Via TPM, the Washington Monthy provides a lengthy dissection of where the military, press, and the President himself are getting their inflated numbers regarding the threat of Al Qaeda in Iraq, and how this very fallacy of thought may be the obstacle to all diplomatic progress.
Because of the danger on the ground, reporters struggle to do the kind of comprehensive field reporting that's necessary to check facts and question statements from military spokespersons and Iraqi politicians. Today, for example, U.S. reporters rarely travel independently outside central Baghdad. Few, if any, insurgents have ever given interviews to Western reporters. These limitations are understandable, if unfortunate. But news organizations are reluctant to admit their confines in obtaining information. Ambiguities are glossed over; allegations are presented as facts. Besides, it's undeniably in the reporter's own interest to keep "al- Qaeda attacks" in the headline, because it may move their story from A16 to A1.
Finally, no one has more incentive to overstate the threat of AQI than President Bush and those in the administration who argue for keeping a substantial military presence in Iraq. Insistent talk about AQI aims to place the Iraq War in the context of the broader war on terrorism. Pointing to al- Qaeda in Iraq helps the administration leverage Americans' fears about terrorism and residual anger over the attacks of September 11. It is perhaps one of the last rhetorical crutches the president has left to lean on.