Reality intrudes again. President Bush and his allies keep insisting that the invasion of Iraq was essential to winning the fight against anti-American Islamic jihadists. The government’s top experts on terrorism and Islamic extremism disagree. As The New York Times reported on Sunday, a National Intelligence Estimate produced earlier this year noted that the Iraq war has fueled Islamic radicalism around the globe and has caused the terrorist threat to grow. In other words, Bush’s invasion of Iraq has been counterproductive. Or put this way: the ugly war in Iraq that has claimed the lives of thousands of American troops and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians has placed the United States more at risk.
Times reporter Mark Mazzetti noted in his front-page article that he had spoken to “more than a dozen” U.S. government officials and outside experts who had either seen the NIE or who had participated in its creation. That’s a lot of footwork. But he did not quote from the document itself, except to note that the NIE describes a radical Islamic movement of “self-generating” cells. (An NIE is the intelligence community’s most definitive assessment of a major strategic issue and is supposed to represent the consensus view of the government’s various intelligence agencies. This particular NIE is the first evaluation of global terrorism since the invasion of Iraq.)
The White House has claimed that the Times‘s account of the NIE did not represent the complete document. And Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte has declared–in response to the news of this NIE–that the Bush administration has scored significant success against the “global jihadist threat.”
Well, is the threat now worse because of Bush’s war in Iraq? Does the NIE say the war has made the jihadist threat more dangerous? The White House could resolve this very quickly by declassifying the NIE. If the report contains nuances or success stories not conveyed by the Times report (and those of other newspapers), releasing the report will clear things up.
The report is classified. But an NIE of this sort is probably more of an analytical document than a run-down of secret intelligence. And, certainly, the real secrets in the report–particularly references to sources and methods–can be redacted.