George W. Bush: Two Tall Fables & A Twilight Zone genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Twilight Zone

On Tuesday, the President sought to portray al Qaeda in Iraq as the central threat in the war on terror. His actions were apparently meant to shore up waning support for his war in Iraq and to respond to a grim National Intelligence Estimate, portions of which were released least week.

By and large, the President has relied on one paragraph of the estimate to make his assertions. However, the remaining portions of the report which were made available to the public suggest that it is actually the al Qaeda enclaves in the remote regions of Pakistan which pose the greater threat to the U.S. homeland.

While it should come as no surprise that the President would attempt to spin the NIE report to meet his own objectives (think about the selective justifications for invading Iraq), one has to wonder about the moral of the individuals who participate in compiling and delivering reports like the National Intelligence Estimate and the Iraq Study Group Report.

Frankly, I have to presume that these public servants feel marginalized and maligned. Time and again, this President has either mischaracterized information or simply chosen to ignore it…despite the obvious credibility of those who have endeavored to provide objective data intended to assist in guiding the policy decisions of the Bush administration.

Today, the Boston Globe gives readers a glimpse into the thoughts of one such individual who was a key participant in preparing the NIE report.

In rare testimony before two House committees, Edward Gistaro, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats, said that Al Qaeda terrorists operating in South Asia are better equipped to attack the United States than the network's followers in Iraq are.

Asked which arm of Al Qaeda concerned him the most, Gistaro told a joint session of the House armed services and intelligence panels that it was South Asia.

"The primary concern is in Al Qaeda in South Asia organizing its own plots against the United States," he said. Al Qaeda planned the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks from its bases in Afghanistan.

The top leaders of the terrorist network, Gistaro added, are "able to exploit the comfort zone in the tribal areas" of Pakistan and Afghanistan and are "bringing people in to train for Western operations."

Meanwhile, a top US general in Afghanistan told Pentagon reporters in a video teleconference that the number of Al Qaeda foot soldiers traveling to South Asia has increased up to 60 percent over the past year.
"It's increased probably 50 to 60 percent over what it was last year . . . and they come from multiple areas in the Middle East," said Army Major General David Rodriguez, commander of the 82d Airborne Division.

I don’t begrudge the President believing that we can’t walk away from the war in Iraq without some confidence that the troubled and divided nation won’t further unravel. Nonetheless, I find the methodology he incorporates into communicating his position to be mind boggling and counter productive.

Unfortunately, a quick review of his political mindset…as evidenced by the manner in which he and his operatives have chosen to approach elections and partisan political issues…suggests that candor and compromise have always been forced to yield to conflation and confrontation. Even worse, when the latter fail to succeed, this President seems chillingly comfortable employing denial, deceit, and dictatorial disregard.

But in recent days the White House has highlighted one particular line in the declassified version of the report that portrays the group known as Al Qaeda in Iraq as the "most visible and capable affiliate [of Al Qaeda] and the only one known to have expressed a desire to attack the [US] homeland."

"We've already seen how Al Qaeda used a failed state thousands of miles from our shores to bring death and destruction to the streets of our cities, and we must not allow them to do so again," Bush said.

Abraham Wagner, a senior researcher at the Center for Advanced Studies on Terrorism at Columbia University, called Bush's speech about the Al Qaeda threat in Iraq a "spin job."

"In the Cold War it was called 'threat lumping,' " Wagner said. "It is creating a threat to justify what you are doing. Al Qaeda in Iraq never existed prior to the US activity in Iraq and I think it is still a small operation."

"It is unfortunate," he added, that "the administration, in their last gasp to justify what they are doing, are inventing threats and misrepresenting what they are getting from the intelligence community."

Astonishingly, when the President alludes to al Qaeda using a failed state in an attempt to justify his Iraq strategy, he simultaneously ignores the events unfolding in Pakistan…events that are far too obvious to be ignored or swept under the rhetorical rug. Certainly the President is entitled to construct his argument as he chooses, but he insults the American voter each time he bangs the same tired old drum.

While voters may have listened and lined up to follow patriotically prior to the Iraq invasion…I’m of the mind that they view the incessant clamor coming from the Bush administration to be synonymous with the protestations they’ve come to expect from the likes of a precocious child who valiantly argues he or she didn’t eat the cookies while coyly wiping chocolate chips from his or her cheeks.

Each time George Bush seeks to inject his alter-reality into the voter psyche…whether it be attempted with a crow bar or perched on the bar crowing…he pushes himself further away from the “sheep" he seeks to influence.

Mr. President, you can wrap yourself in whatever wondrous wares you choose but the American public has seen you for what you are…and you are little more than the inauthentic boy wolf wrapped in sheep’s clothing whose cries for credibility are no longer reputable...and they no longer resonate.

Tagged as: al Qaeda, Edward Gistaro, George W. Bush, Iraq, Iraq Study Group, NIE, Pakistan

Daniel DiRito | July 26, 2007 | 11:15 AM
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