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September 24, 2006

We told you so. Invading Iraq made terror threat worse

Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terror Threat

WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 — A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism than that presented either in recent White House documents or in a report released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee, according to several officials in Washington involved in preparing the assessment or who have read the final document.

The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,’’ it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.

An opening section of the report, “Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement,” cites the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology.

The report “says that the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,” said one American intelligence official. [...] [NYT permalkink]

The Washington Post on the NIE and the threat of terrorist attacks:

The war in Iraq has become a primary recruitment vehicle for violent Islamic extremists, motivating a new generation of potential terrorists around the world whose numbers may be increasing faster than the United States and its allies can reduce the threat, U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded.

[Via hilzoy.]


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I doubt this info will shock even the most ardent Bush supporters, but they don't care. They don't care if the world is safer, just as long as they think that they themselves are safer. Now I know this doesn't make sense, but cognitive dissonance is never pretty. They don't care if 100 bodies turn up every day on the streets of Baghdad, because that's not where they live. Nor do they care if our own nation is any safer from terrorist attacks, just as long as they think that somehow their riches will somehow shield them from the brunt of terrorist attacks. Though wealthy folks died on 9/11, there weren't any wealthy folks running into the buildings to rescue people, were there?

Bush constantly prattles on about the lessons of 9/11, as if we forgot. However it's his Republican buddies and he who have forgotten. They are just as vulnerable as the rest of us, but have forsaken safety for the comfort of more tax cuts. Besides, only poor kids die in war, right?

I admit that my responses have been a little more vitriolic than normal these days. I'm still pissed off by that Mel Sembler story. Still, I stand by the crux of my arguments here and elsewhere.

Frankly, I'm getting tired of telling people I told them so; it isn't so much fun anymore.

We did tell them so. They didn't listen. They did it anyway.

Iraq merely opened a convenient front for terrorists, especially from Iran, to have easy access to our men and women. Iran, as others pointed out, feels urgently that they must not allow our Iraq experiment to succeed, because Iran is part of the Axis of Evil, and Condi Rice and others in the administration has used language that indicates to Iran that they might be next; therefore, if Iraq had gone smoothly, there would have been a US satellite, right on their very borders, and a hostile US at that.

We delivered ourselves to them in a package with a bow on top. Our invasion was carried out perfectly, of course; but there was never a proper thought given to occupying Iraq. Botched.

Sad part is, John, that the United States isn't necessarily any safer, either. The war in Iraq (and the mismanagement of Afghanistan) has been as fine a propaganda tool as Osama could ever have asked for, and as fine a training ground as he could have devised.

In any case, it's not exactly a big surprise. This was predictable, and was predicted.

Given the manner in which supporters of the war have spun the 2002 NIE on Iraq (claiming it didn't say what it actually said), I can't imagine this latest NIE is going to be accepted passively. I expect this will quickly be absorbed into the "CIA vs. the Bush Administration" narrative, or the "dishonest leakers" narrative, or the "inaccurate MSM" narrative, or the "imagine how much worse things would be if we left" narrative. It's all so goddamn depressing.

We've just got to keep repeating the truth, over and over. I think liberals are often afraid to hammer home their key points repeatedly. There's a sense that once you've said something, you should really move on to the next thing.

I think that we're going to need a lot of repetition in order to get people to believe the truth about the war and the party that led us into it on false pretenses.


I know the US is not safer; that's why I said "as long as they think that they themselves are safer", with the emphasis on "think". I know the US no safer, and probably less so, but Bush supporters would like to think otherwise despite there being NO evidence of increased safety, discounting plots involving seven Miami dudes with no guns, explosives, or terrorist connections wanting to blow up the Sears Tower, blowtorches to the Brooklyn Bridge, and hair gel bombers in airplanes.

