The last days on earth of Abu Osama al-Tunisi apparently were filled with anxiety: "We are desperate for your help," he said in a letter to al-Qaida chieftains. A copy of the letter was found by U.S. troops sifting through the rubble of the building in Musayb, about 40 miles south of Baghdad, where on Sept. 25 Mr. Tunisi had been meeting with two local al-Qaida operatives when an F-16 cut their discussion short.
Mr. Tunisi was a key member of the rapidly dwindling inner circle of Abu Ayoub al-Masri, the al-Qaida chieftain in Iraq. Another key member, Abou Yaakoub al-Masri, an intimate of Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was killed Aug. 31 near the northern Baghdad suburb of Tarmiyah.
Mr. Tunisi was responsible for bringing foreign al-Qaida recruits into Iraq and placing them in operational cells, U.S. military spokesmen said. That effort suffered a major blow when "Muthanna," the al-Qaida emir for the Iraq-Syrian border region, was killed in early September.
Messrs. Masri are both Egyptian. Mr. Tunisi was, as his nom de guerre indicates, Tunisian. Found near the body of the late Mr. Muthanna was a list of 500 foreign al-Qaida fighters. More than 80 percent of the suicide bombings in Iraq have been conducted by foreigners, the U.S. military estimates. Yet most Democrats continue to describe the conflict as a civil war.
Mr. Tunisi and Mr. Muthanna were among 28 local, city or regional al-Qaida leaders killed or captured in September. Two other very big shots nailed last month were Muhammad al-Afari, who was responsible for the bloody attack on the Kurdish Yazidi sect in August, and Abu Taghrid, who ran a car-bomb network.
Mr. Tunisi wasn't alone in calling for help. "Al-Qaida has lost half its leadership over the summer, and American intelligence collectors have amassed a huge number of desperate messages from al-Qaida leaders and operatives," said StrategyPage.
The beat goes on. On Oct. 2, U.S. and Iraqi forces arrested an al-Qaida financier in the Baghdad suburb of Kindi. The financier is said to have had $100 million on hand to fund terror operations.
The collapse of al-Qaida's networks in Iraq is the chief reason why both U.S. casualties and Iraqi civilian deaths plunged in September, despite an increased operations tempo.
"Terror attacks are down by more than half because al-Qaida keeps getting run out of their refuges, and, in desperation, keeps asking each other for help," StrategyPage said. "When the terrorists are unable to escape, they more frequently surrender, rather than fight to the death. This is a sign of falling morale."
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette printed on the top of its front page on Oct. 2 a story about the plunge in U.S. casualties. But this was an exception. Most news organizations mentioned the drop in casualties on inside pages, if at all, and none that I am aware of has reported prominently on the devastating losses of al-Qaida in Iraq.
"That the media are no longer much interested in Iraq is a sure sign things are going well there," said Investors Business Daily in an editorial Oct. 1.
As the death toll for both U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians was falling, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continued to talk about "rising levels of violence in Iraq." If the facts on the ground are uncongenial, make up your own.
British Mideast expert Bartle Bull thinks it soon will be impossible to ignore the good news from Iraq. In an article this month in the British magazine Prospect titled "Mission Accomplished," Mr. Bull wrote: "With most Sunni factions now seeking a deal, the big questions in Iraq have been resolved positively. The country remains one; it has embraced democracy and avoided all-out civil war."
The Sunnis, even the ex-Baathists, have turned on al-Qaida and are seeking a deal, and the predominantly Shiite government is willing to make one, Mr. Bull said. More than 14,000 Sunnis in Anbar province, once al-Qaida's stronghold, have joined the Iraqi army and police since the troop surge began.
"The Sunni insurgents have recognized that there is little point fighting a strong and increasingly skilled enemy the U.S. that is on the right side of Iraq's historical destiny and has a political leadership that ... responds to setbacks by trying harder," Mr. Bull said.
"There is even less point doing so when you are a discredited minority, as the Sunnis are after 35 years of Baathism, followed by their disastrous insurgency, and the enemy (the U.S.) is in fact your main guarantor of a fair place at the national table."