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A tale of two Al Qaedas

Given my recent bellyaching about the Washington Post's conflation of Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda in Iraq, I was heartened to see today's New York Times story on the subject. Here's how the Times's piece begins:

In rebuffing calls to bring troops home from Iraq, President Bush on Thursday employed a stark and ominous defense. “The same folks that are bombing innocent people in Iraq,” he said, “were the ones who attacked us in America on September the 11th, and that’s why what happens in Iraq matters to the security here at home.”

It is an argument Mr. Bush has been making with frequency in the past few months, as the challenges to the continuation of the war have grown. On Thursday alone, he referred at least 30 times to Al Qaeda or its presence in Iraq.

But his references to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, and his assertions that it is the same group that attacked the United States in 2001, have greatly oversimplified the nature of the insurgency in Iraq and its relationship with the Qaeda leadership.
I do have one complaint, however. The Times story concludes that the president has distorted the links between Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda in Iraq. So why is the story titled "Bush Distorts Qaeda Links, Critics Assert," instead of just "Bush Distorts Qaeda Links?"

Also, as Salon's Glenn Greenwald notes, today's Times story comes on the heels of a damning July 8 column by Times public editor Clark Hoyt, in which Clifford accused the Times of "slipp[ing] into a routine of quoting the president and the military uncritically about Al Qaeda's role in Iraq." But you'd never know that from the Times story itself.

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