According to Cheney we're safer basically because we've had no 9/11's since 9/11. But if we do have another 9/11 they'll say that's the reason we need to give up more freedoms and stop criticizing the President and invade Iran. For them it's a no-lose strategy, except that George Bush's poll numbers suck. Once again cognitive dissonance rears its ugly head.

Yes, I'm well familiar with the "tiger rock" arguments that Bush is trying to sell, John.

Lindsay actually has the right of it- the strength of the Republican strategy is that they keep on repeating and returning to their basic message, no matter what, and that's why such dubious argument succeed. It's not simply cognitive dissonance: that smacks of blaming the victim, when it's the consequence of a carefully constructed strategy of disinformation.

The key tactic is to disrupt that chain of reasoning enough that it starts looking silly. This disruption has already taken place over success in Iraq, and to a certain extent with the War on Terror. That's what they're trying to do now- patch it up. Keep up the pressure, and the patch will burst.

(uh... what is "tiger rock" ? Haven't heard of this)

It's a reference to a Simpsons bit. Homer sees a bear in the street outside his house, freaks out, and he and the other citizens of Springfield march to the Mayor's office to demand he do something about it. The Mayor relents, despite it being clear that this was an incredibly unlikely event unlikely to be repeated, and sets up an omnipresent and fabulously expensive "bear patrol."

Homer sees the bear patrol truck going by, and says:

Homer: Not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol must be working like a charm.

Lisa: That's specious reasoning, Dad.

Homer: Thank you, dear.

Lisa: By your logic I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.

Homer: Oh, how does it work?

Lisa: It doesn't work.

Homer: Uh-huh.

Lisa: It's just a stupid rock.

Homer: Uh-huh.

Lisa: But I don't see any tigers around, do you?
[Homer thinks of this, then pulls out some money]

Homer: Lisa, I want to buy your rock.
[Lisa refuses at first, then takes the exchange]

The reason for the reference should be self-evident.

(Quote from The Simpsons Archive.)

Unfortunately, Bush brought in PNAC, (Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld...) to manage foreign policy, a group that had been advocating war with Iraq for a decade. So, when the 911 attacks occured, their focus was to shift the response to Iraq, which they were obsessed with, rather than deal with the threat in Afghanistan, where Al Quaeda was openly training in camps. Essentially, we cut an ran from Afghanistan to preceed with PNAC's war with Iraq, using lies as a rationale.

Now that the lie about the WMD is debunked, Bush's rationale is that by introducing the terrorists into Iraq that Saddam was keeping out, we can fight them there, so we don't have to fight them here. With over 100,000 civilian casualties Iraqis and Arabs don't see the ethics or morality in this policy, hence the rise in Islamic extremism. It would be like having Pakistan and India straighten our their differences by conducting a war in California.

Iran is kind of a mixed bag. On the one hand, given Bush's saber rattling, they would rather fight the US over there (Iraq) than fight them here (Iran). On the other hand, the elimination of a Sunni Iraq in favor of a Shiite Iraq makes Iran a winner already.

One thing is certain though, Bush's policy to go to war with Iraq has harmed our national security. Iran's non-cooperation on the nuclear issue is in part related to us being bogged down in Iraq. Since a scheme involving lies and deceptions was used in furtherance of getting this war started, I think that the deaths of the troops could be considered voluntary manslaughter. Love to see a special prosecutor look into that one.

According to Cheney we're safer basically because we've had no 9/11's since 9/11.

except for the anthrax attacks, obviously.

And those 2 to 3 thousand american soldiers that have gone missing since 2002. Somedays, before I recheck the threat alert color, I wonder where those soldiers keep dissappearing to.

I blame Zombie Strom Thurmond, even if him and Joe Vs Wade do make an adorably cute couple.

Tony Blair argued, back in 2002, that the correct historical analogy for the moment was 1938. Here was a genocidal regime, said Blair, just like Hitler's, and we had the option, this time, of intervening and saving the day, with less bloodshed than if we waited.

