As A General, He Makes A Passable Cleric

Moqtada al-Sadr has never shown himself to be much of a military genius. One of his first forays into the war in Iraq got scathing reviews from John Burns in April 2004, who got an unplanned visit with his forces. Now Sabrina Tavernise reports for the New York Times that Sadr has lost command over a significant portion of his Mahdi Army and can no longer impose his discipline on it:

The radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr has lost control of portions of his Mahdi Army militia that are splintering off into freelance death squads and criminal gangs, a senior coalition intelligence official said Wednesday.
The question of how tightly Mr. Sadr holds the militia, one of the largest armed groups in Iraq, is of critical importance to American and Iraqi officials. Seeking to ease the sectarian violence raging across the country, they have pressed him to join the political process and curb his fighters, who see themselves as defenders of Shiism — and often as agents of vengeance against Sunnis.
But as Mr. Sadr has taken a more active role in the government, as many as a third of his militiamen have grown frustrated with the constraints of compromise and have broken off, often selling their services to the highest bidders, said the official, who spoke to reporters in Baghdad on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to speak publicly on intelligence issues.
“When Sadr says you can’t do this, for whatever political reason, that’s when they start to go rogue,” the official said. “Frankly, at that point, they start to become very open to alternative sources of sponsorship.” The official said that opened the door to control by Iran.

Sadr has never covered himself in glory on the battlefield, and this demonstrates that his strength may be largely illusory. Some Shi’ites like his ability to attack Sunnis, but it appears now that he may be getting too much credit. The Mahdi Army has a weak command structure and the operations it conducts look more like free-lancing as a rule. Under those circumstances, the surprise isn’t that some have spun off their own operations, but that he could wield much power at all.
Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has more respect and devotion from the Shi’ites than Sadr. Sadr has political power, but only because Sistani refused to enter into electoral politics. Sadr’s weak position prompted him to align with Iran — which would have been natural in any case — but it has brought unintended consequences. The Sunnis have realized that Iran would have too much power with Sadr in control, and now they want the Americans to stick around. Sistani would have counseled self-sufficiency and independence from Iran, but Sadr argues for Teheran’s influence.
Once again, we see that Sadr has a bigger reputation than he’s due. Whether his Shi’ite allies who reject Iran see this, we don’t know. If they do, they may start arranging for a one-way ticket to his 72 virgins.

Uptick For George Allen

Despite the mudslinging in the Virginia Senate race, or perhaps because of it, George Allen actually gained traction against his challenger Jim Webb in the latest Survey USA polling. Real Clear Politics’ John McIntyre notes that Allen now leads Webb by five points, 49-44, a slight uptick from two weeks ago (48-45) and two weeks before that. It shows that Virginia voters have more sophistication than the perpetrators of the smear campaign against Allen calculated.
I’ll continue to keep an eye on developments in the Allen/Webb campaign, but hopefully this will convince the mudslingers that they’re wasting their time.
UPDATE: I managed to miss this Washington Post article when I first posted this, but this seems likely to end the entire N-word mudslinging:

Webb’s comments to the Times-Dispatch prompted Allen campaign officials to direct a reporter to Dan Cragg, a former acquaintance of Webb’s, who said Webb used the word while describing his own behavior during his freshman year at the University of Southern California in the early 1960s. Webb later transferred to the U.S. Naval Academy.
Cragg, 67, who lives in Fairfax County, said on Wednesday that Webb described taking drives through the black neighborhood of Watts, where he and members of his ROTC unit used racial epithets and pointed fake guns at blacks to scare them.
“They would hop into their cars, and would go down to Watts with these buddies of his,” Cragg said Webb told him. “They would take the rifles down there. They would call then [epithets], point the rifles at them, pull the triggers and then drive off laughing. One night, some guys caught them and beat . . . them. And that was the end of that.”

