- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 28, 2006

Twice in recent weeks, we have been treated to more examples of how far some in the mainstream media and congressional Democrats are prepared to go in order to score political points against President Bush and the war in Iraq. Earlier this month, the Senate Intelligence Committee — or more precisely a majority comprised of the panel’s Democrats and Republican Sens. Chuck Hagel and Olympia Snowe — released a report about the flaws in prewar intelligence that appears to whitewash evidence of Saddam Hussein’s links to al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. Then on Sunday, the New York Times and The Washington Post ran front-page stories selectively quoting from a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) in an effort to show that the war in Iraq was responsible for creating a new generation of terrorists.

According to the banner headline of Sunday’s NYT story, for example, the NIE (which represents the joint findings of 16 intelligence services) concluded that the Iraq war “Worsens Terrorist Threat.” The lead paragraph of the NYT story said that “the American occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism.” To no one’s surprise, the media responded with a torrent of handwringing about how the NIE supposedly shows that: 1) We are losing the larger war on terror; 2) The number of terrorists is growing, fueled by anger at our decision to invade Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein; and 3) Our decision to invade Iraq has provided the enemy with an extraordinary “training ground” for future attacks.

There are a number of problems with these arguments. One is that al Qaeda and like-minded jihadist networks were growing throughout the 1990s — well before the invasion of Iraq. Does anyone believe that if the United States had confined post-September 11 military operations to Afghanistan, for example, that jihadists would hate us any less, and would refrain from using that country as a “training ground” for future attacks? And then there was the fact that the reporters in question had not seen the actual NIE, but were reporting based on the selective leaks from Democratic spinners and Bush critics in the intelligence community. So, Mr. Bush decided to declassify the key judgements made by the NIE, and it turns out that it also concluded that that real, tangible gains could be won in the war in Iraq.

Although the report is marred by a stilted, pedestrian writing style, it nonetheless points to significant jihadist vulnerabilities, including increased opposition from non-jihadist Muslims, and the danger that a defeat in Iraq would leave fewer Islamists “inspired to carry on the fight” for global jihad. But the report’s actual findings did not prevent the NYT from editorializing nonetheless that the declassified information showed the invasion of Iraq to have been a “cataclysmic disaster.”

This is just the latest example of how antiwar politicians and the press work in tandem. Mr. Hagel and Mrs. Snowe recently joined with all six Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats to issue a report concluding that Saddam Hussein was “resistant” to cooperating with al Qaeda. In order to reach this conclusion, the Intelligence panel voted 8-7 to remove from the report a statement by Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Iraq, about an American military raid on Salman Pak, which had been a training center for foreign jihadists during Saddam’s rule: “This raid occurred in response to information that had been gained by coalition forces from some foreign fighters we encountered from other countries, not Iraq. It reinforces the likelihood of links between [Saddam’s] regime and external terrorist organizations, clear links with common interests.” But Gen. Brooks’ statement didn’t match the majority’s agenda, so out it went.

In his “additional views,” committee Chairman Pat Roberts noted that the panel’s conclusions “are not supported by fact.”

But the committee majority’s flawed, tendentious treatment of the issue has not prevented the media from repeatedly citing its findings as authoritative. When it comes to intelligence matters these days, the real “cherry-pickers” are on the left. But what they choose to pick are the pits — not the cherry.

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