Someone misled us on AQ’s demise

The Wall Street Journal carries an important column by Steve Hayes and Tom Joscelyn on the status of al Qaeda. The column is “How America was misled on al Qaeda’s demise.” The column is behind the Journal’s subscription paywall but accessible here via Google.

One of the central themes of President Obama’s campaign for reelection in 2012 rested on the proposition that he had essentially defeated al Qaeda. By one count, Obama described al Qaeda as having been “decimated,” “on the path to defeat” or some other variation at least 32 times in the aftermath of the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi. Like so much of what Obama asserts as a matter of course: not true.

Here are three paragraphs in which Hayes and Joscelyn warm to their argument:

In spring 2012, a year after the raid that killed bin Laden and six months before the 2012 presidential election, the Obama administration launched a concerted campaign to persuade the American people that the long war with al Qaeda was ending. In a speech commemorating the anniversary of the raid, John Brennan , Mr. Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser and later his CIA director, predicted the imminent demise of al Qaeda. The next day, on May 1, 2012, Mr. Obama made a bold claim: “The goal that I set—to defeat al Qaeda and deny it a chance to rebuild—is now within our reach.”

The White House provided 17 handpicked documents to the Combatting Terror Center at the West Point military academy, where a team of analysts reached the conclusion the Obama administration wanted. Bin Laden, they found, had been isolated and relatively powerless, a sad and lonely man sitting atop a crumbling terror network.

It was a reassuring portrayal. It was also wrong. And those responsible for winning the war—as opposed to an election—couldn’t afford to engage in such dangerous self-delusion.

The headline puts the argument of the column in the passive voice. It should read “How Obama misled us on al Qaeda’s demise.” Giving the principal credit would make his agency clear, though “misled” might be euphemistic in this case, as Hayes and Jocelyn strongly suggest. Please read the whole thing.

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