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Monday, September 25, 2006

I hate to say, "We told ya' so" but...

Over the weekend I became aware of a rather fascinating report released by U.S. National Intelligence Council. This report addresses a variety of threats faced by the United States and, as such, spends a fair amount of time discussing terrorism. One of the conclusions it draws, however, is rather provocative. I turn to a story from the Washington Post for more:

The war in Iraq has become a primary recruitment vehicle for violent Islamic extremists, motivating a new generation of potential terrorists around the world whose numbers may be increasing faster than the United States and its allies can reduce the threat, U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded.

A 30-page National Intelligence Estimate completed in April cites the "centrality" of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the insurgency that has followed, as the leading inspiration for new Islamic extremist networks and cells that are united by little more than an anti-Western agenda. It concludes that, rather than contributing to eventual victory in the global counterterrorism struggle, the situation in Iraq has worsened the U.S. position, according to officials familiar with the classified document.

Yes, you read that right: organs of the U.S. government are effectively indicating that our actions in Iraq have had opposite the effect they were intended to have. Now, as a critic of the current administration I, like many Democrats, have taken a lot of flak from the right wing. We've all heard the comparisons made between 9/11 and the Pearl Harbor attacks. We all recall the various remarks about how Democrats would have lost World War II.* This report, however, adds a certain amount of weight to what Democrats have been saying for a long time: it isn't that we don't want to deal with terrorism, it's that we'd really prefer to deal with it in a quasi-effective manner. So, to use the World War II analogy, after being attacked by Japan, it really doesn't help to invade Russia. Apparently the Republicans disagree with us on this point. So be it, but if we begin to reap what Bush has sown during a Democratic administration, I don't want to hear any shit from Republicans. Y'all have had your chance, and made quite a hash of it. I'd like to think that Republicans, with their talk of responsibility, would admit that but I doubt it'll happen:

"Many Americans . . . ask the same question five years after 9/11," he [President Bush] said in a speech in Atlanta earlier this month. "The answer is yes. America is safer. We are safer because we have taken action to protect the homeland. We are safer because we are on the offensive against our enemies overseas. We're safer because of the skill and sacrifice of the brave Americans who defend our people."

But "a really big hole" in the U.S. strategy, a second counterterrorism official said, "is that we focus on the terrorists and very little on how they are created. If you looked at all the resources of the U.S. government, we spent 85, 90 percent on current terrorists, not on how people are radicalized."

Indeed, Bush and his administration are already challenging the report's conclusions or, more accurately, the portrayal of them in the media. Maybe they're right, maybe the reports are unfair. After all, the National Intelligence Estimate has been wrong before:

An NIE drawn up in the fall of 2002 concluded that Iraq had "continued its weapons of mass destruction [WMD] programs," possessed stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons and "probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade." All of those judgments, which provided the political and national security underpinnings for the Iraq invasion, turned out to be false.

But, on the other hand, it has also turned out to be remarkably prescient from time to time:

Even before the invasion [of Iraq], the NIC [National Intelligence Council, which draws up the NIE] warned, in January 2003, that the aftermath of a change in government could include long-term internal conflict. A July 2004 NIE outlined a range of possible outcomes to the increasingly difficult security situation there, with the best prospect a government with only tenuous control and the worst a civil war.

So, maybe we should set the ideology aside for a moment** and listen to the analysts. Maybe we should consider that, just maybe, the war in Iraq is hurting us more than the terrorists. Maybe we should consider some non-military approaches to the problem that can help shut off the flow of recruits and money. Maybe we can find a torch to help with this damned hydra instead of just hacking at it with ever-larger swords.

And hey, Republicans, if it helps you to get your thumbs out of your asses and your heads out of the sand, we won't even say we told you so. The stakes are too high for ideological games, and it's about time y'all realized that.

UPDATE: I'm not sure if this is related, but the guys over at Sore Thumbs have a comic that I think may be oddly relevant. Likewise, seriously, what the hell is up with the cover of Newsweek? Just scroll down- you'll see what I mean. Liberal bias in the media my ass.

* Yo, assholes: Democrats were in power during World War II and we WON that one. Same for World War I. Best come up with a different historical comparison, don't ya' think?

** I know, I know, not something this administration has ever been inclined towards.


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