WASHINGTON — President Bush may rue the day when he declared Iraq the "central front in the war on terrorism" after running out of all his other official rationales for the unprovoked invasion of that Persian Gulf country.
He chose the turf and now U.S. intelligence agencies are telling him that his policies have bolstered the ranks of Islamic terrorists around the world.
The White House ordered the release of parts of a top-secret National Intelligence Estimate after newspapers broke the story over the weekend that the report by all 16 American intelligence agencies concluded that the U.S. attack on Iraq has spawned a new generation of Islamic radicalism and fueled more terrorism.
When the first news accounts were published, White House officials indulged in a frenzy of dodging, weaving, partial denials and obfuscation. When Bush finally ordered a partial release of the report, the excerpts proved that the original news accounts were totally accurate.
Titled "Trends in Global Terrorism," the intelligence report says rather than being in retreat, Islamic radicalism has "metastasized and spread across the globe."
John Negroponte, director of national intelligence, acknowledged that the war in Iraq "is generating a new generation of Jihadist leaders" but he expressed confidence that the U.S. will prevail.
At this stage of the scandalous war in Iraq, the people have the right to know why American lives continue to being sacrificed.
As every American now knows, the administration’s stated reasons for the invasion of Iraq — weapons of mass destruction and ties to the al Qaida terrorist network — have turned out to be false.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who wants to be the next president, was speaking with great understatement when he told CBS-TV’s "Face the Nation" on Sunday: "I think it’s obvious that the difficulties we’ve experienced in Iraq have certainly emboldened" terrorist groups.
But he said he would argue "that these people didn’t need any motivation to attack us on Sept. 11." McCain also called for sending more troops to Iraq. That ought to be a great campaign slogan for him in 2008.
The Democratic leaders in Congress said the intelligence report supports their views that the war in Iraq is encouraging terrorism. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the report was "further proof that the war in Iraq is making it harder for America to fight and win the war on terror."
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said, "No election-year White House P.R. campaign can hide this truth — it is crystal clear that America’s security demands that we change course in Iraq."
Vice President Dick Cheney and beleaguered Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld are the prime defenders of the president’s disastrous "stay the course" policy.
Their speeches liken the U.S. dilemma to its World War II struggle against Hitler and fascism.
The voters will have their big chance in the fall elections to send a message on the war issue to the White House. I hope they don’t blow it.