NIEs, Nays, Neighs

If anyone ever writes an opera about the Bush Administration (hey, there’s one about Nixon!), I foresee a scene in which a pile of shit is hauled into the White House (Josh Bolten: Osservi, un altro mucchio di defecazione!). Then Karl Rove appears with a shovel, promising to find the pony (Non si preoccupi! Posso trovare il piccolo cavallo!).

This scene might be written around a story by Walter Pincus and Karen DeYoung in today’s Washington Post:

In announcing yesterday that he would release the key judgments of a controversial National Intelligence Estimate, President Bush said he agreed with the document’s conclusion “that because of our successes against the leadership of al-Qaeda, the enemy is becoming more diffuse and independent.”

But the estimate itself posits no such cause and effect. Instead, while it notes that counterterrorism efforts have seriously damaged and disrupted al-Qaeda’s leadership, it describes the spreading “global jihadist movement” as fueled largely by forces that al-Qaeda exploits but is not actively directing. They include Iraq, corrupt and unjust governments in Muslim-majority countries, and “pervasive anti-U.S. sentiment among most Muslims.”

The overall estimate is bleak, with minor notes of optimism. It depicts a movement that is likely to grow more quickly than the West’s ability to counter it over the next five years, as the Iraq war continues to breed “deep resentment” throughout the Muslim world, shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and cultivating new supporters for their ideology.

In describing Iraq as “the ’cause celebre’ for jihadists,” the document judges that real and perceived insurgent successes there will “inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere,” while losses would have the opposite effect.

That last sentence amounts to a hoofprint, if not the pony itself. Today Bush apologists expand on the theme that insurgent losses would discourage jihadists to continue the struggle elsewhere, and from there reach the conclusion (as in this Chicago Tribune editorial) that “America’s intervention, in short, is a lot of Mideast thugs’ worst nightmare.”

Damn, some people can find a pony anywhere.

The actual declassified portion of the NIE offers a few sentences of hope that the spread of extremism can yet be stopped. Today some rightie bloggers have seized these sentences — in effect, cherry-picking what was already cherry picked by the White House — to suggest the NIE vindicates Bush policy in Iraq. It takes some mighty shoveling to reach that pony, folks.

Joshua Holland comments:

…here’s the money quote, and the argument we’ll hear from the right’s echo chamber from now until the election:

    In addition, it asserts that if jihadists are perceived to be defeated in Iraq, “fewer fighters would be inspired to carry on the fight.”

Bingo! There’s your justification for an indefinite occupation of Iraq: we have to stay the course until we achieve a “victory” that will so demoralize the “global jihadist movement” that they’ll take their ball and go home.

The fatal flaw in this argument is that America lumps every Islamic political movement that opposes the occupation together and calls them “jihadists.” There’s the rub, because “victory” would mean, of course, a political victory, and in order to actually achieve political stability in Iraq some of those we’ve defined as jihadists would have to be involved in the country’s governance.

What the intelligence analysis is saying — and this is almost certainly true — is that if Iraq were to end up with a pro-U.S., largely secular unity government without any influence from Iran, Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi army, the Badr Brigade or any of the dozen other Iraqi religious groups — Shiite and Sunni — that have opposed the U.S. presence — if all of those elements were effectively wiped out — it would be so demoralizing that Iraq would lose all of its potency as a recruiting tool.

But that particular scenario is never, ever, going to happen — not in a million years. It’s a Catch-22: aside from the fact that a legitimate government has almost zero chance of emerging under U.S. military occupation, if it did it would certainly require that a large chunk of the Iraqi opposition come into the political fold.

And as long as people like Sadr, who’s been called a radical militant and a criminal by the U.S. for three years, have a seat at the table when U.S. troops leave, they’ll make the claim that they defeated the Great Satan and they’ll be hailed as heroes across the Islamic world. Their resistance will be seen as a model for opposing superpower bullying and that’ll just create a thousand new recruiting posters for extremists everywhere.

At last week’s Clinton Global Initiative conference, speaker after speaker said that military actions like the U.S. invasion of Iraq are spreading extremism. Keep this in mind while reading this part of the NIE:

_The jihadists’ greatest vulnerability is that their ultimate political solution — an ultraconservative interpretation of Shariah-based governance spanning the Muslim world — is unpopular with the vast majority of Muslims. Exposing the religious and political straitjacket that is implied by the jihadists’ propaganda would help to divide them from the audiences they seek to persuade.

