The war between America and terrorism was joined by America on 9/11, but that’s not when it started. Terrorists have been taking aim at America for more than two decades. Some of the more notable attacks include the Lebanon barracks bombing, the bombing of a German disco frequented by American servicemen, the first WTC bombing, the Khobar towers bombing, the bombing of our embassies in Kenya & Tanzania, & the attack on the USS Cole. Of course, there have been many other smaller attacks and a staggering number of terrorist plans that were thwarted by our intelligence agencies. But until 9/11, these were the pricks of a mosquito trying to take down an eagle. After 9/11, the eagle finally decided to get serious about the problem.
For the oppressed people who live under these tyrants in the Middle East, freedoms and opportunities to improve their lot in life are few and far between. Moreover, the prospects for change are not promising. There seem to be few nations in the region moving towards Democracy and there is little commercial enterprise of note beyond the oil industry. The people in the Middle East realize this and many of them are understandably furious about it.
In order to channel the rage of their populaces, governments in the Middle East make every effort to deflect the anger of their people towards the United States & Israel. The vilest propaganda imaginable is aimed at the US & Israel on a daily basis by the government controlled press in the Middle East, even in “friendly” nations like Egypt & Saudi Arabia. In addition to that, some of the regimes in the region have decided that it’s easier to work with terrorist groups in the region than to risk taking them on. In nations like Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and the “disputed territories”, terrorist groups are given aid, training, intelligence, & protection by the government — as long as they stay focused on Israel &/or the United States and not the regimes that sponsor them.
As Winston Churchill said,
“Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry.”
The tigers in the Middle East are hungry indeed and the dictators have been steering them towards us.
Post 9/11, the situation has improved significantly. Al Qaeda has been severely damaged, the Israelis have crippled Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the Taliban have been removed from power and Saddam Hussein will soon follow. We’ve also had unprecedented cooperation in fighting terrorism from countries like Pakistan, Yemen, & Sudan. So far, so good. But, it would be a critical mistake to believe that the war is nearly won or that we have little left to do.
North Korea is set to start mass-producing nuclear weapons, possibly for sale to the highest bidder. The world’s foremost terrorist sponsoring regime in Iran is also moving significantly closer to acquiring nuclear weapons. Syria and their puppet state Lebanon are openly supporting terrorism as are Yassir Arafat and his corrupt group of cronies in the “disputed territories”. To back off after Iraq would allow Al Qaeda to reconstitute itself in the Middle East and it would also allow other terrorist groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, Fatah & Islamic Jihad to thrive. That would be a mistake because as Conservatives have been saying since 9/11, our war is not just with Al Qaeda; it’s with the global terrorist network and the nations that continue to support it.
That contention has been proven without a shadow of a doubt by the war in Iraq. Here are just a few recent quotes that should confirm the hostility of the global terrorist network to America,
While Senior Fatah (a terrorist group associated with Yassir Arafat) commander Mounir Maqdah did deny sending suicide bombers to Iraq, he also said,
“We wish we are all in Iraq fighting the Americans. Iraq is the only Arab country that has been supporting our intifada so an aggression against Iraq is like an aggression against Palestine. We support all actions against US interests all over the world, but mostly what we would like to see is the Arab people mount mass protests demanding the closure of US embassies and their other interests…Why fight Israel, when you can go and fight their boss (the Americans) in Iraq?”
The head of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said on March 13th of 2003,
“Today, the region is being filled with hundreds of thousands of American soldiers and fleets and ‘Death to America’ was, is and will stay our slogan…it is a policy.”
Ramadan Shallah, Islamic Jihad’s leader in Damascus, Syria said on March 30,
“This is fulfillment of the call of sacred duty … an opportunity for Jihad and martyrdom is available now for the Islamic nation. We say to all sons of Jihad and supporters, to our nation, our people, wherever they are, that whoever is able to march and reach Iraq, Baghdad, Najaf and blow himself up in this American invasion. … This is the climax of Jihad and climax of martyrdom.”
Last but not least, before the war, Hamas called for volunteers to make suicide attacks against US troops.
