Iraq and Al Qaeda

This piece in the Los Angeles Times strikes me as very important. One fact in plain sight about this administration is that they failed both to prevent 9/11 and to catch its perpetrators. Now, the misbegotten war in Iraq may actually be helping to finance the group that murdered so many innocents on 9/11:

A major CIA effort launched last year to hunt down Osama bin Laden has produced no significant leads on his whereabouts, but has helped track an alarming increase in the movement of Al Qaeda operatives and money into Pakistan's tribal territories, according to senior U.S. intelligence officials familiar with the operation.

In one of the most troubling trends, U.S. officials said that Al Qaeda's command base in Pakistan is increasingly being funded by cash coming out of Iraq, where the terrorist network's operatives are raising substantial sums from donations to the anti-American insurgency as well as kidnappings of wealthy Iraqis and other criminal activity.

The influx of money has bolstered Al Qaeda's leadership ranks at a time when the core command is regrouping and reasserting influence over its far-flung network. The trend also signals a reversal in the traditional flow of Al Qaeda funds, with the network's leadership surviving to a large extent on money coming in from its most profitable franchise, rather than distributing funds from headquarters to distant cells.

Al Qaeda's efforts were aided, intelligence officials said, by Pakistan's withdrawal in September of tens of thousands of troops from the tribal areas along the Afghanistan border where Bin Laden and his top deputy, Ayman Zawahiri, are believed to be hiding.

Little more than a year ago, Al Qaeda's core command was thought to be in a financial crunch. But U.S. officials said cash shipped from Iraq has eased those troubles. "Iraq is a big moneymaker for them," said a senior U.S. counter-terrorism official.

The story raises as many questions as it answers. But if it's true that the occupation of Iraq has not only emboldened Iran, crippled the U.S. military, and damaged our moral standing in the world, but has also provided a financial lifeline to al Qaeda then the sheer magnitude of the damage this administration has done to national security is hard to fathom. This much I know, however. If Bush were a Democrat, the Republicans would have impeached him by now for reckless endangerment of the security of the United States.