_Recent condemnations of violence and extremist religious interpretations by a few notable Muslim clerics signal a trend that could facilitate the growth of a constructive alternative to jihadist ideology: peaceful political activism. This also could lead to the consistent and dynamic participation of broader Muslim communities in rejecting violence, reducing the ability of radicals to capitalize on passive community support. In this way, the Muslim mainstream emerges as the most powerful weapon in the war on terror.

Exactly. But every time the Muslim mainstream hears about torture of Islamic prisoners or “coalition” bombs dropping on a Muslim wedding or Muslim families wiped out by Marines who are breaking down from stress, that Muslim mainstream gets a little smaller and weaker. And this is the point righties cannot get into their stupid heads.

I recommend reading the transcript or watching the video of this CGI session from last Thursday. Here’s just a bit, spoken by Queen Rania of Jordan:

I would like to say for example, like two months ago, before the war in Lebanon began. Here’s Lebanon, which is made up of a group of people that are peace-loving. They are very moderate and open and modern by nature. They are the natural allies to the global community. Then this war took place. And innocent civilians were seeing, on a daily basis, bodies of babies being put into plastic bags. The vital infrastructure was destroyed. A quarter of the population was displaced. And I can say that over the course of two months, the Arab public became much more radicalized. Because they saw this injustice. They saw this grief. And even the moderates, what we thought was a moderate majority started to shrink, and you can see this shrinking taking place. And the extreme voices came out as the victorious ones. And you could see that the voice of moderation, the voices that called for peace and diplomacy and engagement, they are losing currency. They are being marginalized.

So, if you want to strengthen the moderates, we have to see ― people have to see the dividends of moderation. They have to see the dividends of peace. And now, they are not seeing them. So again, I just want to say that if we want to gain the moderates, if we want to increase ― it’s almost percentages, you know. The percentage of extremists to moderates. If you want to increase and strengthen your moderate block, then people have to really feel an important difference in their lives. They have to see justice. They have to see ― and as I said, an honest engagement and an interest in their cause.

What the NIE says — the part Bush released, anyway — is that it’s still possible to turn this around. It’s still possible to grow moderation and marginalize extremism. It doesn’t say this will happen; it says it could be done.

However, since the invasion nearly everything the Bush Administration has done in Iraq has had the effect of growing extremism and marginalizing moderates. The declassified portion of the NIE doesn’t specifically say this, which doesn’t mean the part still classified doesn’t. This is what it does say:

Although we cannot measure the extent of the spread with precision, a large body of all-source reporting indicates that activists identifying themselves as jihadists, although a small percentage of Muslims, are increasing in both number and geographic dispersion.

If this trend continues, threats to U.S. interests at home and abroad will become more diverse, leading to increasing attacks worldwide. …

… 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 U.S. involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. …

…We assess that the underlying factors fueling the spread of the movement outweigh its vulnerabilities and are likely to do so for the duration of the timeframe of this estimate.

Maha’s summary: Extremism is spreading. Bush’s Iraq policy is among the factors causing it to spread. But it might be possible to shrink extremism.

Let’s guess what the still-classified part of the NIE says.

A. We can shrink extremism by continuing to do the very things we’ve been doing that grew it; or,

B. We can shrink extremism, but we’ll have to change our policies and focus to accomplish this.

Righties will choose A; the rest of us will assume B is the logical answer.

But notice that the bloggers who support torture and rendition and indiscriminate bombing and publication of anti-Muslim cartoons and whatnot are the same bloggers who today are celebrating the “Muslim mainstream” that’s going to end the jihad. Logic is not exactly their strong suit. They’re better at shoveling.

10 thoughts on “NIEs, Nays, Neighs

  1. Ohh… lordy. Finding the Pony, a comic opera in Italian, by Barbara O’Brien. I love it so much! Queen Rania of Jordan can be the unheeded Voice of Reason.