But now, late in 2006, it seems the correct historical analogy was the French invasion of Germany in 1923 (the Occupation of the Ruhr Valley). The French invaded to enforce the war reparations provisions of the treaty that ended WWI. But the French never got their money's worth. All they did was bring the democratic government of Germany into contempt, and offer an excellent propoganda tool for those violent nationalist groups, including Hitler's, that were trying to convince the German people that democracy meant weakness.

Coverage on this subject varies based on where you live... is there any wonder why this country is so divided? Different front pages... red v blue very much alive!

Lawrence, I sometimes wish that you'd post more often. Someone on Majikthise earlier claimed that rather than being like Hitler's Germany, we were like Wilhelmine Germany. But I like your analogy. It doesn't stretch too far, but as far as it goes, it's great.

I believe that at that time, the German response was intentional work stoppages or slowdowns, and devaluation of the Reichsmark (hence, postage stamps of the time with a value of 40 being overlaid with "400 Tausend," or 400,000). One might compare the work stoppages with the terrorists' targeting of oil pipelines. And I was about to say something about our puppet government in Iraq not tracking with Germany's more independent 1923 government under Wilhelm Cuno and Gustav Stresemann, but then it occurred to me that Iraq's provisional government has been proving unwilling to go against its members' constituent militias, so perhaps it is "independent" in a way (or at least, independent of the conquerors' demands). Iraq's government probably can't devalue its "currency" (viz., its oil), but I wouldn't be surprised to find that the work stoppages aren't entirely within our power to avert.

Hm. OK, well perhaps the analogy does stretch. Let's think on this further.

>"tiger rock"

Demosthenes, thanks. And that Simpsons archive! I had no idea. I'm going to be loving that. Thanks twice.

Lisa: "Daaaad!!! Don't you realize: you've been affected by the subliminal advertising!"
Homer: "Ah, Lisa--that's just a load of Rich, Creamery Butter."


Homer (drinking): "Mmm... Lemon."
Marge: "Homer! That's dishwashing liquid!"
Homer: "Yeah, but whattaya gonna do?"

One thing is certain though, Bush's policy to go to war with Iraq has harmed our national security. Iran's non-cooperation on the nuclear issue is in part related to us being bogged down in Iraq.

I agree completely. I think that both Iran's Hut missile test last year, and North Korea's Taepo Dong 2 missile tests this year, were their way of saying, "what are You gonna do about it?" to us. They're snapping their fingers in our face and saying, "you ain't shit." These two regional powers will never threaten us militarily, unless we take the fight to them, although they may do some frightening acts of terrorism. However, the US, it seems all too plausible, may be forced to leave a power vacuum in East Asia and the Middle East following being miserably bogged down in Iraq (whether we give up there or not, and it looked likely even before the war that we would eventually have to--Iraq's political instability was another thing that we predicted).

If we do leave a power vacuum in those areas, let's consider what that means: Iran already controls a huge amount of the most important resource of our day. They'll now have a free hand, if we leave Iraq, to dominate another of the world's biggest producers of oil. These two dominant oil producers will be a stone's throw from the massive oil reserves of Saudi Arabia, a Sunni government with some military technology that the US have sold them, true, but with a somewhat decadent government which is not at all unconditionally supported by its own people, and which, without American support, may well become ripe for revolution. Also, if Iran threatens Saudi Arabia following a US pullout from Iraq, the US will now be in a much, much weaker position to stop a post-Iraq War Iran from threatening them than we had when Saddam Hussein threatened them. Combined with the People's Republic of China's octopus-like grasping at every drop of the world's oil and energy reserves these days, then, our loss in Iraq may pose a serious problem to the USA's energy independence, not to mention our ability to mount serious military campaigns.

