As the mid-term election cycle enters the home stretch, Democratic congressional candidates, party leaders, and left-wing pundits are taking to the airwaves in a vigorous assault on the Bush administration’s handling of the Global War on Terror. By criticizing President Bush for diverting military manpower from the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, and by repeatedly calling for the rapid withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, Democrats demonstrate with remarkable clarity that they just don’t understand the purpose of the war or the battlegrounds upon which it is being fought.
After terrorists successfully attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, President Bush announced the launching of the Global War on Terror, a military and law enforcement campaign that would take the fight to our enemies so that we would not have to fight them at home. Really, though, America had been at war with fundamentalist Islamic ideology, manifesting itself in the form of vicious terrorist attacks against the United States and her allies, since long before the Twin Towers fell, the Pentagon was struck, and Americans fought back on United Flight 93 over Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Radical Islamic terrorists attacked a U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon in 1983, killing nearly two hundred fifty American service members. They struck again in Mogadishu, Somalia and in the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. They attacked us in Saudi Arabia in 1996, in East Africa in 1998, and in Yemen in 2000. They have called for the destruction of the United States and made clear their intent to attack and kill Americans whenever and wherever they could.
There is no disputing that Bin Laden is responsible for the murder of thousands of American citizens. But to focus on killing or capturing him as a means for ending the terrorist threat would be a strategic mistake and a tremendous waste of critical resources. Taking out Bin Laden would certainly be cause for celebration, but it would mean little in the overall battle against radical Islamic terrorists.
The combination of U.S. military and law enforcement pressure and the killing or capturing of multiple senior Al-Qaeda figures have degraded the effectiveness of the organization’s central leadership. Most terrorist activity today is conducted by small networks or cells that, although inspired by Al-Qaeda and Bin Laden and a fundamentalist ideology, operate independently from his command. The terrorist threat will continue with or without Bin Laden, just as it did in Iraq after the demise of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi.
The war on terror has never been solely about Bin Laden or those associated with the planning and execution of the 9/11 attacks. The war on terror is about combating an ideology that practices hatred and violence. President Bush has understood from the beginning that the best solution to the terrorist problem is the promotion of freedom and democracy in places where repression and dictatorial rule stifle human liberty.
By deposing Saddam Hussein and seeking to install a democratic government in Iraq, the United States has opened the door to the possibility for change in a region dominated by conflict, hatred, and oppression. A democratic Iraq could serve as a model for a new Middle East, where citizens have a voice in government, where women are not treated as objects or subjugated to second-class status, and where the rule of law is based on fairness and equality.
It is true that no verifiable link between Saddam Hussein and the attacks of 9/11 has been established. It is also true that intelligence about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction proved to be flawed, even though we know that Iraq has possessed and used such weapons in the past. But the Democratic claim that the conflict in Iraq is not part of the Global War on Terror is not only erroneous, it is indicative of a party unprepared to provide for the security of this nation.
According to a Council on Foreign Relations report published last year, Saddam provided headquarters, operating bases, training camps, and other support to terrorist groups, particularly the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq in its fight against the Iranian government, and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in its attacks against the moderate government in Turkey. And it has been reported that Saddam provided money to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers who murdered Israeli civilians.
While Iraq may not have been a prominent battleground for terrorists fighting the U.S. before the March 2003 invasion, it has undeniably become a crucial front in the war on terror today. Jihadists from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Yemen, Algeria, and other countries have flocked to Iraq to participate in the battle between the forces of freedom and the forces of terror.
Speaking to members of the American Legion in Salt Lake City, Utah last month, President Bush said, “Victory in Iraq will be difficult, and it will require more sacrifice. The fighting there can be as fierce as it was at Omaha Beach or Guadalcanal, and defeating terrorists in Iraq is as important to the United States as it was to win those World War II battles.”
Regardless of the reasons for going into Iraq, the battle has now been joined. Withdrawing before the fight is over will embolden the terrorist forces now opposing us across the globe, weaken America in the eyes of the world, and doom any hope of real change in the Middle East for generations to come. What’s so hard to understand about that?