Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Dangerous Distractions

As I have argued on this page, one of the main reasons that I opposed the invasion of Iraq was, and is, the lack of connection to Al-Qaeda and the Islamist terrorists that attacked us on 9/11 and continue to seek our annihilation.

First, there was no connection between Saddam and Al-Qaeda. In fact, Saddam's strongly secular brand of Islam in Iraq was anathema to the Wahhabist Al-Qaeda, and this made Saddam one of their targets not allies.

Second, there is the fact that the invasion of Iraq, and the unavoidable killing of innocent Iraqi men, women and children would further radicalize the region and provide the most efficient recruitment tool Osama could imagine. That is until the recent images of abuse, torture, murder and rape emerged which have surpassed in potency simple pictures of slaughtered civilians. The conduct of this war has made more allies than enemies in the region and beyond. Al-Qaeda's job has been made easier not harder.

Finally, the entanglement in Iraq has diverted an overwhelming percentage of our military, intelligence and economic resources ($150-$200 Billion to date). This has left us unable to finish the job in Afghanistan (which is teetering on chaos and a return of the Taliban), and to address real Al-Qaeda sponsored terrorist threats in other regions.

As an article in today's New York Times points out, that region has emerged:

"The American campaign against terrorism is opening a new front in a region that military officials fear could become the next base for Al Qaeda — the largely ungoverned swath of territory stretching from the Horn of Africa to the Western Sahara's Atlantic coast.

Generals here at the United States European Command, which oversees the area, say the vast, arid region is a new Afghanistan, with well-financed bands of Islamic militants recruiting, training and arming themselves. Terrorist attacks like the one on March 11 in Madrid that killed 191 people seem to have a North African link, investigators say, and may presage others in Europe."

Given the severity of the threat emerging in this region, consider what we are spending on the problem, and then consider what we are spending in Iraq:

"The program, called the Pan-Sahel Initiative, was begun with $7 million and focused on Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad. It is being expanded to include Senegal and possibly other countries. The European Command has asked for $125 million for the region over five years."

I hope that they get the $125 million over five years that they ask for, and that this amount is enough. Somehow, I doubt it since Iraq is fast becoming a black hole for defense and intelligence spending.

The rest of the article can be found here.

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