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Posted by on Sep 27, 2006 in At TMV | 57 comments

Bush’s Release Of Terror Study Could Cost Him (UPDATED)

And now the prevalent question becomes: did an angry, nearly indignant President George W. Bush stir up a hornet’s nest or open up a CostCo-size can of worms by releasing parts of an elite intelligence report to try and show that parts released so far cast the Iraq war’s impact on the war on terror in an inaccurate light?

This WAS supposed to be the big, national security campaign year for the White House and the GOP — the year when Karl Rove & Co would masterfully hammer home the idea that Democrats were weak on national security, dangerous to the nation’s health and that the war in Iraq was vital to meet the terrorists head-on and to contain and eventually defeat them.

It hasn’t worked out that way — and it seems to be working out that way even LESS after Bush’s press conference yesterday, as the LA Times reports:

Declassified portions of a high-level intelligence report released Tuesday describe the war in Iraq as a major catalyst for Islamic radicalism around the world, while also citing other causes for the expanding terrorist threat.

President Bush took the highly unusual step of releasing key findings of the classified intelligence study in an attempt to blunt a growing furor in Washington over news reports this week in which intelligence officials described sections of the document that indicate the war in Iraq has made the terrorism problem worse. The White House said the initial news stories about the National Intelligence Estimate, a report offering a consensus view of U.S. intelligence agencies, did not represent the whole document.

But the release of its principal findings appeared likely to fuel the election-season debate over the impact of the war in Iraq, and provided scant support for the president’s position that the U.S. occupation of the country has made America safer.

Perhaps when the votes are counted the media and some weblogs (such as this one) will be proven to be completely off-base. But at this point George Bush is beginning to appear as a flailing leader, at war not only with countries but with parts of his own party (especially intellectual descendants of conservative Barry Goldwater who have not made expedient attitude or values adjustments to fit in with the new conservatism that is in partnership with social conservatives).

Yesterday’s press conference provided welcome “red meat’ for Bush’s always-there most loyal supporters, but seemed less “We’re Giving ‘Em Hell” than “We’re Going To Hell In A Handbasket”:

At a White House news conference, Bush lashed out at what he suggested was a politically motivated leak of the report’s conclusions, and at critics who have cited the intelligence estimate to question his administration’s course in Iraq and argue that the drawn-out conflict is adding to the danger of terrorism.

“Some people have, you know, guessed what’s in the report and have concluded that going into Iraq was a mistake,” Bush said, appearing alongside Afghan President Hamid Karzai. “I strongly disagree. I think it’s naive. I think it’s a mistake for people to believe that going on the offense against people that want to do harm to the American people makes us less safe.”

Of course, no one has ever said that.

The issue is the validity of the rationale for going to war and also the way the war has been and is being waged. There are many who have SUPPORTED and SUPPORT the war who believe the way it is being CONDUCTED has been a quintessential example of a “self-fulfilling prophecy.” MORE:

The section released by the White House does not include an explicit conclusion that the war in Iraq has increased the terrorist threat to Americans. But the thrust of the report’s “key judgments” is that the terrorist danger is morphing and growing and that the Iraq war is a major contributing force in that trend.

THE SUPREME IRONY: This is an administration that has suggested that nuance in policy-making, and in political campaigns, sometimes muddies issues.

But now it is relying on nuance — asking the press and public to read the fine print carefully and not to make a snap judgment on X number of words but to look and consider X in the context of Y and Z. MORE:

“We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives,” reads one of the main conclusions of the report.

“The Iraq conflict has become the ’cause celebre’ for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement.”

Among other findings, the report said that Al Qaeda was exploiting the war in Iraq to attract new donors and recruits; that fighters with experience in Iraq were likely to function as leaders in a new generation of militants; and that foreign Al Qaeda fighters were free to leave the country and focus on other targets as more Iraqi militants took their place within Iraq.

In one sense, it matters little: some GOP supporters on talk radio and in some other info areas will immediately ignore, downplay or try to discredit these sections and point to the other ones and accuse those who quote, site or repeat the sections that don’t support the President of being political hacks or tools.

Somehow the question keeps getting lost: are we conducting the best, most effective policy — and if not, how can we fix it?

Simply going after those who raise questions as indulging in electioneering may not work on the Iraq war in 2006. There seems to be feeling now in the land that the Iraq war is NOT just a political football any longer and not a luxury that can be afforded to drag on without some kind of quality control.

The GOP and Bush’s argument that all is well, there will be challenges ahead, but stay the course has been a difficult sell. And now with this new information — released by Bush — several things are likely to happen:

  • Increased skepticism on the part of those who have doubts about the war. This includes some who may wish a more effective, harder-line and who steadfastly oppose a pullout.
  • A clamor to find out about parts of the report that have not been released. Bush released parts of the study. Some will argue that if parts were released than some body such as a bipartisan Senate committee needs to read all of it and release as many other parts as possible before the election. If it is bottled up or doesn’t happen there will likely be a cry of election-year-motivated cover up.
  • A clamor to find out about more reports that are out there.

