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The Times’s Debilitating OCD

There’s a distracting occupational quirk among New York Times writers who file stories on Iraq. See if you can spot it in these examples pulled from the past year or so.

The parade was a response to one held last year in Ramadi by the Mujahedeen Shura Council, an insurgent group linked to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the homegrown Sunni insurgent group that American intelligence officials say has foreign leadership. –October 24, 2007

. . . in search of 200 insurgents with Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the largely homegrown Sunni insurgent group that American intelligence says is foreign led and now represents the principal threat to stability in Iraq. –January 9, 2008

United States military officials have identified it as a haven for militants linked to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the largely homegrown Sunni insurgent group that American intelligence says is foreign-led . . . –January 11, 2008

Iraqi and American security forces believe that Mosul is the last urban stronghold of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the homegrown Sunni insurgent group that American intelligence officials say is foreign-led.May 17, 2008

General Thomas said of the negotiated surrenders of insurgent leaders sometimes described as members of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the homegrown Sunni insurgent group that American officials say is led by foreigners. –June 1, 2008

Rubbed raw by Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a homegrown Sunni insurgent group that American intelligence says is led by foreigners . . . – March 4, 2008

The latest display of this tic comes today with

. . .the phenomenon seems to have arisen at least in part because of successes in detaining and killing local members of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a homegrown Sunni insurgent group that American intelligence officials say is led by foreigners.

These quotes are attributable to various Times writers, so we know the recurring phrase is the result of a larger editorial decision: to label the claim of al Qaeda in Iraq’s (AQI) foreign leadership a lie. The question is: why is this important to the New York Times?

The answer: The Times wants to prove that the American invasion of Iraq–a New York Times’-supported effort that Times officials now claim was a mistake–created violent enemies among the native population of Iraq, and that American aggression, not regional Islamism, is to blame for the majority of the resultant carnage.

Some facts:

• The late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, founder of al Qaeda in Iraq, was Jordanian.

• Abu Ayyub al-Masri, Al-Zarqawi’s successor is Egyptian.

• The late Sheik Abd-Al-Rahman, spiritual advisor to AQI, was Saudi Arabian.

• The biggest, baddest, scariest Iraqi leader of AQI, the ubiquitous Abu Abdullah al-Rashid al-Baghdadi, turned out to be a PR fabrication.

This is not to say that there are no Iraqi members of AQI. But the founding leadership is, as “American intelligence officials claim” foreign. Yet the New York Times continues to waste ink trudging out this bizarre clause.

According to WebMD: “Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a type of anxiety disorder, is a potentially disabling illness that traps people in endless cycles of repetitive thoughts and behaviors.”

With the gains of the troop surge–a New York Times-derided strategy that Times officials now claim to be a success–serious people of varying viewpoints have come to ease up on the debilitating cycles of repetitive thought that characterized their positions on Iraq. Having missed most of the crucial phases of the turnaround in Iraq, the Times needs to abandon this petty and unfounded point of contention and return to covering events as they unfold on the ground.



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