Is this relevant? It’s as relevant as conversations Allen purportedly had with his football teammates thirty years ago … which is to say, not relevant at all. It’s as relevant as Webb’s inclusion of the N-word in his published fiction, which he lists on his CV for political office.
But what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Webb told people yesterday that he never used the N-word as an insult directed at people, and if what Cragg says is true, then Webb lied. Webb refused to answer whether he’s ever used the word at all, and since it’s in his novel, one can understand his reluctance.
As for me, I’d much rather talk about the issues that face the Senate over the next six years instead of conversations long since dead involving both candidates. Let’s stop the mudslinging and debate the real issues.

New Offensive Brewing In Gaza

The London Telegraph reports that Palestinian militants have acquired tons of explosives and perhaps even advanced missiles, preparing for a showdown with the IDF they expect to come if Gilad Shalit is not freed soon. The terrorists want to emulate Hezbollah’s attack against the Israelis and have upgraded their weapons systems with that in mind:

Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip are rearming and retraining for an imminent military showdown with the Israeli army, intelligence sources disclosed yesterday.
Yuval Diskin, the head of Israel’s intelligence service Shin Bet, said 19 tons of explosives had been smuggled into Gaza in the past year. Other senior Israeli officials indicated that Palestinian fighters were acquiring more effective weapons. …
Brigadier General Shalom Harari, a military intelligence officer, said yesterday that Israeli forces might “go into Gaza in a big way” unless Cpl Shalit is freed. Accusing Iran of being behind the new weapons drive, he said Teheran had found willing partners in Palestinian fighters. …
While Palestinian groups have boasted of a home-grown anti-tank missile known as the Batar, intelligence officials in Israel dismissed it. But they revealed that militants have replaced the RPG7, the standard rocket propelled grenade, with upgraded versions that can pierce Merkava tanks. “They want to bring in weapons that ‘break the equation’ of our military superiority,” said one intelligence official. “They want to be able to attack symbols of our power like the Merkava tank, the Apache helicopter, offshore missile boats and armoured bulldozers.”
In particular, the officials said, Palestinian militants have a “real appetite” to adopt Hizbollah tactics from the war in Lebanon, when Russian-built Kornet missiles proved deadly against tanks on the battlefield while longer-range Katyushas were directed at towns inside Israel.

Well, it’s no secret that the Palestinians have been itching for this fight for some time. They got one when they kidnapped Shalit and killed two other soldiers in their tunneling incursion earlier this summer, then sat back as the IDF dismantled Gaza searching for Shalit. Now they want another round against the IDF after believing the hype from the Hezbollah War that pre-empted their own.
Best of luck, fellas. The quaint notion that Hassan Nasrallah won anything in that war was belied by the hiding places from which he issued his triumphal announcements. Nasrallah couldn’t even attend his own victory party without the Israelis commenting with some amusement that they probably wouldn’t shoot him with a number of innocent bystanders attending the rally.
Those kind of victories Israel can abide.
However, if the Palestinians do not return Shalit, they will get the war they want. The IDF learned a few things in the sub-Litani region as well, and hopefully so did Ehud Olmert. If Gaza starts launching sophisticated new missiles at Ashkelon, the Israelis will have plenty of reason and opportunity to roll right back into Gaza to have their little war. They’re going to find out that 19 tons of explosives don’t go nearly as far in war as it does in terrorist attacks.

House Sends Detainee Bill To Senate

The controversial legislation that establishes military tribunals and the rules for trying captured terrorists passed the House yesterday afternoon, on a somewhat bipartisan vote. It now heads to the Senate for debate, but so far it appears to have enough support to pass:

The House this afternoon approved a new approach to interrogating and trying terror suspects and the Senate opened debate on the legislation, as Congress sought to create a system that could wring information from terrorists and bring them to justice in a way that meets court scrutiny.
Despite serious objections from some Democrats and a few Republicans, the legislation appeared headed to approval, delivering Republicans and President Bush one of the accomplishments on national security they hoped to achieve before the election. The bill passed the House by a vote of 253 to 168.
“The time to act is now,” said Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, as he opened the Senate debate after reaching an agreement with Democrats to limit efforts the alter the bill and bring it to a vote as early as Thursday.
Backers of the measure said the legislation — sought by President Bush after the Supreme Court in June struck down the administration’s system for trying detainees — would guarantee terror suspects adequate rights while not hindering the interrogators who seek information from them. …
Leading Democrats said the bill would allow the Bush administration to detain suspects indefinitely without offering them any appeal in court and could result in government-sanctioned mistreatment of detainees. They predicted it would be again thrown out by the Supreme Court, leaving the United States remaining without a system to try terrorists after a wait that has already extended five years beyond the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The House version got more support than I would have predicted. It passed 253-168, with 34 Democrats joining all but 7 Republicans in approval. Only 12 failed to cast a vote on HR 6166, and one of them was Bob Ney, who just pled guilty to corruption charges and has not participated in Congress of late. One of the Democrats supporting the bill was Colln Peterson of Minnesota.
Most Democrats opposed the bill and most will do so in the Senate during the upcoming debate, and they will have some Republicans for company. Arlen Specter has already said that he has serious objections to the bill, although he did say that it had substantially improved since its first drafts. The concessions came from White House negotiations with John McCain and Lindsay Graham, among others, but whether it attracts any significant cross-aisle support remains to be seen. Most of the objections of Democrats come from the interrogation techniques it still allows, while Specter complained about evidentiary and procedural rules for the tribunals.
We have been kept safe by the use of strenuous interrogations that have yielded information that saved hundreds or thousands of American lives. I don’t believe we should torture people, but techniques such as sleep deprivation and cold rooms simply don’t qualify. Even waterboarding, to which McCain objects so vociferously, causes no damage other than panic and is used in training our own pilots. No one has suggested that the military tortures its officers through the use of this training. If it’s good enough for our own men and women in uniform, then it should be good enough for the terrorists.
I’m with Duncan Hunter, who pointed out that these terrorists are not analogous to criminals in our civil justice system. They have explicitly made war against the United States and as such have waived any benefits of our system of justice. The sole aim of these tribunals should only be to ensure that no mistake of identity has been made. We owe them nothing, and our goal should be efficiency. If they have representation and we have basic rules of due process, that’s better than the societies from which they came and towards which they persevere in their terrorism.
Note: The New York Times has an interesting method of reporting this story. Note that they have three quotes in opposition to the bill and only one in support of it.

Why Doesn’t Page Six Take A Big Whiff Itself?

Let’s make one point clear at the beginning of this post: I cannot stand Keith Olbermann. I couldn’t stand his pretentious, egotistical sportscasting when I first saw him in Los Angeles, and thought he only improved marginally at ESPN’s SportsCenter. He has long since jumped the shark regarding reason and rationality and uses his MS-NBC gig as a venting mechanism for both his ego and his hatreds. Unless one partakes of the most poisonous political Kool-Aid, he’s unwatchable.
All that being said, Olbermann is human, and a feigned terrorist attack on him goes waaaaaay beyond the pale. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the New York Post’s Page Six belittles him for checking with a doctor to be sure (emphases mine):

MSNBC loudmouth Keith Olbermann flipped out when he opened his home mail yesterday. The acerbic host of “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” was terrified when he opened a suspicious-looking letter with a California postmark and a batch of white powder poured out. A note inside warned Olbermann, who’s a frequent critic of President Bush’s policies, that it was payback for some of his on-air shtick. The caustic commentator panicked and frantically called 911 at about 12:30 a.m., sources told The Post’s Philip Messing. An NYPD HazMat unit rushed to Olbermann’s pad on Central Park South, but preliminary tests indicated the substance was harmless soap powder. However, that wasn’t enough to satisfy Olbermann, who insisted on a checkup. He asked to be taken to St. Luke’s Hospital, where doctors looked him over and sent him home. Whether they gave him a lollipop on the way out isn’t known. Olbermann had no comment.

