Last week, President Bush dismissed a bleak assessment on Iraq prepared in July by the National Intelligence Council (NIC) as "just guessing as to what the conditions might be like." (Bush later said he should have used the word "estimate" instead, but continues to insist that Iraq is on a path of steady success. Note to media: please ignore this vacillation when discussing the president's "clarity" and "resolve.")
But the record shows that estimates on post-war Iraq prepared by the NIC – a group White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan dismissed as pessimists and naysayers – have been extraordinarily accurate. An NIC report prepared two months before the war began, and first reported in the New York Times this morning, "warned of a possible insurgency against the new Iraqi government or American-led forces, saying that rogue elements from Saddam Hussein's government could work with existing terrorist groups or act independently to wage guerrilla warfare." The report also warned that a war "would increase sympathy across the Islamic world for some terrorist objectives." Twenty months later, "the warnings about anti-American sentiment and instability appear to have been upheld by events."
Speaking yesterday at George Washington University, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) said, "The Bush administration's failure to shut down al-Qaeda and rebuild Iraq have fueled the insurgency and made the United States more vulnerable to a nuclear attack by terrorists." Kennedy said the shift in attention from al Qaeda to Iraq "has made the mushroom cloud more likely, not less likely."
On Thursday, President Bush claimed that "nearly 100,000 fully trained and equipped Iraqi soldiers, police officers, and other security personnel are working today." But last Monday, the Pentagon said that "only about 53,000 of the 100,000 Iraqis on duty have now undergone training." According to Pentagon documents obtained by Reuters, of the 90,000 in the police force "only 8,169 have received full training." The White House, inexplicably, stands by its 100,000 figure.
President Bush has long insisted that Iraq is now the central battle in the global war on terrorism. But, according to the U.S. military's own assessment, "the Iraqi insurgency remains primarily a home-grown problem." (Even as scores of foreign terrorists pour across the border.) According to top military officials, "loyalists of Saddam Hussein's regime – who have swelled their ranks in recent months as ordinary Iraqis bristle at the U.S. military presence in Iraq – represent the far greater threat to the country's fragile 3-month-old government" than foreign fighters. According to the U.S. military, "Iraqi officials tended to exaggerate the number of foreign fighters in Iraq to obscure the fact that large numbers of their countrymen have taken up arms against U.S. troops and the American-backed interim Iraqi government."
In an interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro, Jordan's King Abdullah – one of the Bush administration's closest allies – said, "It appears to me impossible to organize indisputable elections in the chaos currently reigning in Iraq." Abdullah stressed that "partial elections which excluded cities such as Falluja could isolate Sunni Muslims, saying that could create even deeper divisions in the country." Last week, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld raised the possibility that elections could be excluded from dangerous parts of the country.