A gleefully ignorant public is easily frightened, over and over again.
From The New York Times:
President George W. Bush argued forcefully today that an Al Qaeda-affiliated group in Iraq is linked tightly to the central Al Qaeda leadership, and that for American forces to leave Iraq without defeating the terror group would be “dangerous for the world and disastrous for America.”
He made the remarks at Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina, at a time of fierce debate in Washington over Iraq policy. Last week, a major intelligence report concluded that the international Al Qaeda organization of Osama bin Laden had successfully regrouped, probably in rugged northwest Pakistan, and that it is once again as strong as it was before the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
In a half-hour speech clearly aimed at his Democratic critics, Mr. Bush said that those who argued that the affiliated group, called Al Qaeda in Iraq or AQI, was a local group with local objectives, and not a serious threat to Americans at home, were seriously misinformed.
“It’s hard to argue that Al Qaeda in Iraq is separate from bin Laden’s Al Qaeda when the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq took an oath of allegiance to Osama bin Laden,” Mr. Bush said, referring to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a leader of the affiliated group in Iraq who was killed last year.
Mr. Bush called the two similarly named groups “an alliance of killers,” and said, “No enemy is more ruthless in Iraq than Al Qaeda.”
The president’s remarks focused almost entirely on links between the two groups and on threats they pose. His tone was particularly tough. Mr. Bush’s message did not vary much in substance from what he has long said about the groups, though he added some details, apparently based in part on newly declassified information.
Critics of the administration’s policy in Iraq, including some Democratic politicians, have said that Mr. Bush’s portrayal of the links between the Qaeda groups is overblown, and that the group in Iraq did not exist before the American-led invasion. The international group, they say, is the one that poses the much greater threat to the United States, while in Iraq, sectarian violence is a far greater concern than are foreign-led terrorist groups like Al Qaeda in Iraq.
Democrats reacted swiftly and dismissively to the president’s remarks. Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, accusing Mr. Bush of “flawed logic,” said, “The president is putting forth a false rationale for continuing the war.”
Holding up a copy of the latest National Intelligence Estimate on terrorism, released by the administration last week, Mr. Kerry said, “Our own intelligence community tells us today unequivocally that our presence in Iraq has created more terrorists, attracted more terrorists.”
Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, said that “the president’s claim that the war in Iraq is protecting us from Al Qaeda is as misguided and dangerous as the conclusions that drove us to Iraq in the first place.”
“Despite what the president would like us to believe,” he added, “it has been established that Al Qaeda had no active cells in Iraq when we invaded, and we have long known that we were not attacked from Iraq on 9/11. Saying otherwise does not make it so.”
Still, judging by recent opinion polls, the president has had some recent success in making a case to voters for continuing the war in Iraq. He has insisted both that success is possible and that failure would be catastrophic, in part because Al Qaeda in Iraq might then turn its attentions elsewhere.
For more on the “Fearmongering Your Way to Power” technique, successfully employed in recent decades by both far-right Islam radicals and far-right American neo-conservative radicals, watch Adam Curtis’s comprehensive “The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear” television program.