Over the weekend, Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s No. 2 man, released the latest in a series of bizarre videos, this time discussing his barely co
May 6, 2007

Over the weekend, Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s No. 2 man, released the latest in a series of bizarre videos, this time discussing his barely coherent “insights” on the war in Iraq. The video was quickly seized upon by partisans on both sides on the U.S. political divide, but one side seems wrong.

I should note from the outset that Zawahiri is a madman, whose opinions are not to be taken too seriously. But therein lies the rub — the White House believes Zawahri is credible and takes his public comments very seriously. The president, vice president, and top WH officials quote Zawahri with surprising regularity, especially when he talks about fighting U.S. troops in Iraq.

But if Zawahiri’s comments are important when they bolster White House talking points, then they’re equally important when they don’t.

In a new video posted today on the Internet, al Qaeda’s number two man, Ayman al Zawahiri, mocks the bill passed by Congress setting a timetable for the pullout of U.S. troops in Iraq.

“This bill will deprive us of the opportunity to destroy the American forces which we have caught in a historic trap,” Zawahiri says in answer to a question posed to him an interviewer.

Continuing in the same tone, Zawahiri says, “We ask Allah that they only get out of it after losing 200,000 to 300,000 killed, in order that we give the spillers of blood in Washington and Europe an unforgettable lesson.”

Conservatives seized upon this as proof of Democratic folly. Far-right blogs argued that the video is proof that al Qaeda prefers the Dem withdrawal plan. Fox News’ Chris Wallace said Zawahiri “says the Democrats’ troop pull-out bill is proof of a U.S. defeat.”

They seem to have this backwards. Zawahiri wants the U.S. to stay in Iraq so he can kill more American troops.

At a certain level, the entire exercise is misguided. I understand the temptation — if we know what terrorists say they want, all we have to do is the opposite. It is, to put it mildly, a flawed approach. Our policy should be based on evidence and wise decision making, not a constant game-theory contest with Osama bin Laden.

But if we are going to take al Qaeda’s wishes into account, so that our actions counter their wishes, withdrawal appears to be the smartest course of action. Zawahiri’s sees Iraq as a “trap” for the United States, one in which he hopes we stay for a long time.

It’s not the first terrorist communique to make this argument.

A recent private letter between senior al Qaeda leaders declared their “most important” goal was “prolonging the war” in Iraq. The letter, confiscated in the fatal June attack on the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and translated by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, argues that pinning the United States into an open-ended commitment in Iraq will strengthen jihadists around the world.

On that score, al Qaeda apparently agrees with the administration’s famous National Intelligence Estimate, which concluded that the U.S. occupation of Iraq is a ” ’cause celebre’ for jihadists,” inspiring new terrorist enemies around the world.

If our strategy is going to be based on giving al Qaeda the opposite of what they want, then it’s time to go.

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