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McCarthy on Mylroie

10:03 AM, Apr 30, 2008 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor in New York, is author of the new, much-discussed book Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad. I'm in the middle of reporting two pieces and haven't yet had a spare minute to read it, but it is my top priority when my current obligations are met (next Tuesday). I'll have much more to say about it here at that point.

McCarthy is a razor-sharp thinker and his writing reflects the clarity and precision of his thought. More often than not, when McCarthy sets out to challenge an argument he not only wins but leaves his opponents arguments in tatters. I can't tell you how many emails I've sent him, after reading one of his pieces, that begin with one word: Devastating.

I sent him another one today. Over at National Review Online, McCarthy takes on Laurie Mylroie's error-riddled review of his book. It is devastating. Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing, here, but let me just address two points.

First, on Iraq and terrorism. McCarthy writes of Mylroie: "Indeed, for commentators (like Steve Hayes, Tom Joscelyn, and I) who have argued that there were, in fact, important ties between Iraq and radical Islam, Mylroie has been a thorn in the side for years - the analyst whose zany assertions are routinely used to discredit credible evidence of cooperation." He's right, and that was the case not just with those of us outside the government, but those on the inside, too. Mylroie comes up In several of the books written about the Iraq War as a terrorism analyst who led the Bush Administration into making questionable claims about Iraq and al Qaeda. (George Packer, the New Yorker writer and author of the otherwise well-reported book, "The Assassin's Gate," makes this mistake.) This vastly overstates her role. Although her emails may have occasionally made their way to Bush administration officials, no one I know took her arguments very seriously. For good reason. Mylroie has seen an Iraqi hand behind virtually every terrorist attack on American interests. Indeed, in our one brief conversation, she faulted me for failing to understand that al Qaeda is little more than an Iraqi "front group." That's crazy. Iraq was an active state sponsor of terror and, as the recent Pentagon report confirms, a willing sponsor of al Qaeda leaders, their terrorist associates, and a wide variety of jihadist groups.

Second, in her review of McCarthy's book, Mylroie seems to misunderstand -- or misrepresent -- McCarthy's views on the proper U.S. policy approach to terrorism. She argues that McCarthy -- as a prosecutor and an author -- does not take seriously enough the role that states play in sponsoring jihadist terror. As I say, I have not yet read the book, but having discussed these issues with McCarthy on literally dozens of occasions, it's inconceivable that he is guilty of that offense. Indeed, anyone who has read his writings over the past decade knows not only that he understands the role of states but that he sees rogue states as a primary source of the terrorist threat against us.

So, I believe him when he concludes:

A central theme of my book is the incapacity of the criminal-justice system to deal adequately with a national security threat. Another is that, while the threat that confronts us is fueled by a strain of Islamic ideology, terror networks would not be able to project power on a consequential scale absent facilitation by such rogue nations as Iran, Saddam Hussein's Iraq, and Sudan. Reading Laurie Mylroie's review, a reader would come away figuring I must have argued, in contravention of what Willful Blindness actually says, that international terrorism is merely a crime and state sponsorship a trifle. Under the guise of reviewing a book, Mylroie ignores the book, using the opportunity instead to reprise her half-baked theories and cavalier dismissal of Islamic radicalism. It's a shame the Sun let her do it.