OK, it's not as if this subject hasn't come up already, but judging by the way people have been talking, there needs to be some education, and it looks like I have been called upon to state the obvious.
Polls have consistently shown, that Americans are very interested in the War on Terrorism, and in Iraq particularly, as key issues in this election. Yet the average American is often confused on the connections and reasons for our actions; far too many voters respond that they support the President or disagree with him, without knowing exactly how we got here. Some figure it's just too complex, while others blame the President, claiming he's hiding something. Neither of those is true. This article is my attempt to explain, as simply as possible, how the present crisis came to be, and why there is a connection between Iraq and Terrorism, enough that the only reasonable response was invasion.
After World War 2, the Middle East began to grow in importance and in conflict. While the creation of the nation-state of Israel was part of it, that was not all. Muslims and secular Arabs also had to sort out the nature and identity of their countries, forced into roles for which the people had not been prepared or supplied. And then there is Oil, the commodity which at one stroke, both raised the wealth of the region and made it the object of greed and conspiracy. On top of all of that, we must add the geo-strategic conflict between the West, led by the USA, and the East, led at that time by the USSR.
Privileged families in places like Arabia and Iran came to immense personal wealth and power, while imams and sheiks began to plan dreams of greater glory. By 1960, the instability of the region had not only boiled over in predictable places, like wars between Egypt and Israel, but also in the rebellion against France in Algeria. It is noteworthy, that many of the rebels in Algeria discovered not only the political value of claiming Allah on their side, but the effect they had in terrorist attacks. Attacking army soldiers was difficult and likely to fail, but a bomb in a hotel got them attention and created fear, putting pressure on the government. In the end, years before Americans knew of Vietnam, bitter French soldiers cut their losses and left Algeria. It was the beginning of the House of Terror as we know it now.
During the 1970s, terrorists in the Middle East enjoyed a heyday of murder and pillaging. They found it easy to play nations against each other, and in so doing collect money and weapons, and many nations found it amusing to sponosor such monsters, most notably Libya, Syria, and Iraq, who were encouraged by the Soviet Union to use terrorists to disrupt Western-style democracies in Europe, and US-friendly nations in the Middle East.
In 1979, after years of ignoring danger signs, Jimmy Carter's adminstration was shocked to witness the collapse of the government in Iran, falling to a radical Shiite cleric named Khomeini. President Carter trusted the Muslim cleric to be as peaceful as he promised, and so was shocked and dismayed when Khomeini ushered in a regime of oppression and jihad.
Sensing the turn in events, Strongman Saddam Hussein, a thug-turned-torturer-turned-traitor who gained power in a coup, took the opportunity to provoke a war against Iran, believing he could take over Iran's oil fields and dominate OPEC. During the bloody decade ahead, Saddam attempted to build an atomic bomb (which project was destroyed in the Israeli raid on Osirak), used chemical weapons on Iran, and sponsored more than a dozen terrorist groups, including Abu Abbas (who hijacked the Achille Lauro cruise ship, and personally murdered and shoved Leon Klinghoffer in his wheelchair overboard), Abu Nidal, and Carlos the Jackal.
During that decade, Iran began to export terror as well, by sponsoring groups to overthrow the governments in Lebanon, Somalia, and Yemen. Iran is also known to have taught suicide bombers, and helped initiate the intifada against Israel.
The United States was limited in its ability at that time, yet President Reagan took decisive action against Libya, and supported Kuwait, protecting tankers from Iranian raiders with Navy escorts. The United States became firmly identified in the Middle East, as the protector of Israel and free trade, both of which were abhorrent to the Iranian Islamo-fascist regime.
In the late 1980s, the terrorist practice of abducting and murdering western hostages increased. The United States began to work with Middle East governments to deal with terrorists, but discovered that with the fall of the Soviet Union, these groups were becoming more fluid and less connected to single government sponsors. Instead, groups like Hamas and Al-Fatah were likely to collect loose sponsors in a number of nations, and to act on their own initiative, rather than as a tool of a nation-state. Nations like Syria, Iran, and Iraq hired these groups to mutual advantage, usually by attacking a common enemy. Following the example of narco-terrorists in South America, Middle East terrorists took shelter in nations where the rule of law was either corrupt, as in Iraq, or powerless, as in Lebanon. The rise of umbrella organizations, where terrorists might belong to several groups simultaneously, and operate under a cover name, such as Islamic Jihad, came into vogue.
