While commenting for CNN on President Bush's inauguration speech, former presidential adviser David R. Gergen mouthed the administration line on Iraq and terrorism, referring to the Iraq invasion and the toppling of dictator Saddam Hussein as part of the “war on terrorism.” In fact, the “war on terrorism,” launched in the wake of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, is linked to Iraq and Saddam primarily through Bush administration messaging and the administration's own actions.
On January 14, The Washington Post reported that according to a newly released paper from the National Intelligence Council (the CIA director's think tank), “Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of 'professionalized' terrorists.” The prevalence of terrorists in Iraq is a recent occurrence:
[T]he CIA said Saddam Hussein had only circumstantial ties with several al Qaeda members. Osama bin Laden rejected the idea of forming an alliance with Hussein and viewed him as an enemy of the jihadist movement because the Iraqi leader rejected radical Islamic ideals and ran a secular government.
As the Post reported, the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq itself triggered an influx of foreign terrorists:
[A]s instability in Iraq grew after the toppling of Hussein, and resentment toward the United States intensified in the Muslim world, hundreds of foreign terrorists flooded into Iraq across its unguarded borders. They found tons of unprotected weapons caches that, military officials say, they are now using against U.S. troops.
Throughout the 2004 presidential campaign, the Bush-Cheney campaign repeatedly asserted that Iraq was a central front in the war on terrorism, but offered no concrete evidence that Saddam had ever perpetrated or supported anti-U.S. terrorism. Indeed, the 9-11 Commission concluded that Iraq had no “collaborative operational relationship” with Al Qaida. Nonetheless, Gergen apparently accepted the administration's claims of a connection between Iraq and the war on terrorism, without noting the irony that it is one created largely by the administration's own actions.
From CNN's January 20 coverage of Bush's second Inauguration Day:
GERGEN (commenting on Bush's inaugural address): His [Bush's] first priority is clearly the war on terrorism and an expansive, aggressive war on terrorism. His second priority is domestic legislation and third, and, oh, by the way, is trying to heal the division of the country -- very different from what we thought. Historically significant because I think he's revealed to us today his strategy to win the war on terrorism is far more ambitious than we ever imagined. It is not simply going after Iraq and getting rid of Saddam, nor is it simply going after Al Qaida. It is, rather, to expand and extend liberty across much of the world.