When it comes to Iraq, a common refrain from President Bush and other stay-the-coursers is that “if we were to leave before the job is done, the enemy would follow us here.” For example, on March 6, Bush said:
The extremists are fighting to take control of Iraq so they can establish it as a base from which to overthrow moderate governments in the region, and plan new attacks on the American people. If we fail in Iraq, the enemy will follow us home.
A new report from McClatchy debunks Bush’s claim. Here’s what the survey of military and diplomatic analysts found:
U.S. military, intelligence and diplomatic experts in Bush’s own government say the violence in Iraq is primarily a struggle for power between Shiite and Sunni Muslim Iraqis seeking to dominate their society, not a crusade by radical Sunni jihadists bent on carrying the battle to the United States.
Foreign-born jihadists are present in Iraq, but they’re believed to number only between 4 percent and 10 percent of the estimated 30,000 insurgent fighters – 1,200 to 3,000 terrorists – according to the Defense Intelligence Agency and a recent study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a center-right research center.
“Attacks by terrorist groups account for only a fraction of insurgent violence,” said a February DIA report.
While acknowledging that terrorists could commit a catastrophic act on U.S. soil at any time – whether U.S. forces are in Iraq or not – the likelihood that enemy combatants from Iraq might follow departing U.S. forces back to the United States is remote at best, experts say.
One U.S. intelligence official quoted in the article points out that “the war in Iraq isn’t preventing terrorist attacks on America. If anything, that – along with the way we’ve been treating terrorist suspects – may be inspiring more Muslims to think of us as the enemy.”
So, the danger isn’t that leaving Iraq will bring more terrorism to the U.S., but that staying there will.