The Truth About Terrorism
Yesterday, in his remarks at the United States Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, President Bush gave the false impression that his “war on terror” is making the nation a safer place. “Our agenda,” he said, “…is freedom and independence, security and prosperity for the Iraqi people. And by removing a source of terrorist violence and instability in the Middle East, we also make our own country more secure.”
Yet just this morning the BBC, citing the conclusions of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a London-based think tank, reported that al-Qaeda remains an effective “network of networks” that has been galvanized, not weakened, by the Iraq War.
According to the IISS report, al-Qaeda is now present in more than 60 countries and has “18,000 potential terrorists at large.” The report further states that the war in Iraq has refocused the energies and resources of al-Qaeda and its followers while diluting those of the global counter-terrorism coalition. The recent attacks in Spain, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia show that al-Qaeda has fully reconstituted itself after the loss of its base in Afghanistan. The report also notes that Osama Bin Laden’s network has set its sights firmly on the United States and its closest Western allies and plans to use of weapons of mass destruction.
Thus, as Mr. Bush begins his predictable round of speeches focusing on the successes of his “war on terror,” the evidence shows that his war aims have not been achieved. Perhaps his foremost mistake in the aftermath of September 11 was to assume that a military victory over Saddam Hussein in Iraq would inflict severe damage on al-Qaeda’s operational capability. In point of fact, the war has provided invaluable political patronage for al-Qaeda and has promoted enormous growth in grassroots support for terrorism throughout the Islamic world. Indeed, by occupying Iraq the United States has provided 130,000 easy targets for the radicals.
Another key administration mistake has been to focus on secondary problems such as Afghanistan and Iraq while soft-peddling on the principal sponsors of al-Qaeda, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The unpleasant truth is that these two Western “allies” have played a major role in the growth of al-Qaeda into an international terrorist network.
If the president wanted to bolster the nation for the dark days ahead, he should have told us the truth—that the U.S.-led “war on terror” has been a failure, that our military successes in Afghanistan and Iraq have failed to crush al-Qaeda’s structure or stem its recruitment, and that international terrorism is stronger than before September 11, 2001.
The chaos of post-war Iraq, the abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison, and the confusion that reigns in our “exit strategy” represent significant setbacks for a Republican administration running on a “war” platform. The two major achievements of that war—the ousting of the Taliban from Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein from Iraq—are hollow victories at best.
Mr. Bush says the United States will “do what is necessary” to defeat the “enemies of freedom.” What I want to know is this: Who in the administration will have the courage to tell the president that our counterproductive emphasis on military action and nation building will never stop terrorism?
May 25, 2004
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com. His latest book, Why I Stopped Listening to Rush: Confessions of a Recovering Neocon, will be released in June.