Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Times Online

Read it yourself, says Bush as threat report made public

PRESIDENT BUSH took the extraordinary step last night of authorising the public release of his government’s classified terror threat assessment, a move that seemed to bolster claims by his opponents that the Iraq war was fuelling global terrorism.

In excerpts of the usually highly classified National Intelligence Estimate released by the White House, the US intelligence community states that the Iraq war has provided Islamist militants with a “cause célèbre” that allowed the global movement to cultivate supporters. The office of John Negroponte, the US intelligence director, released a 3½-page section of the 30-page report, containing its key judgments, hours after Mr Bush ordered it to be declassified to counter media reports that he said misrepresented conclusions about Iraq.

“We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives,” said the declassified segment of the report, titled Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States. It was completed in April but stands as America’s current intelligence threat assessment.

“The Iraq conflict has become the ‘cause célèbre’ for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement.” The report added: “If this trend continues, threats to US interests at home and abroad will become more diverse, leading to increasing attacks worldwide. The confluence of shared purpose and dispersed actors will make it harder to find and undermine jihadist groups.”

During a White House press conference with President Karzai of Afghanistan, Mr Bush said it was a mistake to think that the Iraq war had increased the terrorism threat. He said he was ordering parts of the report to be declassified because using a portion of the report to attack his Iraq policy was misleading.

Calling the leak politically motivated in the run-up to mid-term elections in November, Mr Bush said of the intelligence assessment: “You can read it for yourself. [It] will stop all the speculation.”

According to press reports, the document — a summary of the assessments delivered by America’s 16 intelligence bodies — concluded that the Iraq war had created a new generation of Islamic terrorists and that the threat to the US was now greater than before the September 11 terror attacks.

Part of the summary released last night stated: “United States-led counter-terrorism efforts have seriously damaged the leadership of al-Qaeda and disrupted its operations; however, we judge that al-Qaeda will continue to pose the greatest threat to the Homeland and US interests abroad by a single terrorist organisation. We also assess that the global jihadist movement — which includes al-Qaeda, affiliated and independent terrorist groups, and emerging networks and cells — is spreading and adapting to counter-terrorism efforts.

“Although we cannot measure the extent of the spread with precision, a large body of all-source reporting indicates that activists identifying themselves as jihadists, although a small percentage of Muslims, are increasing in both number and geographic dispersion.”

The document adds that underlying factors that are fuelling the spread of extremist Muslim movements outweigh their vulnerabilities. The factors that are fuelling the spread of Islamic extremism are entrenched, and are centred on a slow pace of reform in Arab countries, rising anti-US sentiment and the Iraq war.

Mr Bush’s opponents seized on the excerpts as proof that his Iraq policy was not working. “The Bush Administration’s failed policies in Iraq are fuelling global terrorism and making America less safe,” Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, said.

“These results are the unfortunate consequences of the Administration’s decision to cherry-pick pre-war intelligence, ignore our senior military leaders and completely fail to plan for the post-Saddam occupation,” he added.

Editor and Publisher

For Americans Killed in Iraq: A Period, Not a Comma
In an interview aired on CNN on Sunday, President Bush suggested that one day the conflict in Iraq will be looked back on as "just a comma." The dead, and their families, might propose different punctuation. Here are some alternatives.

By Greg Mitchell

(September 24, 2006) -- Amid the Sunday uproar over The New York Times' report on a secret intelligence report labeling the war in Iraq an answer to anti-U.S. terrorists' prayers, CNN aired a portion of an interview with President Bush conducted by Wolf Blitzer earlier in the week.

In a report here at E&P, we observed that in this exchange, Blitzer asked about the latest setbacks in Iraq and indications that civil war may be at hand. Bush, with a slight smile, replied, "Yes, you see — you see it on TV, and that’s the power of an enemy that is willing to kill innocent people. But there’s also an unbelievable will and resiliency by the Iraqi people&hellip. I like to tell people when the final history is written on Iraq, it will look like just a comma because there is — my point is, there’s a strong will for democracy."

Even for Bushisms, this is an odd one. Maybe he meant "coma." No, that would be too negative.

A comma as a metaphor perhaps? If so, for what? All that bloodshed as merely a comma-- a pause in a long sentence -- leading to a hopeful phrase or conclusion? Comma, "and they all lived happily ever after"? Or maybe, comma, "and then we bombed Iran"?

Of course, one can think of other punctuation that might be apt, including "?" for the 140,000 Americans still deployed there, "!" for the cries of the gravely injured, and "$" for Haliburton and other contractors.

Or perhaps, as in the comics pages, when an angry character really wants to curse: "!@#%^&*()#*"

But I'd like to offer one more, the simple period, to replace the hopeful comma. Below you will find some 2,700 periods, each standing for an American life lost in Iraq. Space does not permit a full accounting of the Iraqis killed, or any of those damaged for life.