Video: Iraq war has worsened terror threat

updated 9/25/2006 7:52:20 PM ET 2006-09-25T23:52:20

WASHINGTON — For weeks the president has successfully kept public attention on terrorism rather than the war in Iraq. But on Monday, Democrats tried to change that by seizing on intelligence findings that the Iraq war has made the terror threat worse.

Bush got the blame.

For weeks, the president has described gains in the war on terror and highlighted the high stakes of the fight, comparing al-Qaida with Nazi Germany. Last month, before this intelligence report was made public, Bush dismissed the idea that the invasion has created more terrorists.

"I've heard this theory about, you know, everything was just fine until we arrived and, you know, the stir-up-the hornets-nest theory," Bush said Aug. 21. "It just doesn't hold water, as far as I'm concerned."

But Monday at a hearing organized by Democrats, retired military officers accused Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld of fueling terrorism by mismanaging the war.

"Iraq didn't have to be the way it was," said retired Army Gen. John Batiste. "We created this insurgency. We let it grow, we let it develop, we let it blossom."

White House officials downplayed the intelligence estimate.

"We've got freedoms in that part of the world that we never had before," said Homeland Security Advisor Fran Townsend. "And so in that sense it is a success, but this is going to be a long hard fight, it's a continuing fight."

As White House officials campaign across the country for Republicans, the message is not about Iraq, but about the choice in November.

"For the sake of our security, this nation must reject any strategy of resignation or defeatism in the face of determined enemies," said Vice President Dick Cheney.

Forty-three days until the election and the public debate about national security has grown louder, with both sides convinced whichever party wins this issue controls Congress.

Senior U.S. officials confirmed Monday that a classified intelligence report does conclude that the Iraq war has worsened the terror threat, but say Iraq is only one subject in the 30-page report on the global threat.

Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte has also issued a statement saying that viewing the report through the narrow prism of the Iraq war "distorts" the overall findings.

That said, the intelligence report substantially reflects what both Negroponte and CIA Director Michael Hayden have been saying in public speeches about how Iraq has been feeding Islamic terrorism.

It is not consistent with the rosier statements about the war on terror issued by the Bush administration during the anniversary of 9/11.

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