Notice anything different about Iraq war coverage lately? It seems that we're fighting and killing a lot of "al Qaeda" troops. Prior to a week or so ago, we were fighting Sunnis or Shias or just "insurgents." But all of a sudden all those factions have become "al Qaeda."
Except they haven't.
Al Qaeda represents a small fraction of the people fighting in Iraq. Very small. Most of the combatants are, as they have been, Shia and Sunni insurgent factions. That hasn't changed. What has changed is that the Bush administration is now referring to all enemy combatants as al Qaeda fighters, even when they're not.
This should not, I suppose, be surprising. The Bush administration has been lying to us for so long it would be difficult to take them seriously if they ever started to speak the truth. What is disturbing is how easily the lackeys in the press have accepted this new propanda, as witnessed by this headline from Reuters: "U.S. and Iraq Forces Kill 90 al Qaeda in Offensive." And this one from the New York Times: "G.I.’s in Iraq Open Big Offensive Against Al Qaeda." And this one from the Associated Press: "U.S. Targets Entrenched al-Qaeda Fighters."
None of this is true; the people we're fighting are not "al Queda fighters," they're the same Sunnis and Shias we've been fighting all along, as pointed out in exquisite detail by Salon's Glen Greenwald in this blog post. It's just that our government and military leaders are now calling them al Qaeda. But calling them al Qaeda doesn't make them al Qaeda; they're still Iraqi insurgents.
Why this particular lie? By defining our opposition as al Qaeda, the government links our fight in Iraq to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, thus justifying the war as "fighting the terrorists there so we don't have to fight them here." It's all bullshit, and transparent bullshit at that, but it takes on a certain weight when the mainstream media repeats the bullshit without question.
The press has an obligation to report the truth, not to repeat government propaganda. If there is a single reason why our country is in the situation it's currently in, it's not Bush and Cheney and their quest for ultimate power, it's the failure of the press to do its duty. While there are exceptions (thank you, Seymour Hersh), the media today has abandoned the truth and thus forfeited its responsibility to help maintain an open, informed, and free republic. When the press fails us, our democracy fails.
But that's just my opinion; reasonable minds may disagree.