Sources & S.H.I.T.: Pondering Bachmann's Partition Claim

In her already-infamous podcast interview with St. Cloud Times reporter Larry Schumacher, U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn., sounded pretty certain Iran had "already decided" to partition Iraq. "There's already an agreement made," she said, to "create a terrorist safe haven zone" in the northwest part of Iraq. While iffy on the details, she even offered a name for the state that Iran would create: "The United... um, I'm sorry. I can't remember the name of it now, but it's going to be called the Iraq State of Islam, something like that."

Despite pressure from newspapers statewide to clarify the source of her allegations, Bachmann's only official comment was that she's sorry if her "words have been misconstrued" (what the Star Tribune's Eric Black, who broke the story, calls "a classic of the genre where you give the impression that you are retracting, apologizing and clarifying but do none of the above"). Since she offers no credible explanation, speculating on where she got her information is fair game.

So, what distinguishes Bachmann's claim from other partition plans that have been floating around for years? Her use of the specific name, the "Iraq State of Islam." Any guess about her source should start there — and one such explanation, be forewarned, is full of S.H.I.T.

Bachmann's own explanation for her podcast admission suggests she was merely repeating much-discussed plans for a three-way partition of Iraq along ethnic lines. According to a report by Gary Halbert at Global Research, in 2002 the United States prepared a pre-invasion plan that included separate territory for Sunnis, Kurds, and Shiites. The central state — and not "northern, western," in Bachmann's words — in that plan was to be called the "United Hashemite Kingdom." It's not all that close to the Iraq State of Islam, but is one of the few cases where partition states are named.
Another possible explanation: Bachmann misconstrued satire for hard news, just as China's Beijing Evening News did in 2002 when it earnestly reported a made-up story from The Onion about U.S. plans to put a retractable roof on the Capitol. It's possible Bachmann read the essay, "Blood Borders: How a better Middle East would look," in the Armed Forces Journal.

The piece is written by Ralph Peters, a retired Army lietenant colonel whose ideas about Iraq frequently appear at FrontPageMagazine.com, a site where Bachmann-style conservatism is heralded. As he did in the 2003 New York Post essay Break Up Iraq Now!, Peters called for a three-way division of Iraq. "A Frankenstein's monster of a state sewn together from ill-fitting parts, Iraq should have been divided into three smaller states immediately" after the fall of Baghdad. In fact, he calls for the redrawing of national boundaries across the region: Iraq's Shiite southern zone would be the heart of the Arab Shia State, whereas the House of Saud's turf would be dubbed Saudi Homelands Independent Territory.

Bachmann, who might've read the piece, might have missed Peters' joke: He was editorializing through the sophomoric acronyms A.S.S. (which he describes as "rimming much of the Persian Gulf") and S.H.I.T. (which is "confined to a rump" around Riyahd).

A more likely (but less funny) explanation is offered by conservative blogger Jay Reding. Arguing that Bachmann is both wrong and right, he wrote, "Bachmann is actually correct, except she's confusing Iran and al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda did indeed declare their own Islamic State of Iraq." There are holes in that theory: al-Qaeda, a terrorist group, made a rogue declaration of statehood, a far cry from Iran's "agreement" Bachmann claims knowledge of. And if it was a mere slip-up, why won't Bachmann say as much? Maybe she's simply using the rhetoric her party employed to launch the Iraq war, lumping together the perpetrators of 9/11 with Saddam Hussein's ilk. Another name she uses often in the St. Cloud Times podcast, after all, is that favorite catchall, the Global War on Terror.

[Cross-posted at Minnesota Monitor.]

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