Alexander's Column

When it rains in an election year, it pours

Mark Alexander · Oct. 13, 2006

First, Washington Post legend-in-his-own-mind Bob Woodward released his latest literary assault on the administration’s Iraq policy. Then the current National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), a classified security summary jointly composed by the 14 U.S. intelligence agencies, was illegally leaked. Finally, this week, a new study from Johns Hopkins University concludes that the population of post-invasion Iraq has suffered 654,000 more casualties than it otherwise would have during this period of time – a number quadruple the next closest estimate.

Now, say critics on the left, five years after 9/11, President George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil” rhetoric has accelerated and escalated threats around the globe. One Axis member is on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons, another has just tested its first, and the third, Iraq, is in utter shambles. With elections just around the corner, anti-war pols have given a new spin to an old refrain, asking voters, “Are Iraq, Iran and North Korea safer than they were four years ago?”

Woodward’s latest tome, State of Denial, largely dependent on what he describes as a secret Pentagon document detailing escalating violence in Iraq, is already butting heads with the truth. “They were keeping it classified until I got a hold of it,” Woodward told Tim Russert on NBC’s Meet the Press. Unfortunately for Woodward, the document wasn’t so secret after all. Days after he reported on it in May 2006, the Pentagon presented its “9010 Report” to Congress, detailing the same information. This public report explicitly stated that terrorist violence in Iraq was at an all-time high.

Woodward, whom Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan recently likened to “a great dumb shark, remorselessly moving toward hunks of information he can swallow but not digest,” falsely claims that this mandatory public report blatantly contradicts the secret report in his possession. The confusion, though, is of Woodward’s own making. In the book, Woodward says the public report defines “Iraqi rejectionists” as “former regime loyalists, Saddamists, and terrorists, including al Qaeda.” The public report predicts violence will decline in 2007, says Woodward, while the secret report indicates terrorist violence will increase.

To the contrary, the public report places “rejectionists” in a category of their own – ordinary Sunni Arabs who have not embraced the transition from Saddamist totalitarianism to democracy. Unlike “regime loyalists, Saddamists and terrorists” who must be killed or captured, the report says, “we judge that over time many in this group will increasingly support a democratic Iraq provided that the federal government protects minority rights and the legitimate interests of all communities.”

In other words, yes, the public report says these terrorists and insurgents will “retain the capabilities” to “sustain violence levels through 2007.” On the other hand, “appeal and motivation for rejectionist elements will wane in 2007” as political processes move forward with Sunni participation.

The more magnanimous among us might say that Woodward made an honest if sophomoric mistake; that he simply couldn’t process the information he’d taken in. We can’t, however, say the same about the illegal leak of the April 2006 NIE, “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,” which the traitors at the New York Times were all too eager to publish.

Following the NIE’s illegal release, Democrats were quick to pick up the ball. “Rather than reducing the number of terrorists worldwide and lessening the motivation of terrorists to attack the United States, the war in Iraq is having precisely the opposite effect,” opined House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. “We did not invade Iraq to fight terrorism as the President would now have us believe, but we’re less safe today because the war in Iraq has hindered our ability to make progress in combating terrorism.”

Jay Rockefeller, ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, followed suit, saying, “There is no question that many of our policies have inflamed our enemies’ hatred toward the U.S. and allowed violence to flourish, but it is the mistakes we made in Iraq – the lack of planning, the mismanagement and the complete incompetence of our leadership – that has done the most damage to our security.”

Inconveniently for Democrats, the U.S. wasn’t in Iraq when our Marine barracks in Lebanon were bombed in 1983, or when the World Trade Center was first bombed in 1993, or when the Khobar Towers were bombed in 1996, or when our embassies were bombed in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998, or when the USS Cole was bombed in the port of Yemen in 2000 or, finally, when Islamic terrorists rammed passenger jets into the WTC, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field on September 11, 2001, killing some 3,000 of our countrymen.

Indeed, why should we be surprised that Islamic terrorists would rally around the Iraq conflict to make their case for U.S. imperialism and western aggression? What’s more, why are we surprised that failure in Iraq would encourage these same militants?

What is really not surprising, though, is the fact that this report – willfully misconstrued as a criticism of the Iraq war – was illegally leaked only six weeks ahead of November’s crucial midterm elections.

The last NIE to receive this degree of attention, you’ll recall, was written in 2002 and concluded that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had aggressively pursued its WMD programs, possessed substantial chemical and biological arsenals, and “probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade.” Curiously, the same people who decried the inaccuracy of that last highly publicized NIE are now touting select portions of this new estimate as gospel truth. Could it be that the NIE’s newfound advocates are more interested in political opportunism than substantive truth about terrorism and Iraq?

As for the Johns Hopkins study on war deaths in Iraq, suffice it to say the methodology of the researchers is drawing criticism from many quarters, including the government of Iraq and the United Nations. Even the New York Times was forced to admit to the study’s “spotty statistical history” and to recall that under Saddam Hussein “the state had a monopoly on killing, and the deaths of thousands of Iraqi Shiites and Kurds that it caused were never counted.” If the Hopkins pre-election hit piece has a familiar ring to it, it’s likely because the last time they published such a grossly flawed “study” on Iraqi war deaths was in late October, 2004, just days before the presidential election. Alas, some institutions of higher learning never do learn.

It’s no surprise, then, that these anti-war voices are now at fever pitch. After all, the coming election will largely determine this President’s ability to wage war on Jihadi terrorists for the remainder of his term. To wit, we have to wonder if this week’s treason case against U.S. citizen and al-Qa'ida deputy Adam Gadahn – the first in 50 years – would have occurred under a more “nuanced” administration. Given the Democrats’ soft-on-terror history, though, the cut-and-run crowd might want to be careful what it wishes for.