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A Distinct Lack of Intelligence | The Nation

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A Distinct Lack of Intelligence

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You would think that a consensus report from all sixteen US intelligence services concluding that he has blown the war on terror would be a really big deal to the President. But that assumes that George W. Bush values intelligence.

Robert Scheer is editor of TruthDig, where this essay originally was published.

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Robert Scheer
Robert Scheer, a contributing editor to The Nation, is editor of Truthdig.com and author of The Great American Stickup...

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Clearly, he does not. So the news that a 2006 National Intelligence Estimate concludes the threat of terror against the United States has increased since 9/11, largely thanks to his irrational invasion of Iraq, has not disturbed Bush's branded "what me worry" countenance.

Instead, predictably, the Administration's response to the leaked conclusions of the shared assessments of both civilian and military intelligence agencies was the same old historically ignorant claptrap that leaves US policies completely out of the equation.

"Their hatred for freedom and liberty did not develop overnight," said White House spokesman Peter Watkins. "Those seeds were planted decades ago."

What seeds are those? It was "decades ago" that the CIA encouraged Muslim fanatics worldwide to go to Afghanistan to fight a holy war against a secular regime backed by the Russians. The end result of that engagement was--after their troop withdrawal and the consequent US attention deficit--a devolution into civil war, warlordism and, eventually, the takeover of the country by Osama bin Laden's friends, the religiously extreme and oppressive Taliban. Sound familiar?

It should: The same deadly process has been taking place under Bush's watch in Iraq since our idiotic invasion in 2003.

If the Bush Administration were serious about protecting us from terrorist attacks, it would end the ineffectual "war on terror" model and instead treat terrorism as a pathology that needs to be clinically and relentlessly excised. If terror groups such as Al Qaeda are a cancer in the world's body politic, as the intelligence estimate suggests, then the goal should be to surgically isolate and neutralize the malignant cells.

"We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives; perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere," reads a section of the National Intelligence Estimate that Bush declassified on Tuesday. "The Iraq conflict has become the 'cause celebre' for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement."

A few Washington leaders do seem to be taking this sobering assessment seriously. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) told CNN he was "very concerned" about the estimate, adding, "My feeling is that the war in Iraq has intensified Islam fundamentalism and radicalism."

But the rest of his party, and their cheerleaders in the media, fell into line, including the occasionally independent Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who seemed to suggest that US policy decisions don't matter at all. "If it wasn't Iraq, it'd be Afghanistan that [terrorists] would use as a method of continuing their recruitment," said McCain, without offering evidence of this flip claim.

Much more considered was the testimony this week of retired Maj. Gen. John R.S. Batiste, who commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq in 2004 and 2005 and served as a senior military assistant to then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.

"If we had seriously laid out and considered the full range of requirements for the war in Iraq, we would likely have taken a different course of action that would have maintained a clear focus on our main effort in Afghanistan, not fueled Islamic fundamentalism across the globe, and not created more enemies than there were insurgents," said Batiste in joining other retired generals in calling for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

The Bush Administration, he charged, "did not tell the American people the truth for fear of losing support for the war in Iraq."

Of course, unlike McCain, the retired generals can speak the truth because they are not running for office based on a record of six years of lousy GOP leadership. But those not wedded to the short-term fortunes of the Republican Party in an election year should welcome the nonpartisan sanity being offered by the intelligence agencies and military brass. With his security policy, Bush's alleged strong suit, exposed as a clear failure, it is time for the nation's political middle to make a corrective move and give Congress back to the opposition to provide a check and balance on this arrogant Administration.

In the name of defending our security, the Bush Administration has suppressed any intelligence information it could, ignoring the public's right to know, as much as is feasible, what is being done in its name. We must never forget that our system of government is based on the utility of freedom that truth will expose error--and just such an accounting is long overdue.

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