A Failed War
On a day when the Washington Post reports that there is a debate within CENTCOM on whether or not to declare victory over Al Qaeda in Iraq, Peter Bergen lays out in the New Republic the litany of how George W. Bush has enabled Osama Bin Laden to beat him in the alleged war against terrorists. Regarding Iraq, of course the White House and General Petraeus will not allow a victory flag to be raised over Al Qaeda in Iraq just yet, because doing so may very well be premature and would seriously undermine a justification for maintaining 160,000 troops in Iraq through next spring.
Regarding the New Republic piece, Bergen outlines the specific failures of the Bush war against Al Qaeda, starting with the Rumsfeld decision to let Bin Laden and the rest of the senior Al Qaeda leadership escape at Tora Bora in December 2001. (Bergen even left out the fact that Bush passed on several chances to kill Abu Musab Zarqawi before the Iraq invasion when doing so would have saved hundreds of our troops.) Bergen then points out Bush’s failure in Afghanistan to rebuild that country and deprive the Taliban of a return to power and renewed support for Al Qaeda. Bergen then moves on to Bush’s $10 billion support for Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan since 9/11, an investment that has produced a new haven for Al Qaeda in Pakistan through failed truces that had the encouragement of the administration. Unmentioned by Bergen is the support by Musharraf for A. Q. Khan’s efforts to help Iran, North Korea, and Al Qaeda gain access to a nuclear weapons capability. Lastly, Bergen observes that Bush and Cheney have followed a detainee and interrogation program that has yielded little in five years except to isolate the United States internationally.
Bergen deals directly with the one claimed success of Bush’s war, the lack of a follow up attack here in the United States in the years since 9/11, by stating that any such success isn’t a result of Bush policies as much as a result of the American Muslim community rejecting radical Islam due to American pluralism. Bergen points out that Bush “must take the blame for the fact that his policies--in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Guantánamo--have greatly increased the pool of jihadist terrorists around the world.”
Bergen’s indictment of Bush’s war on terror could be, and should be the talking points for both congressional Democrats as well as our presidential candidates, if and when they have the spine to make that case. There is no reason why any of our candidates cannot remind voters that our real enemy isn’t in Iraq or even in Iran for that matter, but rather still running free in northern Pakistan six years after 9/11. Tell voters that the sooner Democrats are allowed to refocus the war against terrorists away from Iraq and Iran, to an intelligent, effective, and quiet battle aimed at their source in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the sooner Al Qaeda will be brought to justice.