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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Multiplying the Enemy - by Derrick Z. Jackson

President Bush first declared Iraq to be the ``central front" in his war on terror in a nationally televised address in September of 2003, just before the second anniversary of 9/11. ``Two years ago, I told Congress and the country that the war on terror would be a lengthy war, a different kind of war fought on many fronts in many places. Iraq is now the central front," he said.

Even then, top intelligence officials were worried about such rhetoric. The very next month, a National Intelligence Estimate warned -- in a story unknown until Knight Ridder broke it this year -- that the unrelenting violence in Iraq after the US invasion was over local conditions and the presence of US forces. It was not inspired by foreign terrorism, as the White House kept saying.

``Frankly, senior officials simply weren't ready to pay attention to analysis that didn't conform to their own optimistic scenarios," Robert Hutchings, chairman of the National Intelligence Council from 2003 to 2005, told Knight Ridder.

Continued on "Print Article and/or Read More" below >>>
Despite every rationale for the lengthy war being proven false, the ``central front" declaration remains the centerpiece of propaganda. Bush repeated the ``central front" line two times apiece in fund-raising speeches last week in Orlando and Tampa.

In the Tampa speech, he said, ``Iraq is a central front in this war on terror, and we've got a plan to defeat the enemy."

This rhetoric is a central affront to the American people. His plan is multiplying the enemy.

``The Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse," a US intelligence official told The New York Times in a story Sunday on a classified National Intelligence Estimate on the terror threat. The estimate represents the consensus conclusions of all 16 US spy agencies.

In its story on the estimate, The Los Angeles Times quoted another intelligence insider as saying, ``Things like the Iraq war have given the terrorists recruiting tools and places to ply their trade and a training ground."

The Washington Post's version said the invasion and occupation of Iraq is now the ``leading inspiration for new Islamic extremist networks and cells that are united by little more than an anti-Western agenda." As the White House boasts of incremental victories as individual Al Qaeda leaders are killed, the National Intelligence Estimate says that terror networks are spreading like cancer around the planet. Even though Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is himself on the run and much less able to personally direct attacks, according to the Post's account of the National Intelligence Estimate, ``his status as the ideological leader of a global movement that appeals to disaffected Muslims has vastly increased."

Hutchings, now a diplomat in residence at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, said nothing about the new estimate surprises him. He warned publicly at the beginning of 2005 that Iraq could replace Afghanistan as ``a magnet for international terrorist activity."

He said Monday over the telephone, ``Us against them has won us more enemies than anything else."

In a speech he gave at the University of Virginia in 2004, Hutchings counseled that ``we should not assume that `we' and `they' have nothing in common . . . Our frame of mind -- even as we are waging a resolute campaign against international terrorism -- should be that we are not engaged in a fight to the finish with radical Islam. This is not a clash of civilizations but rather a defense of our shared humanity and a search to find common ground."

Yet just this month, in his address on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, Bush upped the ante on that kind of rhetoric as well. ``This struggle has been called a clash of civilizations," he told the nation. ``In truth it is a struggle for civilization."

Hutchings said the latest news should not disintegrate into a partisan hammering of Bush (``I don't think the Democrats have covered themselves with glory on Iraq," he said). What concerns him, he said, is that for the United States to have any chance against terrorism, US leaders have to drop the stark war terminology. ``We can't kill enough people to keep us safe," Hutchings said. ``It's not a matter of being tough or soft on terrorism. It's a matter of being smart." He said a smart policy would be one that delegitimizes jihads by de linking them from legitimate regional economic and political grievances.

``Right now we throw everything into the war on terror," he said.

© Copyright 2006 Boston Globe
Multiplying the Enemy


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