The Wrong War

How the war in Iraq has fueled Al Qaeda and ignited its dream of global jihad.

President Bush's May 2003 announcement aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln that "major combat operations" had ended in Iraq has been replayed endlessly. What is less well remembered is just what the president claimed the United States had accomplished. "The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11th, 2001," he declared.

Today, only 20,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Afghanistan, a country the size of Texas and nearly 50 percent larger than Iraq, where 140,000 U.S. troops haven't been enough to create sta-bility.

If the Al Qaeda leadership had been wiped out in Afghanistan during the winter of 2001, President Bush might have gone down in history as one of the more adroit wartime presidents. Instead, Al Qaeda's leaders and many of its foot soldiers went on to fight another day. However, the war against Saddam wasn't conducted under the banner of liberating the Iraqi people, but rather under the banner of winning the war on terrorism. And by that standard, it has been a grotesque failure.

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