For far too long, George Bushs absurd arguments for war in Iraq were repeated by the lap dogs in the news media without serious questioning. It is good to see that Bushs statements are receiving increased fact checking. McClatchy reviews Bushs claim that we are fighting the terrorists in Iraq so that we dont have to fight them here:
Is there any truth to "the enemy would follow us here?
Its become President Bushs mantra, that and "oceans no longer protect us" they used to get huge applause lines, but no longer as evident in his latest visit to Ft. Irwin where his speech was greeted by deafening silence... his main explanation for why he wont withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq anytime soon.
In speech after speech, in statement after statement, Bush insists that "this is a war in which, if we were to leave before the job is done, the enemy would follow us here."
The line, which Bush repeated Wednesday in a speech to troops at Californias Fort Irwin, suggests a chilling picture of warfare on American streets.
But is it true?
Military and diplomatic analysts say it isnt. They accuse Bush of exaggerating the threat that enemy forces in Iraq pose to the U.S. mainland.
"The president is using a primitive, inarticulate argument that leaves him open to criticism and caricature," said James Jay Carafano, a homeland security and counterterrorism expert for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative policy organization. "Its a poor choice of words that doesnt convey the essence of the problem - that walking away from a problem doesnt solve anything."
U.S. military, intelligence and diplomatic experts in Bushs own government say the violence in Iraq is primarily a struggle for power between Shiite and Sunni Muslim Iraqis seeking to dominate their society, not a crusade by radical Sunni jihadists bent on carrying the battle to the United States"
James Lewis, a U.S. foreign policy analyst at CSIS, called Bushs assertion oversimplistic, but added that theres a slight chance a few enemy combatants could make their way to the United States after a U.S. troop withdrawal.
"Theres a grain of truth in Bush saying its better to fight them there rather than here, but its also overstated," Lewis said. "Its not like theres going to be gun battles in the United States."
Daniel Benjamin, the director of the Center on the United States and Europe at The Brookings Institution, a center-left think tank, agreed.
"There are very few foreign fighters who are going to be leaving the area because they dont have the skills or languages that would give them access to the United States," said Benjamin, who served as the National Security Councils director for transnational threats from 1998 to 1999. "Im not saying events in Iraq arent going to embolden jihadists. But I think the presidents formulations call for a leap of faith."
"The war in Iraq isnt preventing terrorist attacks on America," said one U.S. intelligence official, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because hes contradicting the president and other top officials. "If anything, that - along with the way weve been treating terrorist suspects - may be inspiring more Muslims to think of us as the enemy."
The last line presents the ultimate problem. As we cannot kill every potential terrorist, the real battle is one for the hearts and minds of those who are more moderate. Rather than winning them over, the war has led to radicalizing many and turning more Muslims against the United States. This is something the extremist right wing neocons just cannot understand.