Robert Cox adopts a phrase attributed to bank robber Willie Sutton to fit the case for fighting terrorists in Iraq:
According to recent Department of Defense and CIA estimates, al Qaeda now has between 5,000 and 20,000 fighters operating in Iraq. Al Qaeda itself claims to have as many as 12,000 fighters in Iraq, but do we really want to take Osama bin Laden’s word for anything? While no one in this country knows for sure just how many jihadists are in Iraq, it seems reasonable to believe that there are thousands of them — making Iraq home to the single largest concentration of al Qaeda members in the world.
So it would seem that however it may have happened, the people who were responsible for Sept. 11 have now massed their forces in Iraq. All of which raises a question: If the U.S. were to withdraw all of its forces from the Middle East tomorrow and were to suddenly learn that al Qaeda had assembled 10,000 to 20,000 armed jihadists in Madagascar, Paraguay or Antarctica, what would most Americans expect President Bush to do about it?
While no American wants to see U.S. troops put in harm’s way, it seems unlikely that a majority of Americans would support exiting Iraq if they fully understood how large a presence al Qaeda now has there, how that compares with its presence elsewhere in the world, and just how much manpower and resources our enemy has put into Iraq.
To my friends on the anti-war left, I ask simply this: If we are not going to fight al Qaeda in Iraq when we know it is there, then where and when do they propose we should fight it?
To paraphrase Willie Sutton: You fight al Qaeda in Iraq because that’s where al Qaeda is. Read it all.