When terrorist groups that have no purpose other than committing murder and mayhem openly say that they intend to cause Americans harm, we can’t afford to just shrug it off in the post 9/11 world. Additionally, when you take into account that these groups have ties to nations like Iraq & Iran that are pursuing nuclear weapons to go along with their supplies of chemical and biological weapons, it becomes very obvious that America is in great danger.
Allowing these groups and their sponsors to continue to operate with impunity would very likely lead to tragedies in the United States and across the world that would dwarf 9/11 in size. Given that these incredibly dangerous terrorist organizations have admitted that they intend to harm Americans, it makes sense to deal with these groups now instead of continuing to let them grow in strength.
We have been having a lot of success in going after Al Qaeda’s leadership and manpower and the Israelis have been decimating the Palestinian terrorist groups since 9/11 as well. There is still a lot of work left to do, but we’re getting good cooperation and results around the world on this front if only because most other nations have reason to fear terrorist attacks themselves. Hezbollah is the biggest terrorist group that has been essentially left intact, but their time is going to come hopefully in the near future.
As far as the rogue regimes go, we removed the Taliban from power in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein will be next. But, there are other countries that have to be dealt with including Iran, North Korea, Syria, Pakistan, the “Disputed Territories” and Saudi Arabia among others. Each of these nations is a unique situation that will require a different strategy to achieve different goals. Regime change by one method or the other will likely be necessary in Iran while financial rewards &/or pressure in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia may encourage those regimes to step up their efforts against terrorism. A negotiated settlement may very well be possible with North Korea while an American military presence nearby in Iraq may be enough to make Syria change directions. Although we’re going to attempt (probably futilely) to negotiate a peace settlement in Israel, the Israelis are capable of handling the Palestinians if and when things don’t work out.
Ideally, we can convince these regimes & their ilk to cease supporting terrorism &/or producing WMD without having to resort to military force. As it was in Iraq, military force should be our last resort. However, there is no guarantee that there is no more fighting ahead. To the contrary, we may very well need our military again after the Iraqi invasion is complete in Iran, Syria, or North Korea. That would be regrettable if it happened, but it would also be preferable to letting the global terrorist network continue to exist. If groups like Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Hamas are allowed to continue to become more powerful and acquire WMD, especially nukes, it would very likely result in an entirely predictable catastrophe of biblical proportions. Al Qaeda’s spokesman Suleiman Abu Ghaith has said as much on an Al Qaeda website,
” We have the right to kill four million Americans, including one million children. �(W)e have the right to fight them by chemical and biological weapons so they catch the fatal and unusual diseases Muslims have caught due to U.S. chemical and biological weapons.”
War may be cruel and horrible, but so is inflicting smallpox on the American public and watching cities like LA, NY, & DC disappear in balls of flame that turn into mushroom clouds.
Going after the global terrorist network and the regimes that support them is an important part of the equation, but it’s not the only thing we need to do. In order to dry up the breeding grounds of terrorism in the Middle East, we need to help spread Democracy and capitalism throughout the region.
Helping the region become Democratized won’t instantly make the Middle East into another Europe. In fact, some nations will probably elect governments that are hostile to the United States. But is not a “hostile” Democracy like Turkey imminently preferable to a nation run by a “friendly” dictator like Egypt? Furthermore, would you not prefer to have an enemy like France that tries to thwart us at the UN rather than a “friendly ally” like Saudi Arabia that is supplying significant amounts of money and manpower to the global terrorist network? If we want to clear up the cesspools that the terrorists are swimming in throughout the Middle East long-term, we have to help promote Democracy and capitalism in the region.
Providing “successful” examples would help. Afghanistan is an impoverished and devastated nation that is almost “starting from scratch” after more than two decades of war, but they are scheduled to have their first elections in 2004. How quickly we’ll be able to move Iraq towards Democracy is unknown, but it’s key to try to get Iraq standing on its own two feet as quickly as possible. The people of Iran also seem ready to throw off the corrupt theocrats who rule their nation and reach for Democracy and we have to try to make that happen sooner rather than later. How long will the rest of the Middle East be able to hold out if Muslims all around the region see free speech, capitalism, and Democracy taking hold in the nations that surround them? Especially, if we in the United States use our influence to help push the region towards Democracy. It may seem unlikely that Democracy could flower in the Middle East, but one only has to look at the changes in Eastern Europe since the fall of the Soviet Union to know that it’s possible.