The first Gulf War changed borders and raised stakes. In addition to resecuring Kuwait, the US-led Coalition led to crucial realignments in many Middle East countries, resulting in new agreements such as the Israel-Jordan accords, the reconstruction of Lebanon, and the clear dominance of the United States over any conceivable group of conventional military powers. This led to three evolving theories of the US role in the region:
* President HW Bush desired a "New World Order", where the United States would be able to work with allies, old and new, to develop working arrangements. This was intended to relieve Russian worries, and to acknowledge the rising Chinese influence. It did not, however, play well with groups which saw the chance for revolutionary change, especially fascist Islamists.
* President Bill Clinton desired a scaling-back of US influence, believing it provocative to Russia and China, as well as a provocation to militants (the "progressive"'s chosen term for terrorists) in smaller countries. At the same time, Clinton desired to protect American interests, through limited military actions where desired. President Clinton deployed troops more thn forty separate times during his two terms.
* Neither of these theories was effective in many situations, nor did they align well with historic American objectives. A clear and strong desire to advance American interests and protect America's citizens and friends, lay ignored but obvious in the sentiments of the public. This is the third theory, now coming into practice under the present Bush Administration.
By the end of the 20th Century, the United States had an unfortunate image, as a nation which would either try to placate its enemies, or which would flee them. Given the European example for the 20th Century, there was reason to believe that the U.S. had permanently abandoned unilateral actions, or independent doctrines.
The Middle East in the 1990's was much different than the Middle East of 1953, but some of the conflicts from the earlier generation had remained alive, and these had grown deeper and angrier over time. Despite many opportunities to resolve the question of Palestinian statehood, the manipulation of the issue by Yassir Arafat and the PLO (who gained influence through decades of extortion and murder, like Gotti without an FBI to worry about) instead denied the Palestinians their rights, in preference of keeping wounds open and salted, to perpetuate a feud against Israel and the West. Thugs like Saddam ran countries like gang territories, and Islam was perverted in many places, to bring about terror instead of peace, death instead of hope. Teheran in 1998 was very much like Nuremberg in 1937.
Al Qaeda was part of the new alignment in terrorist groups. Where previous groups had required nation sponsors, AQ only needed permission to train and operate, for which they generally promised no action against the host country. Cells were trained and briefed, then sent worldwide to prepare for coordinated strikes. Strikes are almost always made against unarmed and unprotected targets, and usually in waves of action, striking several targets for a sustained effectof heightened terror.
I stop here, to address a point I heard yesterday. It is a fact, that after the 9/11 attacks, there have been no successful terrorist attacks on the continental United States. A commentator claimed that this does not credit the Bush administration, noting that 8 years passed between the first and second attacks on the World Trade Center. The differences, however, include the growth of AQ from a small group in 1993 to a 60-nation operation in 2001, and from a group which made solitary attacks in 1993, to a group which coordinated waves of assaults in later years. The capture and interrogation of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed has also demonstrated that follow-up attacks were planned and prepared, but US actions foiled their success. Those unwilling to admit the success of the Bush Doctrine in preventing terrorist attacks in the United States, betray their refusal to accept common sense and the obvious.
To continue, then, AQ became increasingly bloody in the last decade of the 20th Century, and more often chose Americans and American allies as their targets. At the same time, Saddam Hussein broke the terms of his cease-fire and committed several distinct acts of war against the United States, from the attempted assassination of a US President (not unlike the AQ plan to assasinate Clinton in 1995), to more than a thousand attacks on US aircraft maintaining the no-fly zone. In strict definition, resumption of hostilities between the US-led Coalition and Iraq was authorized by the agreed 1991 terms, by any of these breaches, to say nothing of Hussein's refusal to abide by the WMD inspection and destruction provisions. In 1998, the United States Senate passed a bill making the overthrow of Saddam Hussein official US policy, and President Bill Clinton signed that bill.
