Bush claims Osama ordered Zarqawi to launch attacks in the U.S.

How is this news? We’ve known about it for years. Newsweek, April 2006:

Bin Laden had already made his wishes known to Zarqawi via [Abdul Hadi] al-Iraqi. “My greatest wish is for you to keep the resistance alive and growing, to increase the number of local insurgents and give the Iraqis more decision-making powers,” Zarqawi was told. “Make it as much of an Iraqi organization as possible.” Bin Laden also urged his prince to widen the war against America: “We have to expand our attacks on the enemy outside Iraq.”

Al-Iraqi was the AQ honcho nabbed late last year whose capture was announced last month, remember? And remember this, from January of this year?

Insurgents reportedly tied to al Qaeda in Iraq considered using student visas to slip terrorists into the United States to orchestrate a new attack on American soil…

The plot was discovered six months ago, roughly the same time that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, was killed by coalition forces. Sources tell ABC News that the suspects involved in the effort to launch the U.S. attack were closely associated with Zarqawi.

The plan also came only months after Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s No. 2, had requested that Zarqawi attempt an attack inside the United States.

I guess you have to remind people occasionally or else they end up saying dopey things like “there was never any evidence that Zarqawi had any ambitions beyond Iraq’s borders.” WaPo thinks Bush is floating this now to draw attention away from the Shiite militias and native Sunni insurgency in Iraq and recast the battle as U.S. versus AQ, which has the dual advantage of being a fight (almost) all Americans can support and preparing public opinion for a possible deal down the road with the Sadrists in case we can’t get the violence under control and have to bug out. Probably true. In fact, if Bush really wanted to impress upon the public the connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda’s leadership, he could have simply pointed to this LA Times article last weekend about the Anbar jihad having become AQ’s prime moneymaker, with cold cash flowing from Iraq into the Pakistani tribal areas thanks to Musharraf’s super keen “peace treaty” in Waziristan.

But for obvious reasons, I don’t think he wants to call attention to that.

Skip the Bush/Osama/Zarqawi pieces and read this NBC News report about “Al Qaeda 3.0” instead. The first incarnation was a top-down integrated organization, the second incarnation was far-flung unrelated cells finding inspiration in AQ’s message via videos and the Internet, and the third incarnation is a hybrid in which midlevel commanders are trained by the leadership in Pakistan and then sent home to find recruits among the propaganda-fed Muslim locals. (That’s how the London bombings and last year’s British airline plot allegedly went down.) Lots of interesting theories are floated in the piece about AQ’s prospects, but most seem to agree that their best chance of sustaining the movement is to topple an unstable, otherwise “moderate” Muslim state. That would give them all kinds of momentum, not to mention a base of operations. Lebanon is suggested as one possibility, but the Sunnis aren’t strong enough there, I don’t think. Pakistan is another, but Pakistanis actually don’t vote (when they get to vote) in any great numbers for extremists. The big A’s own special dark-horse pick: Egypt.