We’re being had. Again.
For six years, President Obama has endeavored to will the country into accepting two pillars of his alternative national-security reality. First, he claims to have dealt decisively with the terrorist threat, rendering it a disparate series of ragtag jayvees. Second, he asserts that the threat is unrelated to Islam, which is innately peaceful, moderate, and opposed to the wanton “violent extremists” who purport to act in its name.
Now, the president has been compelled to act against a jihad that has neither ended nor been “decimated.” The jihad, in fact, has inevitably intensified under his counterfactual worldview, which holds that empowering Islamic supremacists is the path to security and stability. Yet even as war intensifies in Iraq and Syria — even as jihadists continue advancing, continue killing and capturing hapless opposition forces on the ground despite Obama’s futile air raids — the president won’t let go of the charade.
Hence, Obama gives us the Khorosan Group.
There is a reason that no one had heard of such a group until a nanosecond ago, when the “Khorosan Group” suddenly went from anonymity to the “imminent threat” that became the rationale for an emergency air war there was supposedly no time to ask Congress to authorize.
You haven’t heard of the Khorosan Group because there isn’t one. It is a name the administration came up with, calculating that Khorosan — the Iranian–Afghan border region — had sufficient connection to jihadist lore that no one would call the president on it.
The “Khorosan Group” is al-Qaeda. It is simply a faction within the global terror network’s Syrian franchise, “Jabhat al-Nusra.” Its leader, Mushin al-Fadhli (believed to have been killed in this week’s U.S.-led air strikes), was an intimate of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the emir of al-Qaeda who dispatched him to the jihad in Syria. Except that if you listen to administration officials long enough, you come away thinking that Zawahiri is not really al-Qaeda, either. Instead, he’s something the administration is at pains to call “core al-Qaeda.”
“Core al-Qaeda,” you are to understand, is different from “Jabhat al-Nusra,” which in turn is distinct from “al-Qaeda in Iraq” (formerly “al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia,” now the “Islamic State” al-Qaeda spin-off that is, itself, formerly “al-Qaeda in Iraq and al-Sham” or “al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Levant”). That al-Qaeda, don’t you know, is a different outfit from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula . . . which, of course, should never be mistaken for “al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb,” “Boko Haram,” “Ansar al-Sharia,” or the latest entry, “al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent.”
Coming soon, “al-Qaeda on Hollywood and Vine.” In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if, come 2015, Obama issued an executive order decreeing twelve new jihad jayvees stretching from al-Qaeda in January through al-Qaeda in December.
Except you’ll hear only about the jayvees, not the jihad. You see, there is a purpose behind this dizzying proliferation of names assigned to what, in reality, is a global network with multiple tentacles and occasional internecine rivalries.
As these columns have long contended, Obama has not quelled our enemies; he has miniaturized them. The jihad and the sharia supremacism that fuels it form the glue that unites the parts into a whole — a worldwide, ideologically connected movement rooted in Islamic scripture that can project power on the scale of a nation-state and that seeks to conquer the West. The president does not want us to see the threat this way.
For a product of the radical Left like Obama, terrorism is a regrettable but understandable consequence of American arrogance. That it happens to involve Muslims is just the coincidental fallout of Western imperialism in the Middle East, not the doctrinal command of a belief system that perceives itself as engaged in an inter-civilizational conflict. For the Left, America has to be the culprit. Despite its inbred pathologies, which we had no role in cultivating, Islam must be the victim, not the cause. As you’ll hear from Obama’s Islamist allies, who often double as Democratic activists, the problem is “Islamophobia,” not Muslim terrorism.
This is a gross distortion of reality, so the Left has to do some very heavy lifting to pull it off. Since the Islamic-supremacist ideology that unites the jihadists won’t disappear, it has to be denied and purged. The “real” jihad becomes the “internal struggle to become a better person.” The scriptural and scholarly underpinnings of Islamic supremacism must be bleached out of the materials used to train our national-security agents, and the instructors who resist going along with the program must be ostracized. The global terror network must be atomized into discrete, disconnected cells moved to violence by parochial political or territorial disputes, with no overarching unity or hegemonic ambition. That way, they can be limned as a manageable law-enforcement problem fit for the courts to address, not a national-security challenge requiring the armed forces.
The president has been telling us for years that he handled al-Qaeda by killing bin Laden. He has been telling us for weeks that the Islamic State — an al-Qaeda renegade that will soon reconcile with the mother ship for the greater good of unity in the anti-American jihad — is a regional nuisance that posed no threat to the United States. In recent days, however, reality intruded on this fiction. Suddenly, tens of thousands of terrorists, armed to the teeth, were demolishing American-trained armies, beheading American journalists, and threatening American targets.
Obama is not the manner of man who can say, “I was wrong: It turns out that al-Qaeda is actually on the rise, its Islamic State faction is overwhelming the region, and American interests — perhaps even American territory — are profoundly threatened.” So instead . . . you got “the Khorosan Group.”
You also got a smiley-face story about five Arab states joining the United States in a coalition to confront the terrorists. Finally, the story goes, Sunni governments were acting decisively to take Islam back from the “un-Islamic” elements that falsely commit “violent extremism” under Islam’s banner.
Sounds uplifting … until you read the fine print. You’ve got to dig deep to find it. It begins, for example, 42 paragraphs into the Wall Street Journal’s report on the start of the bombing campaign. After the business about our glorious alliance with “moderate” allies like Saudi Arabia and Qatar who so despise terrorism, we learn:
Only the U.S. — not Arab allies — struck sites associated with the Khorasan group, officials said. Khorasan group members were in the final stages of preparations for an attack on U.S. and Western interests, a defense official said. Khorasan was planning an attack on international airliners, officials have said. . . . Rebels and activists contacted inside Syria said they had never heard of Khorasan and that the U.S. struck several bases and an ammunition warehouse belonging to the main al Qaeda-linked group fighting in Syria, Nusra Front. While U.S. officials have drawn a distinction between the two groups, they acknowledge their membership is intertwined and their goals are similar.
Oops. So it turns out that our moderate Islamist partners have no interest in fighting Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate. Yes, they reluctantly, and to a very limited extent, joined U.S. forces in the strikes against the Islamic State renegades. But that’s not because the Islamic State is jihadist while they are moderate. It is because the Islamic State has made mincemeat of Iraq’s forces, is a realistic threat to topple Assad, and has our partners fretting that they are next on the menu.
Meantime, though, the Saudis and Qatar want no trouble with the rest of al-Qaeda, particularly with al-Nusra. After all, al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch is tightly allied with the “moderate opposition” that these “moderate” Gulf states have been funding, arming, and training for the jihad against Assad.
Oh, and what about those other “moderates” Obama has spent his presidency courting, the Muslim Brotherhood? It turns out they are not only all for al-Qaeda, they even condemn what one of their top sharia jurists, Wagdy Ghoneim, has labeled “the Crusader war against the Islamic State.”
“The Crusaders in America, Europe, and elsewhere are our enemies,” Ghoneim tells Muslims. For good measure he adds, “We shall never forget the terrorism of criminal America, which threw the body of the martyred heroic mujahid, Bin Laden, into the sea.”
Obama has his story and he’s sticking to it. But the same can be said for our enemies.
— Andrew C. McCarthy is a policy fellow at the National Review Institute. His latest book is Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment.