The NIE: Putting Iraq in Perspective

I usually leave the details of the bigger issues of the GWOT in the hands of experts more capable than I. If you want to pick a fight on this issue, take it up with one of them. Let me start by answering a few common questions about Iraq that get tossed about.

1. Have we made mistakes in prosecuting the war in Iraq? Yes (but isn’t that every war?)
2. Is the violence in Iraq between Shi’ites and Sunnis troubling? Yes (but civil war can still be averted)
3. Are American forces viewed as friendly liberators by most of the Iraqi population? No (but many more are eager to make the democratic experiment work on a permanent basis)
4. Therefore, it was a mistake to go to war in Iraq, right? Wrong!
5. Were there other justifications for going to war in Iraq besides WMDs? Yes (but I don’t have time to rehash them all today)

This statement released from the White House today – remarks delivered by President Bush in Alabama on Iraq – are well worth reading and considering to get some badly needed perspective:

Some Democrats in Congress say that we should not be fighting the terrorists in Iraq; it was a mistake to go into Iraq in the first place. I believe these Democrats need to answer a simple question: Do they really believe that we would be better off if Saddam Hussein were still in power? In a recent interview, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee was asked this very question. And his answer was, yes, yes, and, yes.

“If this is what the Democrats think, they need to make this case to the American people: They need to make the case that the world would be better off it Saddam Hussein were still in power. If Saddam Hussein were still in power, he would still be sponsoring terror and paying families of suicide bombers. If he were still in power, he would still be pursuing weapons of mass destruction. He would still be killing his own people. He would still be firing at our pilots. He would still be defying the United Nations. He would still be bilking the oil for food program and using one of the largest oil reserves in the world to threaten Western economies and to fuel his ambitions.

“After the attacks of September the 11th, it became clear that the United States of America must confront threats before they come and hurt us. Saddam Hussein’s regime was a serious threat, a risk the world could not afford to take. America, Iraqis, and the world are safer because Saddam Hussein is not in power.

“In a recent series of speeches, I made it clear that we’re in the early hours of a long struggle for civilization. I have made it clear that we’re in the ideological struggle of the 21st century. I’ve also made it clear that the safety of the American people depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad.

“I strongly believe that Iraq is a central front in the War on Terror. The Democrats may not think so, but Osama bin Laden does. Here are the words of bin Laden, ‘I now address… the whole… Islamic nation: Listen and understand… The most… serious issue today for the whole world is this Third World War… [that] is raging in [Iraq].’ He calls it ‘a war of destiny between infidelity and Islam.’ He says, ‘The whole world is watching this war,’ and that it will end in ‘victory and glory or misery and humiliation.’

“For al Qaeda, Iraq is not a distraction from their war on America, it is a central battlefield where there’s –outcome of the struggle will be decided.

“The NIE I quoted earlier says this about Iraq. It said, ‘Perceived jihadist success there,’ in Iraq, ‘would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere.’ It also says that ‘Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.’

“Democrats in Washington have been quoting the NIE a lot in recent days, but you don’t hear them quoting that part of the document. The Democrats can’t have it both ways. Either they believe that Iraq is a distraction from the War on Terror or they agree with the intelligence community and the terrorists themselves that the outcome of Iraq is important in the War on Terror. Truth is, the Democrats are using the NIE to mislead the American people and justify their policy of withdrawal from Iraq.

“The American people need to know what withdrawal from Iraq would mean. By withdrawing from Iraq before the job is done, we would be doing exactly what the extremists and terrorists want.

“The terrorists’ entire strategy is based on the belief that America is weak and does not have the stomach for the long fight. Bin Laden has called American withdrawals from places like Beirut and Somalia as proof that if the terrorists are patient America will lose her nerve and withdraw in disgrace.

“The greatest danger is not that America’s presence in Iraq is drawing new recruits to the terrorist cause. The greatest danger is that an American withdrawal from Iraq would embolden the terrorists and help them find new recruits to carry out even more destructive attacks on the American homeland. And that is why the United States of America will stand with the brave Iraqis and defeat the terrorists in Iraq.”

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