This is appalling, and it’s inexcusable.
If I opened up an envelope and found white powder inside, I’d damned sure call 911. I don’t call that “panic”, I call it common sense. If I dialed 911, I’d dial it fast, and perhaps even frantically, considering that my family could have been exposed to a deadly chemical or biological attack. And even if preliminary tests indicated that it was 99 44/100th percent pure Ivory Soap, I think I’d be smart enough to have a doctor run a few tests on me just to be sure.
And if Paula Froelich didn’t have the exact same reaction if it happened to her, I’d eat my hat.
I don’t know what Froelich was thinking when she wrote this piece. Olbermann has surely slammed the Post on a number of occasions, perhaps even in personal ways. That doesn’t excuse Froelich from belittling someone who had good cause to be frightened, especially considering the level of animosity he provokes. The anthrax attacks in 2001 went to media offices, something Froelich fails to mention in her schoolground rant.
Being partisan is one thing. Being inhuman is something else entirely.
UPDATE: It’s even more despicable than I first thought. Hugh Hewitt reminded me that one of the media outlets hit by the September 2001 anthrax attacks was — the New York Post:

A second case of cutaneous (skin) anthrax has been confirmed at the New York Post, sources told CNN Wednesday. The victim is a mailroom worker.
The sources said the anthrax apparently came from the same letter that infected Post editorial assistant Johanna Huden.
It was postmarked September 18 at Trenton, New Jersey, with block-style lettering similar to anthrax-tainted letters sent to NBC Anchor Tom Brokaw in New York and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle in Washington. It had no return address.
The mailroom worker was wearing gloves but contracted it on his forearm, the sources said.

Rick Moran, my long-lost brother, wouldn’t wish this on his worst enemy, and tries to remind people that the US is not a banana republic. He says Froelich should get fired; the Post at least owes Olbermann an apology.
UPDATE II: Patterico agrees with Rick and I. A family reunion? If so, count Ed Driscoll in. Also, Joe Gandelman has a roundup of blogger reactions.
UPDATE III: I have to say I’m pretty amused by the notion that this was a big publicity stunt by Olbermann. How is that supposed to work? Olbermann never said a word about it until after the Page Six article; according to Olbermann, he was asked to keep it quiet by investigators, and he did. Now people want us to believe that he committed this big stunt — including, by the way, a false police report and 911 call — but then kept his mouth shut hoping that the New York Post would become his publicist.
I understand why people dislike Keith Olbermann, but this is really ridiculous. Publicity stunts usually involve the seeking of publicity.
Also, someone questioned the part of the Page Six report about hazmat suits being worn by the responders. If it turns out to be false, then that reflects on Page Six and not Olbermann, who after all didn’t report the incident in the media.

Party Time In The Twin Cities!

I decided to do a little lunch-time blogging, which I normally avoid these days, and it turns out I picked the right moment for it. The AP reports that the Republican Party has selected the Twin Cities for its 2008 national convention:

The four-day event will be held at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., home of the National Hockey League’s Minnesota Wild.
By choosing the Twin Cities for 2008, the GOP will ensure plenty of news converge in media markets in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa _ all battleground states in the 2004 election and ones expected to be competitive in the next presidential race.
Minnesota had been seen by some as an unlikely host, with just 10 electoral votes and the nation’s longest streak of voting for Democratic presidential candidates.
In 2004, Democrat John Kerry won the state 51 percent to 48 percent. The last Republican to win a presidential race in the state was Richard Nixon in 1972 and the last national convention happened in when the GOP backed President Benjamin Harrison in an unsuccessful re-election bid.
But Minnesota’s national image as a traditional Democratic bastion has become outdated and the state was a hard-fought battleground in 2004 and 2000. Republicans hope to court voters in a region Republican and Democratic strategists alike say will play a critical role in winning the White House in 2008.

