Thursday, February 17, 2005


Reuters On Wednesday's Intel Hearing.

The transcript ain't out yet, but Reuters' coverage of CIA Director Porter Goss' testimony to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is suspect. Either they're mischaracterizing his remarks intentionally, or the author is so sloppy he can't find the right quotes to back up his analysis.

How so? Let's take a look.

The headline is "Iraq Conflict Feeds International Terror Threat -CIA." Such a headline would be consistent with the viewpoint of many critics of the war in Iraq who argue that the war is increasing, not decreasing, the risk of terrorism from Islamic radicals.

Yet, here's what Goss actually said:

"The Iraq conflict, while not a cause of extremism, has become a cause for extremists," Goss told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

"Those jihadists who survive will leave Iraq experienced in and focused on acts of urban terrorism. They represent a potential pool of contacts to build transnational terrorist cells, groups and networks in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries," he said.
Note the comment in bold; we'll circle back to it.

The Reuters piece continues:
President Bush, who portrays U.S.-led actions in Iraq as the leading edge of democratic reform in the Middle East, cited Iraqi backing for international terrorism as a reason for the 2003 invasion.

But a top level U.S. inquiry found last year that there had in fact been no collaboration between al Qaeda and Iraq under President Saddam Hussein.
First off, I thank Reuters for acknowledging that President Bush used rationales *other* than the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction program to justify the war.

Second, Reuters contention that a "top level" inquiry-- which I can only assume is the 9/11 Commission-- did not find any collaboration between Al Qaeda and Saddam's Iraq is completely, 100% false.

As the Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes has repeatedly reported, the 9/11 Commission ruled out collaboration between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein in the instance of the 9/11 attacks. However, the Commission documented numerous links between Al Qaeda and Iraq before the attacks, links that, while not proving an operational, planning relationship, certainly made it clear that Saddam had Al Qaeda's phone number, and Al Qaeda had Saddam's ear.

I won't refight the reasons for the war in Iraq here, but again, the Administration made it clear: by virtue of his past behavior, the friends he kept, and the prospects for a renewed WMD program all made Saddam's continued rule unacceptable once the events of 9/11 irrecoverably shifted the burden of proof onto the bad guys. To offer a popular analogy, if a snake in your backyard bites you, you get rid of every snake, not just the one that bit you. *THAT* was the lesson of 9/11, or at least the lesson internalized by the Bush Administration.

Returning to the Reuters piece:
Bush critics say the invasion was a distraction from the global war against terrorism declared after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks by al Qaeda on the United States and has stirred up a violent response in Iraq that inflamed further terrorism.
What distraction? We're still in Afghanistan. We're still operating worldwide. I don't see the issue here.

As for stirring up a violent response in Iraq, well, yeah; it's called a war. As to whether that "inflamed further terrorism," it has-- in Iraq.

I guess one can reach and argue that, say, the Al Qaeda attacks in Madrid would not have happened had the war in Iraq not occurred.

But how many times do Westerners have to be slaughtered before they realize that our enemies don't need *any* excuse to kill us? As Goss said in the hearing:
"Zarqawi has sought to bring about the final victory of Islam over the West, and he hopes to establish a safe haven in Iraq from which his group could operate against 'infidel' Western nations and 'apostate' Muslim governments," Goss said.
When critics argue that our policies alone or in majority create terrorists, their assumption is not only incorrect, but profoundly insulting. The assumption is that, the day before our actions, no one ever hated us for who we are, no one ever wanted to kill infidels for who they are. Such naivete not only dangerously underestimates our enemy's motivations, it also leads down a strategic sinkhole.

For, if such a conclusion is accepted, we would fight no war to defend ourselves, anywhere, ever, for our actions would always engender endless war and hatred.

If that were true, today we'd be dealing with British suicide bombers, or Germans flying planes into our skyscrapers, or worrying over the threat of a Japanese "dirty bomb."

No, our enemy today is unique, in that their motivation transcends our actions. While we can certainly behave in a humane, dignified and diplomatic matter, such behavior is aimed more at swaying the bystanders to support us in the fight. The likes of Bin Laden know no negotiations, the likes of Zarqawi know no surrender. Thus, we should give no quarter if we hope to win this war.

More Reuters:
"These sentences indicate Goss is very much listening to what his analysts are saying, and not necessarily to what the White House wants to hear," said Kenneth Katzman, terrorism analyst for the Congressional Research Service.
Huh? Goss says that the fight in Iraq is one against terrorists who, if they survive, could wreak greater havoc against us in the future.

That analysis does not support the critics contention that we're creating more terrorists.

It may support the contention that our campaign is creating better-trained terrorists, most likely through Darwinian selection (the unskilled ones get killed first).

However, how is this a serious argument *against* the war? The last Wermacht survivors in 1944 were undoubtedly more skilled than the raw recruits in 1939. Ergo, Britan should have surrendered in 1939 because it most certainly would have faced more experienced Nazis in the years to come.

Well, you know what? Warfare is the ultimate dynamic activity. Al Qaeda *may* be getting smarter, but so are we.

I've said it before, I think that this war will get worse before it gets better. It's impossible to know where the tipping point is, but if one looked solely at the history of American wars, one will often find that the last days of the war are often bloodier than the first. Whether the dark days of 1864 or Black 1944, wars against mortal foes in a fight to the death inevitably witness a spiralling increase in the butcher's bill as the war continues. Sadly, I don't see much hope that the Global War on Terror will deviate from the trend.

And, one must also note, "bloodier" often means "more savage." The gentlemanly rules of warfare will be discarded in pursuit of the greatest efficiency in the purpose of war: to kill the enemy. Sherman's march would never have been supported, even encouraged, by Northern leaders in 1861. Dresden and Okinawa-- not to mention Hiroshima and Nagasaki-- would have horrified the world in 1940.

I fear that before this is all over, we'll look back at Kabul and Baghdad as we do at First Bull Run and Fort Donelson-- events which became relative footnotes in a memory dominated by the bloody imagery of Shiloh, Gettysburg, and Spotsylvania.

Changing gears somewhat, here's what Goss said about Al Qaeda, North Korea and WMD:
Goss said al Qaeda or another group would likely try to eclipse the Sept. 11 attacks by using nuclear, chemical or biological weapons that authorities say could be stolen or purchased from nations such as North Korea.
So, what do we do? Do we swat at every bee, or do we destroy the hive?

BTW, if in 2005 Al Qaeda can buy WMD from North Korea, you know who else could have? A certain dictator we deposed in 2003.

Like some say, regardless of whether Saddam had WMD, in the end, he was a weapon of mass destruction. He the motivation, the cash, the connections, and had he had time, who knows what vengeance his mind, or that of his sons, would have dreamed of.
Officials also warned that North Korea, which declared last week that it had nuclear arms, could soon be ready to test a new long-range nuclear-capable missile which could hit targets across North America.

Private analysts doubt North Korea could pose a direct threat to the U.S. mainland any time soon.
Of course, "mainland" is code for "the continental United States." North Korea is near completion of missiles that can strike Hawaii and Alaska. I guess neither of those states count to these private analysts.

Anyways, I'm not going to get into an "ICBM range" and "throw-weight" pie fight concerning North Korea's capabilities.

I will, however, highlight that the United States intelligence community has repeatedly been surprised by North Korean capabilities. Occam's Razor leads one to reasonably conclude that such surprises will continue in the future.

Do we err on the side of caution, or whistle past our graveyard?

Which lesson did *you* learn from 9/11?

This posting was made on my personal computer.
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