USA Today has a long editorial. A few parts of it:

President Bush was indignant at his news conference Tuesday over selective leaks from the latest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on terrorism, saying they came out shortly before the fall elections to “create confusion in the minds of the American people.”

That confusion is understandable. Bush has been insisting that the Iraq war has made the USA safer. The NIE, declassified and released late Tuesday, concludes that the conflict has become a “cause celebre” for Islamic holy warriors and is “shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives.”…

…At one level, the NIE merely states the obvious. So obvious, in fact, that it’s hard to understand why most of the “key judgments” were classified in the first place. Whether it was right or wrong to invade Iraq, the war has unquestionably intensified global anger toward the USA and made the world a more dangerous place.

Even so, given the administration’s pre-election spin, it was bracing to hear that conclusion not from left-wing blogs or Democratic screeds but from the distilled judgment of the nation’s 16 intelligence agencies.

At his news conference, Bush correctly noted that the leaks didn’t reflect the full context of the report. And he pointed out that terrorists attacked our embassies, the USS Cole and New York and Washington well before the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

The great irony, of course, is that Iraq wasn’t what Bush calls “the central front in the war on terror” when U.S. forces invaded in March 2003, but it is now…

…While the intelligence estimate may give satisfaction to the administration’s critics, it does not follow that the proper course now in Iraq is prompt U.S. withdrawal. The NIE notes, correctly, that defeating the jihadists in Iraq would weaken the worldwide movement. The day may come when it’s worse for U.S. forces to stay than go; by the accounts of those on the ground, that day has not arrived but might be approaching.

The New York Times‘ editorial
is blistering. Excerpts:

It’s hard to think of a president and an administration more devoted to secrecy than President Bush and his team. Except, that is, when it suits Mr. Bush politically to give the public a glimpse of the secrets. And so, yesterday, he ordered the declassification of a fraction of a report by United States intelligence agencies on the global terrorist threat.

Mr. Bush said he wanted to release the document so voters would not be confused about terrorism or the war when they voted for Congressional candidates in November. But the three declassified pages from what is certainly a voluminous report told us what any American with a newspaper, television or Internet connection should already know. The invasion of Iraq was a cataclysmic disaster. The current situation will get worse if American forces leave. Unfortunately, neither the report nor the president provide even a glimmer of a suggestion about how to avoid that inevitable disaster. …

…It’s obvious why Mr. Bush did not want this report out, and why it is taking so long for the intelligence agencies to complete another report, solely on Iraq, that was requested by Congress in late July. It’s not credible that more time is needed to do the job. In 2002, the intelligence agencies completed a report on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction in less time. Mr. Bush also made selected passages of that report public to buttress his arguments for war with Iraq, most of which proved to be based on fairy tales.

Then, Mr. Bush wanted Americans to focus on how dangerous Saddam Hussein was, and not on the obvious consequences of starting a war in the Middle East. Now, he wants voters to focus on how dangerous the world is, and not on his utter lack of ideas for what to do about it.

Depending on how all this plays out, the White House’s late summer/early September focus on trying to link up the importance of the war in Iraq in the war on terror will prove to be a masterstroke (if GOP and Bush poll numbers keep going on) or an unmitigated disaster for Republicans who are running for re-election.

The questions: (1) what other info will come out? (2) how will this play with the bulk of Americans (not just the lockstep partisans of each party)? (3) what impact will this have on Republicans who are running for re-election plus traditional conservatives who have been upset over the way the war has been conducted?

–From the standpoint of what message has come from the media after reporters looked over the new intelligence material, it’s clear if you look at the HEADLINES HERE that Bush’s release of the info hurt his case even more.

–The Washington Post’s William Arkin says the left and right are both wrong on this issue and that the Democrat’s view is “simplistic” just as is one of Bush’s key assertions.

Pakistan’s President sayss the Iraq war has not made the world safer from terror:

The war in Iraq has not made the world safer from terror, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has told CNN, saying he stands by statements on the subject he makes in his new book, “In the Line of Fire.”

In the book, Musharraf — a key ally who is often portrayed as being in complete agreement with U.S. President George W. Bush on the war on terror and other issues — writes he never supported the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.

“I stand by it, absolutely,” Musharraf told CNN’s “The Situation Room.” Asked whether he disagreed with Bush, he said, “I’ve stated whatever I had to … it [the war] has made the world a more dangerous place.”

WEBLOG REACTION falls along ideological lines. Rather than quote blogs here’s a cross-section of links you can explore from blogs of varying views: Glenn Reynolds, Right Wing Nut House, The Democratic Daily, Thought Theater, Taylor Marsh, Newsbusters, Americablog, Shakespeare’s Sister, Ann Althouse, Kiko’s House, Michelle Malkin

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