Sunday, January 16, 2005

Of "Breeding Grounds" and Biased Journalism

On Friday, the Washington Post carried an article breathlessly titled "Iraq New Terror Breeding Ground". Written by Dana Priest, the article asserts that:

Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of "professionalized" terrorists, according to a report released yesterday by the National Intelligence Council, the CIA director's think tank.

Iraq provides terrorists with "a training ground, a recruitment ground, the opportunity for enhancing technical skills," said David B. Low, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats. "There is even, under the best scenario, over time, the likelihood that some of the jihadists who are not killed there will, in a sense, go home, wherever home is, and will therefore disperse to various other countries."

Just a few years ago, we would have had to take Ms. Priest's word for it as to the contents of this document. However, thanks to that tool of information empowerment known as the World Wide Web, anyone who's interested can go to the CIA web site and read the report for themselves:

Mapping the Global Future

The section of the report that discusses Islamist terrorism most directly is titled "Pervasive Insecurity". Within this chapter, there are exactly three references to Iraq in the context of jihadism. These passages read as follows:

-This revival has been accompanied by a deepening solidarity among Muslims caught up in national or regional separatist struggles, such as Palestine, Chechnya, Iraq, Kashmir, Mindanao, or southern Thailand and has emerged in response to government repression, corruption, and ineffectiveness

-The al-Qa’ida membership that was distinguished by having trained in Afghanistan will gradually dissipate, to be replaced in part by the dispersion of the experienced survivors of the conflict in Iraq. We expect that by 2020 al-Qa’ida will have been superceded by similarly inspired but more diffuse Islamic extremist groups, all of which will oppose the spread of many aspects of globalization into traditional Islamic societies.

-Iraq and other possible conflicts in the future could provide recruitment, training grounds, technical skills and language proficiency for a new class of terrorists who are “professionalized” and for whom political violence becomes an end in itself.

(emphasis added-DD)

So, according to the actual report, the al-Qaeda terrorists trained in Afghanistan will be "replaced in part" by the "survivors" of the Iraq war, which, along with "other possible conflicts in the future", "could provide" opportunities for training and recruitment. Not exactly earth-shaking material. Yet Ms. Priest seized upon the release of this rather bland document to write a front-page article drawing sweeping politicized conclusions. An article that, in the words of a Power Line reader, represents a "blatant misrepresentation of the contents of the report". I have other issues with this article, and hope to deal with them in a day or two. In the meantime, if Ms. Priest wants to write opinion pieces, might I suggest she start her own blog.


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