Read It and Weep
Even Bush's intelligence report says the war in Iraq is making us less safe at home.
The National Intelligence Estimate that was released today—titled "The Terrorist Threat to the Homeland"—amounts to a devastating critique of the Bush administration's policies on Iraq, Iran, and the terrorist threat itself.
Its main point is that the threat—after having greatly receded over the past five years—is back in full force. Al-Qaida has "protected or regenerated key elements" of its ability to attack the United States. It has a "safe haven" in Pakistan. Its "top leadership" and "operational lieutenants" are intact. It is cooperating more with "regional terrorist groups."
As a result, the report concludes, "the U.S. Homeland will face a persistent and evolving terrorist threat over the next three years" and is, even now, "in a heightened threat environment."
This is bad enough news for President Bush, who has tried to bank support for his policies on the claim that the terrorist threat has diminished.
Worse news still is the report's further observation—never stated explicitly but clear nonetheless—that the threat has re-emerged as a result of the war in Iraq.
The report—the unclassified version of a consensus product by the 16 agencies of the U.S. intelligence community—also notes that the threat will grow still larger if we appear to threaten Iran.
One major reason for al-Qaida's resurgence, according to the report, is its "association with" al-Qaida in Iraq. (Note, by the way, that these two organizations are said to be "associated" or "affiliated" with each other; contrary to what Bush has said in recent speeches, they are not the same entity.) This affiliation "helps al-Qaida to energize the broader Sunni extremist community, raise resources, and to recruit and indoctrinate operatives, including for Homeland attacks." (Italics added.)
Al-Qaida in Iraq—or AQI, as the report identifies it—is not merely al-Qaida's "most visible and capable affiliate." More significant, it is "the only one known to have expressed a desire to attack the Homeland." (Italics added.)
Let's put together the syllogism: Al-Qaida is more inclined to attack the United States because of its affiliation with AQI; AQI is the only affiliate that wants to attack the United States; therefore, if there were no AQI, the danger of an attack would be far less severe, if it existed at all.
Let's add one more link to the logical chain (which the NIE leaves out but which is self-evident): If there were no U.S. occupation of Iraq, there would be no AQI. (Certainly the organization didn't exist until well into the occupation. It has gained a foothold in Iraq—energizing "the broader Sunni extremist community"—by playing off their anti-American sentiments.)
Fred Kaplan is Slate's "War Stories" columnist and author of the book, The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter.
AP photograph from Iraq by U.S. Army Sgt. Rob Summitt.