The emphasis on Afghanistan echoed across the Democratic aisle in Congress from Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee to former admiral and now Rep. Joe Sestak. It is a staple of the three leading Democratic candidates for the presidency, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards. It is the constant refrain of their last presidential candidate, John Kerry, and of their current party leader, Howard Dean, who complains “we don't have enough troops in Afghanistan. That's where the real war on terror is.”
Is Iraq really that important? Is it anything more than a distraction from the "real" war?
Al Qaeda has provided the answer many times. Osama bin Laden, the one whose presence in Afghanistan presumably makes it the central front in the war on terror, has been explicit that “the most serious issue today for the whole world is this Third World War that is raging in Iraq.” Al Qaeda's No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has declared that Iraq “is now the place for the greatest battle of Islam in this era.”
And it's not just what al Qaeda says, it's what al Qaeda does. Where are they funneling the worldwide recruits for jihad? Where do all the deranged suicidists who want to die for Allah gravitate? It's no longer Afghanistan, but Iraq. That's because they recognize the greater prize.
Whether Iraq was important before we invaded, it's supremely important now.