About that pesky little CIA report...


Mark Follman
January 15, 2005 2:32AM (UTC)

It's White House chief spokesman Scott McClellan's job, of course, to spin the day's news in a favorable light. But the Bush administration's official take on the new CIA report out Thursday, which deems Iraq the current world headquarters for Islamic terrorism, isn't your garden-variety doublespeak. This is rare and beautiful stuff.

First, a little refresher on the new report from the CIA's top think tank, the National Intelligence Council: According to national intelligence officer David B. Low, Iraq currently provides terrorists with "a training ground, a recruitment ground, [and] the opportunity for enhancing technical skills." And: "There is even, under the best scenario, over time, the likelihood that some of the jihadists who are not killed there will, in a sense, go home, wherever home is, and will therefore disperse to various other countries." The report itself says: "The al-Qaida membership that was distinguished by having trained in Afghanistan will gradually dissipate, to be replaced in part by the dispersion of the experienced survivors of the conflict in Iraq."

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Here's McClellan's take on those apparent musings: "This report is a speculative report about things that could happen in the world."

And McClellan on what it all means: "I think the report, like I said, confirms that we have the right strategy for winning the war on terrorism."

The press gaggle aboard Air Force One, it seems, got a little antsy about the "logic" of that latter conclusion.

Q: Does the President disagree with the report's conclusion that the war and the uncertainty on the ground has created a breeding ground for terrorism?

McCLELLAN: I think we just answered this question. We just went through it, so I would go back to what I just said, and those are, I think, the points to make.

Q: I mean, the reason that we keep asking the question again is that it's just confusing to me how you can say it confirms your strategy is the right approach when there is terrorism in Iraq now, a terrorist breeding ground in Iraq now and growing there, and wasn't there before. So how does that confirm your approach?

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McCLELLAN: That's assuming that terrorists would just be sitting around doing nothing if we weren't staying on the offensive in the war on terrorism. I mean, by going on the offensive we've been able to liberate two countries, the people of two countries -- in Afghanistan and Iraq. And now we must continue to do everything we can to support efforts to build democratic futures for the people of the region. And that's exactly what we'll continue to do.


Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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