Remember the old expression "Don’t put the emphasis on the wrong syllable"?

The Bush administration has been doing just that in the war on terror ever since Sept. 11, 2001. Now their own National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) proves it. Al Qaeda is stronger, not weaker, because we have neglected them in Pakistan and provided them the opportunity to get a foothold in Iraq, where they were non-existent before Sept. 11.

We have actually harmed worldwide efforts to undermine terrorism by focusing the bulk of our attention, money, troops and Pentagon and intelligence resources on Iraq and not on al Qaeda. We have put the emphasis on the wrong syllable. 

The war in Iraq and the war on terror have been disasters for the United States and for countries around the world. Islamic extremism has been strengthened, not weakened, by the Bush administration’s policies. We had the world on our side on Sept. 12, 2001, including the Muslim nations, and the misguided war in Iraq has changed all that, increasing the strength and numbers of radical Islamic terrorists. Osama bin Laden is alive and well and directing an ever-expanding group of terrorists, after six years on the run. Mr. “Wanted Dead or Alive” is still very much the mastermind. All the talk about eliminating three-fourths of the al Qaeda leadership is hogwash.

Remember that deck of cards the administration put out with known terrorist figures? Remember all the bragging about killing or capturing them? What a joke. You can be darn sure that the number of terrorist leaders has grown, not diminished, and that training efforts in Pakistan, according to our intelligence, have increased markedly over the last few years. Now the National Intelligence Estimate concludes that “the United States currently is in a heightened threat environment” and that "the level of international cooperation may wane.”

We have backed off in Pakistan at the urging of President Pervez Musharraf — a big mistake. In the 1970s, we made the same mistake in Iran, when Ambassador Richard Helms closed down our intelligence operations and agreed that we would get our information from the shah of Iran. The result was the seizing of our embassy in 1979 and the horrendous relations in the region ever since.

The world should be more engaged, not less, in routing out the terrorist camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan. If we had spent the last six years in a joint effort with other nations to go after al Qaeda instead of a disastrous war in Iraq, the world would be a much different place. And we would not have to face the conclusions from the National Intelligence Estimate that the administration just released. By the way, where was Dick Cheney when this story hit? Back in his bunker, I imagine.