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Is It About Iraq or Not?

Bob Herbert (Times Delete) seizes on the London-based bomb plot to reiterate mainstream liberal belief that Iraq was 1) a colossal mistake 2) a "diversion" from the real War on Terror and 3) a catalyst for spawning waves of new jihadis around the globe. Herbert writes:

The disrupted plot to blow up as many as 10 passenger jets bound for the United States was a reminder, as if we needed a reminder, that the threat of terror remains both real and imminent. And it was a reminder that the greatest danger to Americans here at home continues to be an attack by a group affiliated with, or inspired by, Al Qaeda.

That being the case, what in the world are we doing in Iraq? [snip]

The truth, of course, is that the demolition derby policies of the Bush administration are creating enemies of the United States, not defeating them. It cannot be said often enough, for example, that the catastrophic war in Iraq, which has caused the deaths of tens of thousands, was a strategic mistake of the highest magnitude. It diverted our focus, energy and resources from the real enemy, Al Qaeda and its offshoots, and turned Iraq, a country critically important to the Muslim imagination, into a spawning ground for terrorists.

And so it must be true that if we didn't have the "demolition derby policies" of the Bush administration (i.e. Iraq), we'd have fewer enemies, fewer jihadis and therefore less terrorism.

Last night I was a guest on Bruce DuMont's radio show, and we spent the second hour of the program listening to Bruce interview Gregory D. Lee about the terrorist connection with Pakistan. Lee served as the head of the DEA's Karachi office and worked throughout Pakistan between 1994-1998. His biography also includes this:

In 1995, while assigned at the U.S. embassy in Islamabad, he [Gregory Lee] directly participated in the arrest of Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and later testified at his trial. At the time of his arrest, Yousef was plotting to destroy 12 US airliners simultaneously over the Pacific Ocean, which would have caused the deaths of over 3,600 people, more than that experienced on 9/11.

Indeed, after successfully bombing the WTC towers in 1993, Ramzi Yousef fled to Pakistan where he spent the next two years (allegedly with the help of Khalid Sheik Muhammed) hatching a terrorist plot almost identical to the one foiled last week. That was 3 years into Bill Clinton's first term, 6 years before other members of al-Qaeda successfully flew jetliners into the Twin Towers, and 8 years before the first coalition soldier stepped foot in Iraq.

The point is that while Iraq is a vital front in the War on Terror and part of a broader, long-term strategy in the global struggle against a rising violent fundamentalist strain of Islam (see Michael Gerson's superb sketch of the issue in Newsweek) it's too easy, too convenient, and fundamentally wrong to say that Bush's policies are responsible for causing more terrorism.