Charles Krauthammer

WASHINGTON -- Lost between the Foley tsunami and the Woodward hurricane is the storm that began the great Republican collapse of 2006. It was only a few weeks ago that the Republicans were clawing their way back to contention for the November election, their prospects revived by the president's strong speeches on terrorism around the 9/11 anniversary, the landmark legislation on treating and trying captured terrorists, and a serendipitous fall in gas prices.

Then came the momentum stopper, the leaked National Intelligence Estimate that was trumpeted as definitive evidence that the war in Iraq had made terrorism worse. Foley's folly and Woodward's history have now overwhelmed that story, but it will remain an unrebutted charge long after Foley is forgotten and Woodward is remaindered. It demands debunking.

The question posed -- does the Iraq War increase or decrease the world supply of jihadists? -- is itself an exercise in counting angels on the head of a pin. Any answer would require a complex calculation involving dozens of unmeasurable factors, as well as constructing a complete alternate history of the world had the U.S. invasion of 2003 not happened.

Ah, but those seers in the U.S. ``intelligence community,'' speaking through a leaked National Intelligence Estimate -- the most famous previous NIE, mind you, concluded that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, slam dunk -- have peered deep into the hypothetical past and found the answer. As spun by Iraq War critics, the conclusion is that Iraq has made us less safe because it has become a ``cause celebre'' and rallying cry for jihad.

Become? Everyone seems to have forgotten that Iraq was already an Islamist cause celebre and rallying cry long before 2003. When Osama bin Laden issued his 1998 declaration of war against America, his two principal casus belli for the jihad that exploded upon us on 9/11 centered on Iraq: America's alleged killing of more than 1 million Iraqis through the post-Gulf War sanctions, and, even worse, the desecration of Islam's holiest cities of Mecca and Medina by the garrisoning of infidel U.S. soldiers in Saudi Arabia (as post-Gulf War protection from the continuing threat of invasion by Saddam).

Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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