This is a smart move, and not just because it will take place about 20 minutes from my house. Minnesota has been turning purple for the last few elections, and our neighbor Wisconsin even more so. This selection will motivate the state GOP even more than before and will have an impact throughout the entire Upper Midwest. Iowa barely went to the GOP in 2004, and Wisconsin barely went to the Democrats.
Norm Coleman will run for re-election in 2008, and he’s expected to square off against Al Franken for the Democrats. Regardless of his opponent, though, the Democrats will work hard to take the seat from the GOP, especially if Mark Kennedy can beat Amy Klobuchar this November. It will also spotlight Governor Tim Pawlenty, who has built a solid approval rating and demonstrated an ability to work across party lines to get things done — even if it has irritated Republicans here. Having the GOP at the Xcel Center will also remind people that Norm Coleman got that facility built and helped energize the economy of Saint Paul.
Needless to say, my fellow bloggers will be delighted to have the convention in our back yard. I had a great time in New York in 2004, and we’ll have fun showing off our state capital to bloggers from around the country. The only way this could get better is if the Democrats decide to show up here as well.
What a great piece of lunchtime news!

Egypt Loses Patience With Hamas

Egypt sent a “strongly-worded letter” to Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal after seeing its attempts to resolve the Gaza crisis come to naught. The letter demands that Mashaal release kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, and Hamas to form a unity government with Mahmoud Abbas:

Egypt has demanded that Hamas immediately release kidnapped IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit to avoid a worsening crisis in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian officials and Arab diplomats said.
The Egyptian demand came in a “strongly worded letter” from Egypt’s powerful intelligence chief Omar Suleiman to the Syrian-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, the officials said Tuesday.
The letter also demanded Hamas cooperate fully with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in forming a national unity government, a step that has been stalled by the Hamas’ refusal to form an administration that recognizes Israel.
The message reflected increasing impatience with Hamas by Egypt, which has been mediating for months, trying to reach a deal on a prisoner swap for Shalit, who is being held by Hamas-allied militants in Gaza.

Egypt wants an end to the Gaza situation for fairly obvious reasons. One, Gaza’s border with Egypt has become the focal point of escape attempts by Palestinians, a migration that Egypt would prefer to stop. Secondly, the escalation in violence in Gaza fires up the radical Islamists in Hosni Mubarak’s country, a constituency that threatens to undermine his rule. It also puts pressure on his normalized relations with Israel and the aid that generates from the US.
This underscores a split in the region that has accelerated of late. Egypt, Jordan, and Kuwait have moved significantly towards the center and away from their more radical neighbors. They want continued trade with the West and a reasonable plan for peace in the Palestinian territories. Syria and Iran want confrontation, the latter in a millenial fashion. Saudi Arabia leans towards the moderates, depending on the time of day, and the rest have decided to wait and see. Even Pakistan, whose military dwarfs almost all of them, wants to recognize Israel when the time is right (via It Shines For All).
If Hamas transforms itself away from terrorism, then the split may soon disappear, but don’t count on that happening. If not, which seems much more likely, then Hamas will soon see a large portion of its political support disappear, and in the case of Egypt, that will have an immediate impact on Gazans. Mashaal had better consider his next steps very carefully.

The View From The Western Street

Max Boot turns the tables on a hackneyed concept that has bedeviled the West whenever discussing strategies to fight terror. Instead of writing another warning about the “Arab street”, Boot warns Muslims about their relative silence in the age of Islamist terrorism and its effect on the “Western street”. He writes in the Los Angeles Times that unless moderate Muslims start taking a much more active role against Islamism, the West will have no choice but to conclude that Islam is incompatible with peace:

EVER SINCE 9/11, a dark view of Islam has been gaining currency on what might be called the Western street. This view holds that, contrary to the protestations of our political leaders — who claim that acts of terrorism are being carried out by a minority of extremists — the real problem lies with Islam itself. In this interpretation, Islam is not a religion of peace but of war, and its 1.2 billion adherents will never rest until all of humanity is either converted, subjugated or simply annihilated.
Is the war on terrorism really a “clash of civilizations”? The overreaction to Pope Benedict XVI’s relatively innocuous remarks at the University of Regensburg on Sept. 12 would seem to lend weight to this alarming notion. …
Muslim spokesmen claim that these are unconscionable slurs. Yet, while demanding respect for their own religion, too many Muslims accord too little respect to competing faiths or even to competing brands of their own faith.
Where are the demonstrations in the Muslim street when the president of Iran denies the Holocaust and calls for the destruction of Israel? Or when Palestinian kidnappers force two Western journalists to convert to Islam at gunpoint? Or when Sunni terrorists in Iraq bomb Shiite mosques and slaughter hundreds of worshipers? All too many Islamic leaders prefer to harp on the supposed sins of the “infidels,” however exaggerated or even fictionalized (no, the CIA didn’t bomb the World Trade Center to create an excuse for invading Afghanistan), rather than focusing on the problems within their own umma (community).

