How the Iraq invasion hurt the war on terrorism
Ever since I began this blog about 18 months ago, I have argued that the invasion of Iraq has damaged the Bush Administration's war on terrorism. The Sept. 24 issue of the New York Times contains an exclusive article that confirms my argument. It cites a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) which reports that the invasion and occupation of Iraq has created a new generation of Islamist extremists and that the terrorist threat has grown since 9/11.
The report contradicts the Bush Administration's consistent optimism that we are winning the war against the jihadis and that the U.S. is now more secure. There is a simplistic quality to the Administration's claim; its supporters note that the nation has not suffered any new Islamist attacks during the past five years, as if that alone proves that the war against terrorism has been a success.
The Administration claims that the leadership and infrastructure of the Al-Qaeda organization responsible for 9/11 has been virtually destroyed and is in retreat. The argument disregards the fact that, as the Times report puts it, Islamist radicalism "has metastasized and spread across the globe." New jihadi cells, not necessarily linked organizationally to Al-Qaeda but possessing he same objectives, have proliferated.
Just as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan more than a decade ago emboldened aspiring jihadis to fight the Russians, so has the U.S. invasion of Iraq inspired countless Muslim radicals, many of them living in European countries, to become fighters in a "holy war" against Western democracies. Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the major training ground for Islamist terrorists.
I expect that the pro-Bush media-baiters who regard the New York Times as biased against the Administration, will be denouncing the paper for spreading defeatist propaganda. But the new NIE officially confirms what so many military intelligence professionals have charged for years: The Iraq invasion was not justified and it distracted U.S. forces from the vital war in Afghanistan, where the Taliban--Al Qaeda's host before 9/11--is making a ferocious comeback after being defeated four years ago.
The new NIE report also confirms the long-standing warning by many intelligence professionals that the Iraq invasion would provoke widespread support in the Muslim world for the Islamist's holy war against the West. Recent episodes of Islamist terrorism in Great Britain, Spain, India and other democratic nations show how valid that warning was.
The Bush Administration's pathetic effort to "win the hearts and minds" in the Muslim world has failed miserably. The radicalization of Islam is expanding, the influence of moderate Muslims is weakening, and the threat of terrorism has worsened--all because of the decision to invade Iraq.