As for the Far East, on the other hand: North Korea is very paranoid when it comes to threats of force from the United States, and responds to the least hostile rhetoric from us as if it were ready to fight right this minute. This is a very tense situation, these last few years. However, if the power vacuum emerges from the United States' withdrawal from the world stage (as indeed we have been doing, aside from Iraq and Afghanistan, for several years, while others like China and Russia--! the "losers" of the Cold War!--project ever more power), where is Asia? China: projecting power and consuming resources hungrily, at breakneck speed, with nuclear weapons and an armed forces of 1 million, modernizing at great speed too; South Korea (bordering and having gone to war with North Korea) and India (bordering and having gone to war with China), each with over one million military personnel as well, and India with nukes; Russia and North Korea, each with militaries of around a million, each with nukes.

Taiwan and Japan? No nukes. Japan, with a completely emasculated military, unable either to defend themselves, or to make aggressive war. Taiwan, China, Japan, and South Korea, all vitally important links in supply chain and trade with the United States.

We are guilty of what intelligence agents call mirror imaging: the belief that your rivals think like you do. We think that these east Asian states, with their huge security and military concerns that we do not have, nonetheless ended the Cold War when the US and Russia did, and aside from North Korea, have no thought but peaceful commerce. I can assure you that they all have military concerns no less urgent than during the Cold War. And if war does eventually descend upon these supply chain and trade partners, it is going to cause problems for the United States, big time, though we will not, for decades, be within range of North Korea's rockets.

We should worry more that Japan is within their range. I would feel more comfortable, though I don't like Japan's nationalist rhetoric, if Japan had an armed forces appropriate to their neighborhood.

Lawrence and 1984,

do you know that the U.S. Army has nearly completed a thorough revision and update of its official doctrine on counterinsurgency? I found the following quotation more than interesting. Any similarities to actual persons and/or events?

The Necessity for Campaign Design in COIN: Napoleon in Spain

Counterinsurgents always face a series of intricate and shifting challenges. The best course of action to solve this complex set of problems is often difficult to recognize because of complicated interdependencies between them. The apparent resolution of one issue may reveal or create another, even more complicated problem. The purpose of COIN campaign design is to achieve a greater understanding of the situation, create a proposed solution based on that understanding, and maintain the ability to learn and adapt as the campaign is executed. During Napoleon’s occupation of Spain in 1808, little thought was given to the potential challenges of subduing the Spanish populace. Conditioned by the decisive victories at Austerlitz and Jena, Napoleon believed the conquest of Spain would be little more than a "military promenade." Napoleon’s campaign included a rapid conventional military victory over Spanish armies but ignored the immediate requirement to provide a stable and secure environment for the people and the countryside.

The French should have expected ferocious resistance. The Spanish people were accustomed to hardship, suspicious of foreigners, and constantly involved in skirmishes with security forces. The French failed to analyze the history, culture, and motivations of the Spanish people, or to seriously consider their potential to support or hinder the achievement of French political objectives. Napoleon’s cultural miscalculation resulted in a protracted struggle that lasted nearly six years and ultimately required approximately three-fifths of the French Empire’s total armed strength, almost four times the force of 80,000 Napoleon originally had designated for this theater. The Spanish resistance drained the Empire’s resources and was the beginning of the end of Napoleon’s reign. Despite his reputation for brilliant campaign planning, in this instance Napoleon had failed to grasp the real situation in the theater, and his forces were not capable of learning and adapting for the unexpected demands of counterinsurgency.

See "Counterinsurgency," U.S. Army Field Manual 3-24 (Final Draft), June 2006 (241 pages, 2.4 MB PDF file):

You don't need to be in the spy business to know that the essentially unilateral invasion of a country on trumped up causes is going to piss off a lot of people. The data on terroris incidents is publicly available and as clear as a knock on the head with a baseball bat: Our warmaking against Islamic countries has significantly increased terror incidents. "We told you so" is probably a fair claim for liberal bloggers and commenters to make in general. But I compiled the graphic in my post from the widest set of honestly kept terror stats I could find because no MSM outlet and certainly not the US government is doing the very simple job of telling the obvious about the results of the war. Even if you only call it a lie by ommission, it is a monstrous lie.