Boot focuses on an aspect of the war on terror that too often gets dismissed in a drizzle of political correctness. People rush to excuse Muslims from the war by emphasizing that Islam is a “religion of peace”, a phrase that finds so much repetition that some are now tempted to put it into title caps and stick a trademark notation on it. This comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of the faith; it does not value peace as much as it values submission, and even its prophet insisted that his mandate included gaining that submission by force.
As Boot points out, though, that does not translate to every Muslim being a fanatic and a purveyor of violence in pursuit of religion. Islam had its Golden Age at the height of its expansion. Muslims allowed people of other faiths to live relatively unmolested, certainly more so than did the Christians of the same era, although they still had to submit to the authority of Islam, at least publicly. Upon capturing Jerusalem, the Crusaders committed a ghastly genocide, killing almost all of the non-Christians in the city. When Saladin recaptured the city, he refrained from returning the favor.
Since then, the two cultures have moved in opposite directions. While Christianity eventually reformed itself, Islam grew more moribund. The Renaissance and Reformation allowed Christendom to pursue scientific and political reforms that greatly expanded the knowledge of man and the liberty of the individual. Islam, which had led scientific progress for an age, grew hidebound and refused to look past the Qur’an for answers, an impulse that continues to this day. Islam has never experienced a Reformation, nor Arab cultures a Renaissance, and the difference has created the “clash of civilizations” of which Huntingdon warned the West.
The West has to demand that Reformation, and we have to quit relying on passive-aggressive PC platitudes to do it. The Pope’s Regensburg speech, the Danish Prophet cartoons, and the Mozart opera cancellation all comprise symptoms of the same disease. Until Muslims publicly demand freedom of speech and thought, then the West will consider them complicit with the Islamist impulse to smother freedom and liberty under a wave of violence and intimidation. After five years, we should have realized that repeating mantras like “religion of peace” does not transform submission into tolerance. If we want tolerance, we have to be more straightforward in demanding it.

Russia Rejects Putin Power Extension

In a setback to a movement attempting to get Vladimir Putin a de facto lifetime term as the ruler of Russia, its top election authority has barred a referendum eliminating term limits for the presidency. This appears to put an end to the draft-Putin efforts started by those who appreciate Putin’s rollback of democracy:

Russia’s top election authority on Wednesday threw out a call for a people’s poll that would clear the way for President Vladimir Putin to stay on in power, making it more likely he will step down as he plans in 2008.
Putin has said repeatedly he will abide by the constitution that restricts a head of state to serving two consecutive four-year terms in power at any one time, and go in 2008.
But this has not stopped supporters from urging the 53-year-old Putin to stay on and in the latest such move a group from a southern Russian region formally sought a referendum to get the two-term rule scrapped.
Rejecting the move, Russia’s election chief Alexander Veshnyakov said: “None of the members of the Central Election Commission, none of the experts, have any doubts that the question in its present form cannot be used for a referendum.”

Supporters of the referendum want Putin to remain in office to “continue the reforms which have begun”, among which are the state’s seizure of private oil companies and the elimination of direct elections for regional governors. Putin’s fans might call these “reforms”, but to the rest of the world it looks much more like a dangerous consolidation of power. The former KGB leader has worked to re-establish an authoritarian government in Moscow, and only term limits will force him to relinquish the reins.
The Central Election Commission’s decision will meet with stiff resistance. Putin remains popular; estimates of his support have varied from 59% to 70%, making the temptation for the referendum all the more irresistible. While Putin has declared that he will not press to change the law limiting his term in office, he has certainly allowed the impression that he would respond to a popular demand for an extension. He is a young man in political terms — especially given Russia’s late-20th-century history — and even out of office will overshadow any potential successor, especially if Putin hand-picks him.
The CEC showed courage in adhering to their constitution. Whether it stops Putin remains to be seen. If he leaves office willingly, it’s only because he has secured his grip on power through more covert means.

