Bloggers wonder if al-Qaida in Iraq is on the run.

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
Oct. 15 2007 6:00 PM

Al-Qaida on the Wane?

Bloggers are wondering if al-Qaida's influence in Iraq is decreasing, criticizing U.S.-based bloggers who spread jihadist messages over the Internet, and enjoying Stephen Colbert's stab an op-ed column.

Al-Qaida on the wane? The military is confident that the influence of al-Qaida in Iraq has been curbed, but administration officials are a little too wary to hang any "Mission Accomplished" banners. Suicide bombings, a favorite tactic of AQI, are down to 30 a month, from 60 in January.

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"So we won and the troops can come home now, right? right?" asks Steve M. at liberal No More Mister Nice Blog. At Needlenose, liberal Swopa quibbles over the military's definition of victory: "Hell, they're down to just one suicide bombing a day! Why, it's like you'd hardly even know they're there."

At Reaction, liberal Edward Copeland finds wisdom in the administration's hesitation: "In a rare instance of learning from past mistakes, the Bush administration is reluctant to declare victory prematurely (or is it they are reluctant to have their main argument for staying gone and have the U.S. military be purely baby sitters to a civil war?)" Liberal Steve Benen at the Carpetbagger agrees the right has lost a powerful bogeyman: "If AQI has effectively been routed, it's that much more difficult for Bush and his allies to insist we stay the course to defeat our 9/11 attackers. Al Qaeda in Iraq is the rallying cry; it's the raison d'etre of our occupation; it's the basis for right-wing advertising; it's the reason congressional Republicans can rationalize voting in lockstep with the White House on every Iraq measure for years."

At Wired's national security-focused Danger Room, Noah Shachtman, who was just in Iraq last month and says the WaPo story "matches" what he saw, points out that AQI is just one of many insurgent groups: "[G]uerrilla groups in Iraq have played possum for months, only to rise again; hell, that's part of the nature of an insurgent threat. Also -- and this is what's particularly hair-pulling about Iraq -- while American forces have largely concentrated on Sunni groups like 'AQI,' there are plenty of other insurgent types out there. And they are from the country's Shi'ite majority."

At Contentions, Commentary's blog, Peter Wehner chalks this victory up to Gen. Petraeus' leadership: "We now have a decent shot at a decent outcome in Iraq, something few thought was possible ten months ago. It is a reminder that having the right man in the right post—in this instance, having David Howell Petraeus as the commanding general in Iraq—can make a world of difference. See Lincoln and the Civil War for more." And conservative Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters credits the surge: "The US forces had insisted for the past two years that AQI presented the deadliest challenge in Iraq. Critics claimed that the Pentagon and the administration were lying, and that the AQ forces only represented 10% of all insurgents in Iraq. Yet now, with AQI dispersed, demoralized, and mostly defeated, the plunge in casualties has been far greater than the 10% number critics and skeptics tossed around so casually as late as this summer."

Read more about al-Qaida in Iraq.

Web of jihad: A New York Times piece on the rise of English-language Web sites promoting Islamist views profiles a young Saudi-born Muslim who spreads jihadist messages from his parents' North Carolina home. Saudi-born Samir Khan translates Arabic videos into English and posts bloody insurgent videos from Iraq. Bloggers argue with the New York Times' assertion that there is no evidence that Khan, who has no affiliation with al-Qaida, has broken any laws.

At conservative Jihad Watch, Robert Spencer is seething. "Isn't there anything this fellow can be charged with, or is he completely free to aid the global jihad from North Carolina and give interviews to the New York Times? In 1942, would a young Nazi have been allowed to propagandize freely for Hitler in Hoboken or Sioux City?"

At the Jawa Report, Rusty Shackleford says his site is one of the "vigilante groups," mentioned in the NYT story, that has tried to get Khan's site taken down. Shackleford says Khan is guilty of treason and is upset that the NYT ran the story, saying the author "has a right to out Inshallahshaheed as Samir Khan, but doing so has jeopardized an ongoing investigation into a terror ring which begins in the US and ends in Somalia."

Mark Hemingway at the National Review's Corner   cites the Jawa Report and concurs that Khan is treasonous. "Last I checked, that crime is punishable by death. … Now I'm not suggesting journalists have to become compliant during a time of war. But it would sure help if they at least knew what treason is when they are proverbially slapped across the face with a mackerel by it."

At the Volokh Conspiracy, David Bernstein asks a legal question: "I'm curious: assuming that (1) Khan is not a citizen; and (2) he has not violated any criminal laws, does American immigration law, tempered by constitutional considerations, provide grounds for deporting him?"

Read more about Samir Khan.

Colbert reports: Maureen Dowd rested on her "overstuffed divan, petting her prize Abyssinian and sipping a Dirty Cosmotinijito" while Stephen Colbert penned a guest op-ed column stuffed full of zingers about the '08 election for Sunday's editions.

Many bloggers seem to celebrate Dowd's absence: "I like Colbert, but the best thing about this column is that there's less Dowd in it," opines the Brit at the Sideshow. At the Impolitic, Libby is enjoying Dowd's column: "Miraculously, there's a Dowd column worth reading, mainly because she didn't write it. Stephen Colbert did."

"Writing in the Times that isn't dry? According to some theologians, that's a sign of the impending apocalypse," Neal quips at FishbowlNY, before going on to tackle Colbert's "threat" to shave Paul Krugman with a broken bottle. "The urge to inflict bodily harm on Paul Krugman is surprisingly common. We've never felt it, but this isn't the first time the fantasy has been mentioned (though it usually involves Thomas Friedman and a bloody chainsaw)."                                   

Read more reaction to Colbert's column.

Sonia Smith is an associate editor at Texas Monthly.

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