THE CONSENSUS in the intelligence community is that the war in Iraq has worsened the threat from radical Islamic violence and hurt US efforts to combat terrorism. So, at any rate, say The New York Times (``Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terrorism Threat") and The Washington Post (``Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Hurting US Terror Fight"), which reported on the most recent National Intelligence Estimate in front-page stories on Sunday. But is it true?
The NIE was a classified document until yesterday, when President Bush declassified some of its findings. The Times and Post stories were written, it appears, by reporters who hadn't read the document they were characterizing. The papers' headlines were unequivocal, but the stories themselves never actually quoted the NIE. They merely passed along the spin -- and advanced the anti-Bush agenda -- of the anonymous sources who chose this moment to leak secret intelligence for political purposes.
Has the Iraq war undermined efforts to defeat the jihadis? Maybe, but the Times and Post stories don't come close to making that case. They claim that new terrorists are being enlisted at a growing rate and that America's presence in Iraq has become a major terrorist recruitment tool. That hardly adds up to a weakened war against Al Qaeda and its accomplices. D-Day and the battle of Midway triggered some of the most ferocious fighting of World War II and resulted in tens of thousands of additional Allied casualties. But would anyone say that they undermined the drive to defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan?
After 9/11, the United States went to war against Islamic totalitarianism; since 2003 that war has focused most dramatically on Iraq. It stands to reason that Iraq is therefore the focal point in the jihadis' war against the West. President Bush has made that point repeatedly, quoting Osama bin Laden's declaration that the war in Iraq is ``the most serious issue today for the whole world " and will end in ``victory and glory or misery and humiliation." Has US military action in Iraq inflamed the global jihad? Undoubtedly. But just imagine how galvanized it would be by a US retreat.
This much we do know: There has been no successful terrorist attack on the United States in the years since 9/11, whereas the years leading up to 9/11 saw one act of terrorism after another, including the bombing of the World Trade Center, the destruction of the US embassies in Africa, and the attack on the USS Cole. The Bush administration must be doing something right -- something the Clinton administration, on whose watch bin Laden and Al Qaeda launched and escalated their
terror war, failed to do......
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