The Iraq Crusade Is a Recruiting Sergeant for Bin Laden

05/28/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Soon after President Bush swore his support of Israel before the Knesset, Senator McCain questioned whether Senator Obama fully appreciates the threat from Iran. Bush and McCain are double-teaming Obama, defining themselves as hawks, with the implication that Obama is an appeasing dove.

Sorry, but this picture doesn't fit the actual history of the Iraq war.

1. Bush Took His Eye Off the Ball and Misled the Public. Sixty-seven years ago, FDR channeled outrage over Pearl Harbor into a common purpose that addressed the source of the attack and carried the nation through victories on two fronts. In contrast to FDR, President Bush squandered the enormous public support he had from outrage at the 9/11 attack because he took his eye off the ball. He let the trail go cold on Osama bin Laden, who is still at large. He delivered misinformation and disinformation to his own people as well as the rest of the world in order to launch an unwarranted crusade against Iraq.

2. The Iraq War Has Strengthened al Qaeda. Bush's faith-based hawkishness has strengthened Iran. A clear-eyed UK Defence Academy report noted that many Muslims are becoming radicalized by the Iraq war. Tony Blair's Ambassador to Italy, Sir Ivor Roberts, famously said - in a leaked off-the-record comment to an annual UK-Italian conference in Rome - that "President Bush is al Qaeda's best recruiting sergeant". Last year, a declassified U.S. intelligence report concluded that the war in Iraq is "cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement."

3. Both of Bush's Missions Failed. The success of the Bush crusade against Iraq depended on building fear of American military power and on a parallel hope of movement toward greater Middle East democracy. The war in Iraq showed that Bush expected too much of the U.S. military on the ground and gave it too little support. The war is not exporting democracy, it is exporting violence. Nearly seven years after 9/11 and five years after the invasion of Iraq, there is no sign of an easy exit from Iraq or even an exit strategy. Two reasons Bush Senior did not pursue Saddam Hussein's army to Baghdad, he said in his 1998 book (A World Transformed): (1) He saw no viable exit strategy, and (2) "Occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations' mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land." Too bad Bush Junior either didn't read or didn't heed his father's wise advice.

4. Iran Is a Threat Because Our Troops Are Overstretched. The Pentagon is alerting 40,000 American soldiers that they will be deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan this fall. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said last week that the burden of these wars means: "We would be hard-pressed to launch a major conventional ground operation elsewhere in the world at this time." Are the hawks planning on relying just on the Air Force for a new confrontation?

5. McCain Turns History on Its Head. The harvest of Bush's blunder into Iraq is a disaster. But to lay this disaster at Obama's feet, as McCain has done, is absurd. Obama opposed the initiative from the beginning, for good reasons.

Iran is dangerous because Bush has made it so by weakening the United States and strengthening its enemies. The issue is not how willing a President should be to commit American troops overseas. The issue is whether the President commits these troops intelligently, in accord with international principles. The issue is whether the President has a plan not just to shock and awe from the air, not just to invade and occupy, but to get out in a reasonable time and bring the troops home.

The right contrast to make is not that Bush and McCain are hawks and Obama is a dove. The right contrast is that they are cuckoos and he is an owl.

Bush and McCain are double-teaming Obama, with the implication that he's an appeasing dove. All the while, Bush has strengthened Iran.