Iraq and terror

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(HOST) Many Americans question President Bush’s credibility when he says that success in Iraq is necessary to win the War on Terror. Commentator Madeleine Kunin is one of them.

(KUNIN) “The safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Bagdad,” the President said on September 11, 2006.

What’s wrong with that statement?

The safety of America never hinged on the invasion of Iraq.

A recent Senate investigation once again made it clear there was no connection between Sadam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden.

The 9/11 Commission reached a similar conclusion.

And a growing stack of books – topped by the recently published Fiasco, make the case in stunning detail that this was the wrong war, fought the wrong way.

So why the constant defense of the war in Iraq, even to the point of accusing critics of wanting to cut and run, or worse, being World War II Hitler appeasers?

And why, when Dick Cheney was asked about the war by Tim Russert, did he say, if he had to invade Iraq all over again, he would do exactly the same thing?

One answer is that it’s hard for leaders to admit mistakes.

Especially after having shed the blood of more than 2,600 American young men and women.

Another answer, is that the message resonates – because there are terrorists abroad in the world today, and they are willing to die in order to kill us.

The problem with the administration’s message is that the world will not be more safe, even if we were to succeed in creating a more stable Iraq.

The men who recently attacked the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, the Pakastanis who planned to blow up airplanes leaving Heathrow airport, the bombers who set off explosions on trains in Madrid, had no known connections to the war in Iraq.

The opposite may be true: our presence in Iraq inspired terrorists to act.

We must do everything in our power to prevent the recurrence of such events.

But continuing to focus on Iraq, while losing ground in Afghanistan; continuing to focus on Iraq, while leaving our ports insecure; continuing to focus on Iraq, while Bin Laden remains free – is a twisted strategy.

And yet, for some it works.

It works because the belief that we are fighting a traditional war of good versus evil in Iraq creates the illusion that evil has been defeated – everywhere.

The complex truth is that the war in Iraq was a desperate but ineffective response to a terrible attack on the United States.

An effective response is much more difficult – it will require sacrifice from all of us, not just our military.

The safety of Americans will not be won in the streets of Baghdad; it will require that we talk to our enemies, engage in diplomacy, and exercise total preparedness, any time, any place.

And it will not be easy.

Madeleine May Kunin is a former governor of Vermont. Commentator Frank Bryan offers another perspective of President Bush and the War in Iraq, this afternoon on All Things Considered.

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