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It is the truth that dare not speak its name: George W. Bush got it right in Iraq. Of his intervention he told us: we're fighting them there so we don't have to fight them here at home. In February last year, Barack Obama outlined a hasty timetable for withdrawing US troops from Iraq. By August, American forces will have been cut by two-thirds. The result of this was inevitable — little over a year after leaving office, Bush has been proved right. 

Al-Qaeda is resurgent everywhere. Along with the Taliban it has brought the world's most volatile nuclear power, Pakistan, to the brink of civil war. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb kidnapped two Italian tourists last December and a Frenchman in January. Then, of course, there is al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which celebrated its first birthday in January. It has already captured world attention by ordering, not just the abortive Christmas Day attack on a transatlantic flight, but also the attempted assassination of Saudi Arabia's police chief, Prince Nayef. More broadly, al-Qaeda has inspired its fellow-travellers such as the al-Shabaab militia in the Horn of Africa and Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan to become ever more brazen. 

That much was to be expected. Iraq was described as the flypaper strategy, giving the global jihad movement a regional target on which it would concentrate and exhaust its efforts. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of US ground forces in Iraq, explained the theory to CNN back in 2003: "This is what I would call a terrorist magnet, where America, being present here in Iraq, creates a target of opportunity...But this is exactly where we want to fight them...This will prevent the American people from having to go through their attacks back in the United States."

These are the realities that opponents of our military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq cannot face: withdraw and terrorism increases, with the result that more civilians — on all sides — die. Now Bush can only look on, like Cassandra, as we learn this the hard way. 

Talk to the terrorists, cry his opponents. Perhaps we should. But it raises the question, what is there to talk about? A new book by John Bew, Martyn Frampton and Inigo Gurruchaga, Talking to Terrorists (C. Hurst), shows that bringing terrorists to the table almost always requires a strong military response to their activity first. Only that creates the conditions where there are tangible mutual goals to work towards.

War is, of course, never desirable, but there is little alternative when we are confronted by the unchecked nihilism of millennarian narratives. Tony Blair made that much clear when he gave evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry amid a chorus of condemnation suggesting that British intervention was illegal. Explaining the difference between tackling IRA and Islamist terrorism, he ended six hours of evidence by insisting that he had no regrets over the decision to invade Iraq. Not for him the trahison des clercs.

March 1st, 2010
5:03 AM
Bush is having a comeback. And with good reason. 3 months ago 44% of the American people preferred Bush over Obama. Bush was a great president.

John Williams
February 26th, 2010
7:02 AM
This piece is so far off the mark it is not even funny. Bush's war in Iraq has resulted in Al-Qaeda worldwide recruits skyrocketing along with Al-Qaeda now having a worldwide presence. Americas military intrusion into the middle east combined with the much more dangerous inflammatory rhetoric that painted all Muslims as radicals who were all potential terrorists has engendered a Muslim backlash which has turned semi-moderate Muslims into reactionary radicals. Going into Iraq made absolutely no sense when Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11 and if Bush had instead went to Afghanistan, the poorest country in the world and therefore the most likely place for terrorism to thrive, and avoided the inflammatory rhetoric while simultaneously winning hearts and minds by making the locals lives easier and the same time hunting down Osama and his Al-Qaeda cronies Bush could of cut the Al-Qaeda problem off at the chase avoiding the recent worldwide growth of Al-Qaeda terrorists while potentially gaining a some trust from Afghan citizens. If Bush had done this immediately Al-Qaeda would not of been blown to the four corners of the Earth and burrowed deeper into Pakistan. Bush made a severe tactical error when he went after Iraq first instead of Afghanistan. Afghanistan should have been dealt with first and then used as a staging ground to deal with Saddam. In other words Bush made the lowest tactical priority, Saddam and Iraq, into his highest priority while turning the highest tactical priority of capturing Osama and dismantling Al-Qaeda into an unimportant secondary objective which is why it still has not been accomplished almost 9 years later. This is only one of the many mistakes Bush jr made. Another mistake was the constant inflammatory narrow minded rhetoric only a true racist could appreciate which only served to further alienate Muslims from the U.S. therefore turning a backwoods terrorist organization into a worldwide enterprise. This is the case today because Bush treated Al-Qaeda as though they were full fledged adversaries representative of all Muslims which therefore made the entire people of the Muslim religion potential radical jihad seeking terrorist enemies when Bush should have been painting Al-Qaeda as an annoyance made up of mentally unstable lunatics whose insanity was so far separated from the true Muslim religion that they were nothing but an aberration and distortion of the true Muslim faith than a representation of it. Painting Al-Qaeda as an unstable aberration that the U.S. would quickly and easily pick off would have served to separate Muslims from wanting anything to do with Al-Qaeda because for one Al-Qaeda would be marginalized as crazy and secondly the rhetoric that grouped all Muslims in with Al-Qaeda would not have occurred therefore it would not of instilled fear in some Muslim people that the U.S. could possibly act on their rhetoric by oppressing or possibly declaring war on Muslim nations. Instead of applying tactics like these Bush has instead made Osama now look like a single man who can outsmart the worlds only superpower for almost 9 years running which is a disaster of epic proportions that turns Osama into some type of hero for the few angry Muslims looking for something to lash out at and someone to emulate. These shortcomings of policy which did not avert Al-Qaedas current reputation among a few radical Muslims who can nevertheless do alot of damage falls squarely on Bush.jr's shoulders for not directly going after Osama while all the while belittling and marginalizing him and at the same time winning the hearts and minds of Afghans in order to diminish Osma and Al-qaedas influence and possibly flush him and Al-Qaeda out. Bush's disastrous policies and tactics can be attributed to nothing other than sheer stupidity and incompetence the likes of which has never before been seen in a U.S. president and may never occur again. All of this while increasing the national debt more than any other single president in the history of the United States. History will surely not judge Bush.jr and his disastrous policies in a good light. The only thing to hope for is that future presidents see the folly of Bush's brain dead ways and avoid the pitfalls of incompetence that Bush jr managed to fall into every time.

February 24th, 2010
6:02 PM
Shiraz Maher writes very well. On the one hand, Bush made sense. On the other hand, we can add a compulsory education in non violence for the leaders of the terror, tyranny. The address is Gene Sharp www.aeinstein

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