The Real NIE Revelations

The Bush administration’s decision to declassify the conclusions of the National Intelligence Estimate yesterday revealed two truths about politics and the intelligence community, neither of which appear very complimentary. First, the Democrats allowed themselves to get outfoxed on national security yet again by allowing themselves to get hysterical and seriously misrepresent the conclusions of the NIE. As the Washington Post reports, Democrats made a lot of extraordinary claims about the NIE, which the report itself doesn’t support:

President Bush took the extraordinary step of releasing portions of the classified report, which was completed in April, to counter assertions made after information from the document was leaked to media outlets over the weekend. Reports based on those leaks said the report blames the war in Iraq for worsening the global terrorist threat — an interpretation that the administration calls a distortion of its contents.
Speaking at a White House news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Bush angrily called the leak a political act intended to affect the upcoming midterm elections. “Somebody has taken it upon themselves to leak classified information for political purposes,” he said. …
For the third straight day, Democrats sought to draw attention to the issue with news conferences and political maneuvers. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) moved to put the House into secret session to discuss the intelligence estimate, but the motion was defeated along party lines.
“With such a devastating and authoritative analysis of the Bush administration’s failures in Iraq, the president and the Republican-controlled Congress now have a choice to make,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.). “Will they stubbornly follow a failed stay-the-course strategy that America’s intelligence community has concluded makes America less safe, or will they finally admit their mistakes and change course?”

In fact, the NIE doesn’t offer any conclusions about successes or failures at present or in the past regarding Iraq. The actual conclusions of the intelligence community about Iraq take up one paragraph and one bullet point in the four-page document, and both do not assess the success or failure of the Coalition. It does, however, point out the consequences of both in the future:

We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives; perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere.
• The Iraq conflict has become the “cause celebre” for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.

It also lists the Iraq “jihad” as one of four main factors that fuel the spread of jihadism across the region, but note the other three:

Four underlying factors are fueling the spread of the jihadist movement: (1) Entrenched grievances, such as corruption, injustice, and fear of Western domination, leading to anger, humiliation, and a sense of powerlessness; (2) the Iraq “jihad”; (3) the slow pace of real and sustained economic, social, and political reforms in many Muslim majority nations; and (4) pervasive anti-US sentiment among most Muslims – all of which jihadists exploit.

Factors one and three are directly impacted by the American forward policy of engagement that led to factor two. The “neocon” impulse to use democratization as a method to reform the area addresses both of these factors. Self-government allows Arabs to determine their own foreign-policy goals and gives Arabs the tools to eliminate corruption and injustice, or at least to greatly reduce it from Ba’athist levels of the past. Democratization also brings political reforms and a free market that resolves many of the oppressive triggers for radicalization by giving individual Arabs the freedom to create and own their own property and to protect it.
This is why we have to endure the Iraqi “jihad” until we succeed. The insurgency will collapse when Iraqis grow strong enough to defend themselves and rebuild their infrastructure in peace. In fact, no other strategy could possibly address factors one and three. Even if we packed up and walked out of Iraq, those factors would still exist — as they have for decades — and the fourth factor would remain from our economic engagement with the oppressive regimes that control the region. We have an opportunity to address all four factors by prevailing in Iraq.
What do the Democrats offer? Withdrawal from the one theater in which we face our terrorist enemy and the one place that has to replace a missing tyrant. If we continue our resolve, we can firm up a democracy as Saddam’s replacement and begin to address the factors that drive jihadism. As the NIE concludes, a victory in Iraq would seriously damage the radical Islamist movement, perhaps even mortally. We have no chance to strike a blow against them by retreating. Democrats have badly misrepresented this report and offer the one solution guaranteed to result in making the problem worse — as the NIE also concludes.