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Spinning the CIA

President Bush has now ordered declassified the key judgments of the CIA's 2006 "National Intelligence Estimate" (PDF). The NIE, completed earlier this year, has become the subject in recent days of political spinning which is entirely inappropriate, and not related to a serious analysis of either the NIE or the terrorist threat. A full analysis of the document will have to come, but the issue of Iraq and its place as a "cause celebre" for jihadists has been spun as evidence that the Iraq war was making the terrorist threat worse.

This flawed logic, and ignorance of history, needs to be exposed - whatever the United States is doing most prominently to fight jihadist organizations at any given time will always be the "cause celebre" of global terrorism. Prior to 2003 it was Afghanistan; in the mainstream Arab media, the U.S.-led intervention in Afghanistan was largely presented as a "war on Afghanistan" and often as a "war on Islam." During the 1990s the United States was pressuring Israel to compromise politically with the Palestinians, but nevertheless we supported Israel's right to fight Hamas, Hizballah and other terrorist groups. And as a result, this was the most prominent issue raised by terrorist recruiters. It was common to hear in Arab discourse especially that the United States was waging war against the Palestinians.

This phenomenon is not limited to Muslim societies - in any war, one is always most likely to focus one's propoganda on the most publicly visible actions of one's enemy. This is true of the U.S., it is true of all, and the more effective a military action is at taking the war to the enemy, the more likely it is to be a rallying point. It is entirely logical for those hostile to us to resent such action; it is not logical for us to then cease to take action. The NIE does not say that the Iraq war itself is causing the spread of terrorism, only that it has become a rallying point. Acceptance of the spin we have seen in recent days would logically lead to not being able to take any action against global jihad.