Bush expands on al-Qaida terror threat against U.S.

first_img“Victory in Iraq is important for Osama bin Laden, and victory in Iraq is vital for the United States of America,” Bush told the graduates. Bush said intelligence showed that in January 2005, bin Laden tasked Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, his senior operative in Iraq, to organize a terrorist cell and use Iraq as a staging ground for attacking the United States. This information expanded on a classified bulletin the Homeland Security Department issued in March 2005 to state homeland security officials. The bulletin, which warned that bin Laden had enlisted al-Zarqawi to plan potential strikes in the United States, was described at the time as credible but not specific. It did not prompt the administration to raise its national terror alert level. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Critics of the war insist that U.S. troops are in the middle of fights among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. “As global terror threats remain very real, President Bush is sinking more money and sending more troops to referee Iraq’s civil war, when those precious resources would be better spent in finishing the mission left unaccomplished in Afghanistan,” said Brian Katulis, a national security expert at the Center for American Progress, a think tank led by John Podesta, President Clinton’s former chief of staff. The White House has repeatedly said the U.S. and its allies will be successful when the Iraqis can sustain, govern and defend themselves, yet Bush used his speech to stress the threat from al-Qaida activities in Iraq. “Hear the words of Osama bin Laden: He calls the struggle in Iraq a `war of destiny,”‘ Bush said. “He proclaimed `The war is for you or for us to win. If we win it, it means your defeat and disgrace forever.”‘ Much of the intelligence information Bush cited in his speech described terrorism plots already revealed. But he declassified information to flesh out details and highlight U.S. successes in foiling planned attacks orchestrated by bin Laden, the al-Qaida boss. NEW LONDON, Conn. – President George W. Bush portrayed the Iraq war as a battle between the U.S. and al-Qaida on Wednesday and shared nuggets of intelligence to contend that Osama bin Laden was setting up a terrorist cell in Iraq to strike targets in America. Bush, who faces a public weary of war and is at odds with Democrats in Congress over funding troops, said that while the Sept. 11 attacks occurred in 2001, Americans still face a major threat from terrorists. “In the minds of al-Qaida leaders, 9-11 was just a down payment on violence yet to come,” Bush said during a commencement speech at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in which he defended his decision to order a troop buildup in Iraq. “It is tempting to believe that the calm here at home after 9-11 means that the danger to our country has passed.” “Here in America, we are living in the eye of a storm,” he said. “All around us, dangerous winds are swirling and these winds could reach our shores at any moment.” last_img