AC: The terror report

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Length: 5:29

ANDERSON COOPER: Some new polling from our friends at Opinion Research. Forty percent of Americans, when asked, say they support the war in Iraq. Fifty-nine percent oppose it. Forty-two percent now approve of how President Bush is handling his job. That's up a couple points from early August. Fifty-five percent give him failing grades.

The polling was done before intelligence story came out this past weekend.

Want to take look at the impact at ground level. We're, of course, continuing to focus on this National Intelligence Estimate, which is basically a report put together by all the intelligence agencies in the United States, saying that, in effect, the -- at least the parts that were leaked to "The New York Times," saying that the war in Iraq is actually contributing to the global jihad against the United States, from CNN's Michael Ware right now -- he joins us from Baghdad -- and Peter Bergen, CNN terrorism analyst and the author of "The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History."

Michael, does this match up to what you're seeing on the ground over there, that things are getting worse, that this is making things worse?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the fact that the Iraq war is creating more enemies for America, is fostering al Qaeda, not weakening it, has been self-evident here on the ground since at least the summer of 2004.

Coincidentally, this national intelligence assessment, they began writing it that same year. Once Zarqawi arrived here, he began to hijack a local fight and internationalize it, globalize it, turning it into jihad. Now, this is exactly what Osama bin Laden had been hoping for. I mean, the al Qaeda pattern is to inspire and to franchise terrorism.

And that's what we're seeing. We're now seeing this as the melting pot, or even the blooding ground, for the next generation of al Qaeda. And that's being seen here on the ground -- Anderson.

COOPER: Peter, I remember you actually wrote about this in an article for "Foreign Affairs" back in 2005, saying, in part -- and I quote -- "Today's insurgents in Iraq are tomorrow's terrorists."

I mean, was it really that predictable? Should U.S. officials have seen this coming?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, U.S. officials did see this coming, because, Anderson, even before the war started, the intelligence community made an assessment that the war was likely to produce exactly this effect. So, this is not entirely surprising.

And, you know, there's a problem, a logical problem, that the president has had with a lot of this, which is the argument that it's better to fight them in Baghdad than in Boston, A, is based on two false predicates, one, that there's a finite group of people that you can attract to one place and kill. It turns out that there's a lot of people who were attracted to this fight.

And, secondly, the -- this war is going to end. It may take a long time. And not all the foreign fighters who come to this war are going to be killed. And, believe me, when the war is over, they're not going to go back home and open coffee shops and falafel stands in their home countries. They're going to be the well-tested shock troops of the international jihad.

They will have swapped business cards. They will have fought the best army in history. They will have used terrorist tactics, like IEDs, suicide bombings. They're going to be a giant problem. And, for the moment, you know, this problem is largely confined to Iraq. But that is not going to be true in the future.

COOPER: Well, Michael Ware, the White House is saying, well, look, if these people have hated America, hated Israel for years, they didn't need Iraq to hate us more. And others have said, Senator John McCain said, look, if it wasn't in Iraq, it would be in Afghanistan.

WARE: Well, I mean, the invasion of Iraq did several things.

One -- firstly, it fueled their information operations. I mean, the images of Abu Ghraib, the images of U.S. troops entering Iraqi homes, everything that spins off that played directly into their hands. But the other thing is, they were looking for a platform, the next Afghanistan, the next Chechnya. Where better than in the face of the great enemy, America, itself?

We saw that Zarqawi had this vision back in 2003, his bombing campaign of that summer against the Jordanian Embassy, the U.N. headquarters. And then the plan he outlined for Osama bin Laden in a letter intercepted by U.S. intelligence and published in early 2004 mapped all this out. He said: This is precisely what I'm going to do.

And he's done it. This is Zarqawi's enduring legacy, even after his death -- Anderson.

COOPER: Peter, though, is there something unique about Iraq? Because, I mean, I will put you the same quotes that I just put to Michael Ware.

I mean, you know, if not Iraq, could have been Afghanistan, could have been somewhere else. Do you agree with that, or do you think that's misleading?

BERGEN: Well, A, it is happening in Afghanistan. I mean, Anderson, you and I were there just recently. I mean, we have got foreign fighters in conducting suicide operations in Afghanistan. So, it's not that it isn't happening in Afghanistan.

But Iraq has made it much worse. And I will give you an objective standard to judge this. In 2003, worldwide significant terrorist attacks were the highest since 1982, as the war began in Iraq. Those numbers then doubled in 2004. And they went off the charts in 2005. And when the 2006 figures are in, you will see this trend is exponentially rising.

We have had suicide attacks in London. We have had suicide attacks in Madrid. We have had suicide attacks in a lot of places that didn't have these problems before the Iraq war. And we don't -- the objective standard is terrorist attacks around the world have gone through the roof as the Iraq war began.

COOPER: Peter Bergen, Michael Ware, appreciate it. Thanks, guys.