When I learned of the 9/11 attacks, I believed Iraq was responsible. I was part of an investigation into the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and we had focused on likely Iraqi sponsorship. That is what the New York Times reporting suggested and that is what senior figures in New York FBI suspected.
After 9/11, I became a prominent figure explaining why Iraq was likely involved. That wasn't hard for anyone familiar with the 1993 bombing to believe. In 2002, U.S. authorities had identified Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) as the 9/11 mastermind and said he was the uncle of Ramzi Yousef, who masterminded the 1993 bombing. Since New York FBI had linked Yousef to Iraq, the same was likely true of KSM.
When I raised this with a senior White House official, he responded dismissively. Bureaucratic opposition (i.e., CIA management) was too strong to suggest Iraq's involvement in 9/11, he said. Of course, those who had failed to recognize Iraq's involvement in the 1993 bombing did not want to admit error, but did the White House have to defer to that?
Documents captured during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) would reveal Iraq's extensive involvement in terrorism, including Islamic terrorism. There was even a debate within the Pentagon about releasing them, but the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence opposed it, and his view prevailed, as one intelligence officer told me.
In his memoirs, Karl Rove recalls a similar White House decision. In July 2003, Democrats began to charge that Bush had lied about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. The White House, however, decided not to respond.
The failure to explain the war in Iraq properly has had enormous consequences. The soldiers who made such great sacrifices-and their loved ones-are entitled to know that those sacrifices were not in vain. OIF was as necessary a war as any that Americans have ever fought.
Second, as former White House speechwriter Joseph Shattan observed, the failure to defend OIF led directly to the election of Barack Obama. As a former Republican congressman explains, it weakened the hawks on both sides of the aisle.
Finally, we look at "radical Islam" as if it were an entity unto itself, composed solely of crazed figures like Osama bin Laden and his devotees. We do not consider the extent to which the networks of Islamic militants are penetrated and covertly supported by states that use them for their own purposes. That support is extensive, I believe, and we are fighting a war in violation of the basic axiom: "Know the enemy."
-Laurie Mylroie is author of Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein's Unfinished War against America (American Enterprise Institute, 2000). At LaurieMylroie.com, these issues are expanded.