My understanding of the Abu Omar al-Baghdadi timeline:
1. Reported as leader of "one the most notorious insurgent groups in Iraq."
2. Reported as captured.
3. Reported as killed.
4. Reported as fictional.
As always, I would actually like to hear some good news from Iraq. But the administration's desperation to report anything as a huge success, and wildly exaggerate it in the process, doesn't inspire confidence. The troubling thing about all of this is that once again, we might've played right into the hands of the people we're fighting.
American wingers might be too stupid to understand it, but it seems very few of our opponents are: criticizing the conduct of the war doesn't demoralize our troops and 'embolden the enemy,' but to be told everything is perfect only to have the rug repeatedly yanked out from under you does both.
UPDATE: Silly me. I forgot the part of this that makes the administration look as stupid as usual. From the War Room:
Not long after New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt scolded his own paper for not confronting President Bush on the issue, Times reporters Michael R. Gordon and Jim Rutenberg wrote in a front-page story that Bush's assertions "have greatly oversimplified the nature of the insurgency in Iraq and its relationship with the Qaeda leadership."
And the coverage of Tuesday's intelligence report (see yesterday's column) was full of skepticism over the White House's attempted conflation.
So what a stroke of luck it was for the White House when, just a day later, the chief military spokesman in Iraq revealed a dramatic story that would appear to support the president's new favorite talking point: Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner chose yesterday to announce the arrest -- two weeks ago -- of a man he called a leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, who he said had told interrogators about a close operational relationship between his group and Osama bin Laden's inner circle.
Was the timing coincidental? And is Bergner credible? Until recently he was a member of the White House's national security staff, holding the title of senior director for Iraq. Since taking up his new post in May, Bergner has made a series of politically charged allegations against both al-Qaida and Iran, many of which have been basically unverifiable.