What seems to have happened is more insidious.
The notion of a bin Laden chain of command has been superseded by a sort of McDonald's of terrorism, franchise cells and groups that want to be like al-Qaeda, carrying a torch for the man in the cave without ever receiving direct orders. The word simply goes out in the Arab media and it is absorbed - war against the US. And when they strike, they pack the punch by claiming that it was done in the name of al-Qaeda.
The CIA director, George Tenet, told the US Senate as much this month when he said: 'A serious threat will remain for the foreseeable future, with or without al-Qaeda in the picture.'
And Blair's special representative for Iraq, Jeremy Greenstock, almost as though he was surprised by the outcome, applied the Tenet dictum to Iraq when he warned of the damage to the country and its people from terrorism. 'Something new has grown in this area. It has happened in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Colombia, in the Middle East peace process and now it's threatening Western Europe - it's already happened in Madrid.
'Iraq is a now a theatre where they're trying to maximise this damage.'
Between them, it is an admission that the war in Iraq has helped al-Qaeda and its followers.
Ah, but what about all that progress in resolving the Palestinian question, and the spread of democracy across the Middle East, and the flowers, and the rose water, and the occupation that would pay for itself, and take no more troops than the invasion, and the end of combat operations last May?