- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 21, 2003

Did the war to change regimes in Iraq jeopardize the war on terror? Did the war on Iraq detract from Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan? Did the war on Iraq rob domestic security of manpower, brainpower and funds?

Did the war on Iraq weaken the administration’s counterterrorism alliances abroad?

Did the war on Iraq spawn a new generation of al Qaeda recruits?

Did the administration fail to push the Saudis hard enough to address their own terrorism problems?

Did the war detract from America’s international prestige and respect?

Did the war jeopardize the ideals America stands for? The way the three wars — al Qaeda, Iraq and Afghanistan — are being reported, without even having to read between the lines, the answer would have to be affirmative to all eight questions. That is the conclusion of most foreign editorials, from Buenos Aires to Berlin and from Copenhagen to Cape Town. An 11-country poll conducted by the BBC in the U.S., Europe, the Middle East and Australia, found wide majority disapproval of the war.

Administration officials are quick to dismiss these foreign fulminations as gratuitous Bush-bashing. Trouble is some former Reagan and Bush 41 administration officials make the same points and ask the same questions, albeit sub rosa and sotto voce.

None — Democrat or Republican — wants motivations and patriotism impugned.

Until this week, that is. Now Rand Beers — the man who succeeded the legendary Richard Clarke as the White House counterterrorist czar and mysteriously quit after eight months on the job — has gone public. He served in three Republican administrations, including those of Ronald Reagan and George Bush the elder (Bush 41). He is a man who scanned from 500 to 1,000 pieces of “threat information” intelligence that crossed his desk daily — and nightly. He joined the John Kerry for president camp and spilled a few beans to The Washington Post — sufficient evidence for Bush loyalists that he was a traitor in their midst. Mr. Beers is a registered Democrat but, as his colleagues say, totally apolitical when it comes to counterterrorism.

Former ranking Republican officials are also faulting the current administration for failure to anticipate Iraq’s postwar problems. “We should have declared a victory,” said one ex-White House and Defense official, “and started pulling out right after Baghdad fell. Now we’re trying to get other friendly powers to share the policing burden, but Iraq is already a [quagmire].” Two months after President Bush declared the war over, the Pentagon budget assumptions expected to have cut back boots on Iraqi soil to 75,000 troops. Instead, some 150,000 are still deployed to police a country where underground, pro-Saddam resistance appears to be growing.

Republican strategists are ruing the day when more soldiers will have been killed in peacetime action than in the three-week war. Rosy forecasts of Iraqi oil fields pumping out almost 3 million barrels a day (bpd) by the end of 2003 and 5 million bpd by the following summer have snaffled. Some Republicans can see an economy still heading south and a budget deficit soaring more than $400 billion for the year.

Again, ranking Republicans can see the need for supplemental appropriations for a funding bill that has not yet been voted. Budget spending realities are now encroaching on creative bookkeeping.

The House of Saud has also taken a heady plunge back to Earth. Recent terrorist bombings in Riyadh by Islamist extremists shook the royal family, as September 11, 2001, never did. Some 100 prominent imams who preach “jihad,” or holy war, against Christian and Jewish heathens, have been called on the royal carpet and told to knock it off. Asked why this wasn’t done immediately after September 11, Saudi spokesmen deflect the question with “and look at what else we’ve done.”

The Wahhabi school curriculum is also being revised to eliminate all hateful references to Jews and Christians. For the first time in recent memory, Saudis now tell their American friends they feel sufficiently confident to tell the religious police to mind their own business when their wives are scolded for allowing hair to show.

Millions of Saudi-educated youth — as opposed to U.S.-educated elites — and millions of Pakistanis in the Saudi Wahhabi clergy-funded madrassas have been brainwashed to believe America and Israel are intrinsically evil. In 1979, the House of Saud reached a “concordat” with the fundamentalist Wahhabi clergy whereby the clerics pledged not to criticize the extravagant excesses of the royal family and in return the religious chiefs were given free rein to spread their gospel throughout the desert kingdom — and in countries far and near.

The Pakistani fundamentalist bandwagon got rolling in 1980, as the Soviets completed their occupation in Afghanistan. The U.S., Saudi Arabia and Pakistan (under President Zia ul-Haq) came up with a great idea to defeat the Soviet army of occupation. They agreed to try to undermine the loyalty of Soviet troops — at first, most of the units were drawn from the Soviet Union’s Muslim republics adjoining Afghanistan — by flooding them with the Koran and cheap drugs.

After the Soviets conceded defeat and pulled out of Afghanistan in February 1989, the message of hate was turned against the U.S. — for leaving Afghanistan in the lurch and for punishing Pakistan for its secret nuclear buildup.

Dick Clarke, Rand Beers’ predecessor in the White House, understood the global context of al Qaeda. He also knew there was no nexus between the charnel House of Saddam Hussein and the global terrorism of Osama bin Laden. The invasion of Iraq, like Afghanistan a Muslim country, could only spawn more fresh recruits for al Qaeda.

Maybe Mr. Beers is on to something.

Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large for The Washington Times and for United Press International.

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