The Senate all-nighter ended Wednesday morning with a vote against bringing to the floor the Iraq withdrawal timeline backed by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada). Reid's effort to call the Republicans' bluff and force a vote on the issue, enthusiastically backed by activists who oppose the Iraq war, lasted until it fell short of the 60 votes needed to move forward at 11 a.m. Now, the Majority Leader has announced he won't allow a vote on the entire Defense Authorization bill until the Republicans stop stalling on voting up or down on bringing the troops home.
With public support for the war bottoming out, and even such former Bush loyalists as Senator Pete Domenici (R-New Mexico) talking about the need to get out of Iraq, Reid should do everything in his power to force the issue. The public deserves to know whether Domenici, George Voinovich (R-OH), Richard Lugar (R-IN), and other Johnny-come-lately critics of their President's Iraq policy are serious about ending the war.
Meanwhile, it turns out that "fighting them over there" has given Al Qaeda the time and political ammunition it needs to regroup for another major attack here at home. The new National Intelligence Estimate on "The Terrorist Threat to the U.S. Homeland" released by the White House yesterday, warns of a growing Al Qaeda threat. One key reason for the "heightened threat environment" here at home, according to the report: "Al Qaeda will continue to enhance its capabilities to attack the homeland through greater cooperation with regional terrorist groups. Of note, we assess that Al Qaeda will probably seek to leverage the contacts and capabilities of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), its most visible and capable affiliate and the only one known to have expressed a desire to attack the homeland."
In other words, the terrorist group formed in opposition to the U.S. occupation of Iraq is working with the group that attacked us on 9-11, making another major attack more likely.
Keep in mind that there was no Al Qaeda Iraq before the U.S. invasion.
Now, according to the Administration's own intelligence report: "[Al Qaeda's] association with AQI helps Al Qaeda to energize the broader Sunni extremist community, raise resources, and to recruit and indoctrinate operatives, including for homeland attacks."
It doesn't get much clearer than that. The Iraq war, in addition to costing thousands of lives, billions of dollars, and leading to a catastrophic situation for Iraqi civilians and a lethal quagmire for U.S. troops, has made us less safe.
The Administration, trying to put its own counterintuitive spin on a devastating intelligence report, is suggesting that leaving Iraq while the terrorist threat level remains high would somehow imperil us further. Their motto: no matter how bad things get, keep digging. Opponents of the war need to counter the irrational appeal to fear that pushes for blindly lobbing bombs and soldiers' bodies at Iraq.
Clearer heads have a chance to prevail now, before another catastrophic event here in the United States is twisted into a rationale for an endlessly escalating violence.