind of muddled thinking is to conclude that defeating al-Qaeda in its Middle Eastern heartland is strategically irrelevant while chasing Pashtuns in Central Asia is of central importance. While defeating al-Qaeda in Afghanistan/Pakistan is certainly a worthwhile goal,  it nevertheless remains true that the home of Islamic terror is in the region. The USS Cole was nearly destroyed in Yemen before there were any al Qaeda fighters  to return home from Iraq, unless of course that is understood to mean they trained under the late and sainted Saddam Hussein.


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