A war we have to win - By Jeff Jacoby, The Boston Globe - @MidEastTruth
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PostThu Sep 28, 2006 10:38 am     A war we have to win - By Jeff Jacoby, The Boston Globe    

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A war we have to win

By Jeff Jacoby
The Boston Globe
September 27, 2006

THE CONSENSUS in the intelligence community is that the war in Iraq has worsened the threat from radical Islamic violence and hurt US efforts to combat terrorism. So, at any rate, say The New York Times (``Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terrorism Threat") and The Washington Post (``Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Hurting US Terror Fight"), which reported on the most recent National Intelligence Estimate in front-page stories on Sunday. But is it true?

The NIE was a classified document until yesterday, when President Bush declassified some of its findings. The Times and Post stories were written, it appears, by reporters who hadn't read the document they were characterizing. The papers' headlines were unequivocal, but the stories themselves never actually quoted the NIE. They merely passed along the spin -- and advanced the anti-Bush agenda -- of the anonymous sources who chose this moment to leak secret intelligence for political purposes.

Has the Iraq war undermined efforts to defeat the jihadis? Maybe, but the Times and Post stories don't come close to making that case. They claim that new terrorists are being enlisted at a growing rate and that America's presence in Iraq has become a major terrorist recruitment tool. That hardly adds up to a weakened war against Al Qaeda and its accomplices. D-Day and the battle of Midway triggered some of the most ferocious fighting of World War II and resulted in tens of thousands of additional Allied casualties. But would anyone say that they undermined the drive to defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan?

After 9/11, the United States went to war against Islamic totalitarianism; since 2003 that war has focused most dramatically on Iraq. It stands to reason that Iraq is therefore the focal point in the jihadis' war against the West. President Bush has made that point repeatedly, quoting Osama bin Laden's declaration that the war in Iraq is ``the most serious issue today for the whole world " and will end in ``victory and glory or misery and humiliation." Has US military action in Iraq inflamed the global jihad? Undoubtedly. But just imagine how galvanized it would be by a US retreat.

This much we do know: There has been no successful terrorist attack on the United States in the years since 9/11, whereas the years leading up to 9/11 saw one act of terrorism after another, including the bombing of the World Trade Center, the destruction of the US embassies in Africa, and the attack on the USS Cole. The Bush administration must be doing something right -- something the Clinton administration, on whose watch bin Laden and Al Qaeda launched and escalated their terror war, failed to do.

Could 9/11 have been prevented? That in essence was what Chris Wallace asked former President Bill Clinton during his Fox News interview on Sunday: ``Why didn't you do more to put bin Laden and Al Qaeda out of business when you were president? . . . Why didn't you . . . connect the dots and put them out of business?"

From the ferocity of Clinton's response, you would have thought he'd been accused of using a 22-year-old White House intern for sex. Purple-faced with rage, he blasted Wallace for doing a ``nice little conservative hit job on me." He fumed that he had ``worked hard to try and kill" bin Laden and that ``all the right-wingers" who criticize him for doing too little ``spent the whole time I was president saying, `Why is he so obsessed with bin Laden?' "

But Wallace's question was no ``hit job." No one ever accused Clinton of being too obsessed with bin Laden. On the contrary: The eight years of his presidency, like the first eight months of Bush's, were marked at the top by a tragic inattention to Al Qaeda. The 9/11 Commission Report records the exasperated reaction of a State Department counterterrorism officer to Clinton's refusal to retaliate for the bombing of the Cole: ``Does Al Qaeda have to attack the Pentagon to get their attention?"

Unfortunately, the answer was yes. Only after 9/11 did the United States muster the will to begin fighting the jihadis in earnest.

Was Iraq the best place to fight them? There are passionate views on both sides of that question, and history will have the final say. What we know for sure today is that we are at war against a deadly enemy, one we must defeat or be defeated by. The war on terrorism is going far better now than it did when our eyes were closed.

Jeff Jacoby's e-mail address is jacoby@globe.com

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