  2. I contend that the Iraqi conflict, as well as the prevailing Middle East tensions, will be lessened in equal proportion to the success we achieve in providing for a Palestinian state. Given that the NIE assessment posits that, “If democratic reform efforts in Muslim majority nations progress over the next five years, political participation probably would drive a wedge between intransigent extremists and groups willing to use the political process to achieve their local objectives”, then it would be reasonable to conclude that any progress with the Palestinian issue will greatly enhance the speculative potentiality of the NIE report. Absent the Palestinian effort, I’m of the opinion that the NIE timeframe is overly optimistic and dependent upon a relatively static progression without the prevalence of unforeseen events and escalations…which seems unlikely at best.

    Frankly, I doubt that the existing Republican approach or the alternative of withdrawal supported by a number Democrats will serve to alleviate the existing conditions and bring relative stability to the troubled region. Neither approach has the wherewithal to alter the prevailing sentiment. Conversely, a voluntary effort that would demonstrate our ability to discern the profound importance of a successful Palestinian state would, in my opinion, yield exponential goodwill. Given the current conditions, such an effort has little risk.

    Read more here:

  3. Brava! I don’t know why, but I haven’t laughed that hard for a while. Perhaps it’s the parallel between the fantasy world of opera and the fantasy world of the White House. Dare I wonder if Karl Rove’s role is scored for a castrati, or would that just be rude?

    Thank you for the exposition on the alternate interpretations of the NIE fragment released. I’ve been fascinated by reading a document that seems so damning which Bush seems to think supports his policies. Perhaps, since I have never been able to see the Emperor’s new clothes, I am also unable to see their pony. Now that you’ve pointed out where they are looking, I still don’t see a pony, but I have a better understanding of where they think they see one.

    Here’s hoping that most of the public decides the merda is worth doing something about.

  4. Dare I wonder if Karl Rove’s role is scored for a castrati, or would that just be rude?

    Well, maybe if Karl sings the role himself — I think the Boy King role definitely should be for castrato. Nothing else would do.

  5. If Bush and CO needed to create reasons for staying in Iraq to build permanent invader bases and eventually deliver control of Iraqi oil to their buddies, they really did nefariously serve their agenda by increasing turmoil and terrorism in the Middle East. Now we can stay in Iraq for ‘good guy’ reasons, right?

  6. Anyone wishing to see the herts and minds of the Iraqi people being poisoned against us has only to read Riverbend’s blog. Her commentary has been a microcosm of the Iraqi people for me. To watch her hope turn to rage then to despair was heartrending. BushCo has truly lost this war even as it was just begun. Osama must be so pleased. Hopefully the American people can be woken up and an admin elected that can begin to repair the horrific damage done.

    A wonderful post, as always. I know can always count on Mahablog for my daily dose of interesting topics, common sense, fabulous writing and just a hint of snark. Everything goes better with just a bit of snark.

  7. We are getting deeper and deeper into the hole that our politicians are digging for us. Its all about spin for the present administration where black can represented as a form of “off-white”. The sole pupose for the “War” was to create an indefinite neocon state, with off course Halliburton and Oil as the side benefits. It would be interesting to know that of the additional $70B passed for the “war efforts” today, how much actually gone to the troops and their eqipment needs and how much to the coffers of the “war-profiteers”.
    Best was a Democrat I heard this morning on CSPAN. He finds the fact that habeas-corpus is being eliminated “troubling” , but we “have to” pass the bill this week to prosecute the terrorists.. And he claims he is a Cornell Law graduate.
    Even if Dems do win November, changing the direction of US policy inside and abroad is too difficult for them to handle. It is much easier to sit and do nothing. “Cry-wolf” whenever it feels politically good, just that. But do not try to make a change, its too “dangerous” and the “lobbyists” will frown on him …

  8. Strengthening MODERATE Islam would be a marvelous strategy which the righties can’t consider. Evangelicals believe that democracy in Iraq & Afghanistan will naturally allow them to spread Christianity in that part of the world.

    Ready for a laugh? If Bush & Co set up a secret program (because it could not be done in the open) to fund select moderate Islamic causes with BIG bucks, it would be leaked by a christain religious rightie to Pat Robertson before the ink on the plan was dry. And within 24 hours Jerry Faldwell would be on TV from Lynchburg (the name of his headquarters is SO appropriate) to preach on the nescesity of the separation of church and state. Yes, he is capable of that hypocracy with a totally straight face.

    Expect NO action to empower moderate Islamic leaders.

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