I told them so but they just aren't make sure your vote is counted folks!

...We've just got to keep repeating the truth, over and over. I think liberals are often afraid to hammer home their key points repeatedly. There's a sense that once you've said something, you should really move on to the next thing.We've just got to keep repeating the truth, over and over. I think liberals are often afraid to hammer home their key points repeatedly. There's a sense that once you've said something, you should really move on to the next thing.

So true Lindsay, but to whom should we be talking? How can more of us be heard by a wider audience than the set of people who read liberal blogs? Bush is not listening and his core constituency is listening to Rush only or is in denial...we have an election in 6 weeks and really need to raise our voices in the most effective possible manner. What is that manner?
Anybody got a suggestion?

Operation iraqi freedom swawns terror. This is news?

Axel, that is brilliant. Brilliant post. Thanks for the link, too.

I did a paper once on the War of 1812 and its preliminaries, and read most of the letters of the Prince Regent of England (who would later become George IV, sitting in at the time for George III, who famously had a bout of madness). Reading the hundreds of letters, from before the war through the end of the war, I found exactly one mention of the United States, and even this was only to compare our importance disparagingly with the importance of the French in Spain. The French themselves, on the other hand, were mentioned constantly. If we were to draw _that_ analogy out, it's worth noting that France after Napoleon I had some success by almost to toadying to the British under Napoleon III (who took great care to be more cunning and less obvious than Napoleon I, and set up satellite states and puppet rulers, and even consulted with England to make sure not to offend her). More disquietingly, we would have to observe that Spain was just about finished as a world power after that (Mexican independence and Spain's withdrawal from the New World followed). So much for a prosperous Iraq. We would be left with only two missing pieces to the puzzle, if we wanted to take the analogy to its conclusion: 1) Who is the Napoleon-era United States, rising but unlooked for? 2) Who is the Napoleon-era England? Who is today's America (or in the analogy, the Napoleon-era France) rising to rival? (I wouldn't laugh if, despite their present seeming disarray, you said Russia or the former communist world.)

(For those who might laugh at that last sentence, I would remind them of Hitler's famous boast: "Russia is Finished.")

I was against the US going to war in iraq after 9/11, iraq was an unrelated issue. However, I think some of the reasoning on this subject here is faulty. Of course going to war has created more 'terrorists'. The real questions, that can't be answered are:

If the US had done nothing, would that have led to more/less terror?

If the US had focused on Al quaeda and Afganistan, (which I feel is what they should have done) would there be less terror today?

Quite frankly, its possible that involving iraq has created more terrorists, its certainly created more dead iraqi civilians, but those disposed to terrorism would have likely been drawn just as easily to Afganistan alone. Not sure how you would quantify the 'Iraq' influence. It seems wrong to compare it to pre-9/11, iraq is only part of the current equation.

But yes, iraq is a big 'I told you so', regardless.

If the US had done nothing, would that have led to more/less terror?

If it had done nothing more than it was already doing, about Iraq? In my opinion, unquestionably, less terror than now.

If the US had focused on Al quaeda and Afganistan, (which I feel is what they should have done) would there be less terror today?


Quite frankly, its possible that involving iraq has created more terrorists, its certainly created more dead iraqi civilians, but those disposed to terrorism would have likely been drawn just as easily to Afganistan alone.

Not at all. Because geographical proximity is a huge part of the problem. We delivered ourselves to them. And much of this terror is coming from Iran, which is highly alarmed to imagine us succeeding in any way in Iraq, in a way it wouldn't be about a success for the US in Afghanistan. Also, had we not gone into Iraq, we wouldn't have conveniently done away with one of the few counterbalances Iran faced in the area. A rotten counterbalance, but a counterbalance nonetheless. If we remain remote from terrorists, they'll have a harder time committing terrorism.

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