The transcript of my conversation with Lawrence Wright from yesterday is here. The podcast is here. More than 90% of it is devoted to the ideological battles splitting al Qaeda today which are the focus of Wright’s latest New Yorker article, “The Rebellion Within.” Near the conclusion of our conversation, I asked Wright about the battle for Iraq:
HH: I want to thank Lawrence Wright for spending this much time with us again, the author of The Looming Tower has a brand new article in the June 2, 2008, New Yorker, which I very much recommend to you. It is called The Rebellion Within. I’ve linked it at Hughhewitt.com. Lawrence Wright, I want to finish by talking about Iraq. Obviously, there’s word out of Mosul this week that even though there are some suicide bombings, that al Qaeda has lost its very last stronghold after a series of devastating blows between the United States military and the Iraqi Security Forces, and they’ve put up on some of their websites basic hand-wringing over how did we lose Iraq, et cetera. How important is it to the destruction of radical jihadism that Iraq be stabilized, and become sort of that emblematic, if not a democracy, at least a non-repressive, I don’t know, alternative to either Mubarak or Syrian strong men, or Saudi Arabian absolutism and monarchists? How important is Iraq now?
LW: Well, you know, there are two really important intellectual centers in the Arab world. One is Egypt, the other is Iraq. And the idea behind the invasion of Iraq, which I was opposed to, was to set up this model democracy that would then become a beacon for reform all over the region. It’s going to be really hard to achieve the goal that we had set out, although now, I am in the awkward political position of being opposed to withdrawing. I think we should stay there as long as we can to try to hold this entity together until they are able to remain stable, create a fairly reliable electoral process, police force, and that kind of thing, and take care of themselves. I don’t know if we can achieve that, but it’s hopeful to see that Iraq has been, you know, I don’t want to say that they’ve been put to death completely in Iraq, but they certainly are in retreat. And that’s critical, because if al Qaeda won in Iraq, who knows how far it would go.
Somebody please send this to Senator Obama.
Off to tape a C-SPAN interview with Andrew McCarthy on his new book, Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad. I am not sure when our conversation will air, but the book is a powerful account not only of the early stages of jihadist conspiracy in the U.S., but also of the limits of the prosecutorial model the U.S. used between the time of the first bombing of the World Trade Center and 9/11. It is a fascinating must-read for anyone concerned with domestic security.