During Condoleeza Rice’s confirmation hearings yesterday, Barbara Boxer relied on some thoughts penned by my colleague and friend, Peter Bergen. Here is the testimony, and I have put in bold Peter’s material:
BOXER: Now, since 9/11, we’ve been engaged in a just fight against terror. And I, like Senator Feingold and everyone here who was in the Senate at the time, voted to go after Osama bin Laden and to go after the Taliban and to defeat Al Qaida. defeat Al Qaida.
And you say they have less territory; that’s not true. Your own documents show that Al Qaida has expanded from 45 countries in ’01 to more than 60 countries today.
Well, with you in the lead role, Dr. Rice, we went into Iraq.
I want to read you a paragraph that best expresses my views — and ask my staff if they would hold this up — and I believe the views of millions of Californians and Americans. It was written by one of the world’s experts on terrorism, Peter Bergen, five months ago. He wrote:
“What we’ve done in Iraq is what bin Laden could not have hoped for in his wildest dreams. We invaded an oil-rich Muslim nation in the heart of the Middle East, the very type of imperial adventure bin Laden has long predicted was the U.S. long-term goal in the region. We deposed the secular socialist Saddam, whom bin Laden has long despised, ignited Sunni and Shia fundamentalist fervor in Iraq, and have now provoked a defensive jihad that has galvanized jihad-minded Muslims around the world. It’s hard to imagine a set of policies better designed to sabotage the war on terror.”
This conclusion was reiterated last Thursday by the National Intelligence Council, the CIA director’s think tank, which released a report saying that Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of professionalized terrorists.
That’s your own administration’s CIA.
NIC Chairman Robert Hutchings said Iraq is, quote, “a magnet for
international terrorist activity.”
And this was not the case in ’01. And I have great proof of it, including a State Department document that lists every country in which Al Qaida operated prior to 9/11, and you can see the countries. No mention of Iraq. And this booklet was signed off on by the President of the United States, George W. Bush — was put out by George Bush’s State Department and he signed it.
There was no Al Qaida activity there. No cells.
It seems to me that Barbara Boxer hit the proverbial nail on the head.
— Steve Clemons