In the 2000 Election, both Al Gore and George W. Bush understood the need for a vigorous policy to defend the United States against its enemies. When Bush took office, he began to plan possible actions against both Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, as both were recognized to be threats against the United States, though they were not believed to be cooperating with each other. For those who want to berate President Bush for not anticipating the 9/11 attacks, please note that the 8 years of President Clinton's actions in terrorism response were absymal at best, particularly in regard to Osama bin Laden. This is because of a climate change in National Security. A nation with generations spent preparing to fight a nuclear war or a prolonged set of proxy conflicts with a rival Superpower, has many changes to make, to recalibrate for a terrorist cell, especially one willing to die for its cause.
On September 11, of course, everything changed. Nearly three thousand people died in unprovoked, undeserved atrocities. The whole identity of US National Security changed in a day, from conventional warfare to the most unconventional. Every enemy of the United States needed to be addressed in the manner best suited to the need. This reflects the strength of the Bush Doctrine, and the weakness of the proposed Kerry Doctrine. John Kerry suggests, in his comments, that he would apply a consistent standard to threats, meeting them all with essentially the same opening gambit, which would rely heavily on approval from the majority of selected allies; the 'global test' Kerry says we must pass, before taking 'unilateral' action. The utter futility of that notion can be best understood, by applying such a plan to any crisis in American history. To understand how President Bush has and will address the dangers posed by our enemies, it is best to consider these forces, and their position.
First, as to Islamofascist Terrorism. It's been discussed so much, that people might have missed the basics. Here they are:
There are people who want you dead. It doesn't matter that you have not done, or said, or even thought anything that has hurt them, or is unjust to them; they have killed many innocents, and in many cases, prefer to kill the innocent, for greater publicity. It doesn't matter to them, if you are good to others and trying to help; they have murdered many people who were teachers, doctors, and who were working to make life better for others. It does not matter to them whether you are religious or not; indeed, they have bombed mosques and killed fellow Muslims, in order to create an outrage.
You cannot reason with them; they oppose reason.
You cannot buy them off; they already have money.
You cannot scare them off; they avoid the strong, and seek out the defenseless.
You cannot hide from them; they seek attention by striking wherever they can find a victim.
They are not human; they have chosen to make themselves something less than human.
The only way to stop them, is to hunt them down and kill them. And that is where an effective War on Terrorism begins
The US State Department presently designates 35 organizations as terrorist groups which represent a threat to American security (an additional 8 organizations were wiped out of existence during American operations in 2003), and of those, 21 are Islamist Terrorists, 11 are Communist Terrorists, and 3 are Narco-Terrorists. The State Department identifies nine nations known to have sponsored, trained, hosted, and exported terrorist groups between 1999 and 2003:
Of those nine, two have seen their governments changed by force, another four have promised to reform, and the remaining three find themselves under a combination of political, diplomatic, economic, and military pressure to change their policies. It is further worth noting, that Cuba, Libya, and Sudan have been rendered impotent in terms of the ability to export terrorists to the US or its allies, and their leaders have made public statements denouncing Terrorism, and they have expelled known groups from their territory.
Now, envision yourself the President of the United States on September 12th. It's necessary to take action to cut the terrorists to their hearts, and you know that these eight nations represent bases for them, as well as conduits for funding and recruitment. You are also aware, that there is a loose network between these nations, so that an attck on one of the Middle East nations will likely result in reinforcement from its allies.
The first target is obvious: Afghanistan. Not only is it where you know ObL is hiding, it is a nation which cannot be considered legitimate by any means, since the Taliban overthrew the government to seize power. Many Democrats want to sugegst they were fully on board for this part of the fight; I leave that to the reader to consider, given comments and complaints, to say nothing of votes when it was necessary to support the troops there. It is further worth observation, that the US did not invade Afghanistan in a precictable fashion, but allied their forecs with the Northern Alliance. Senator Kerry has criticized this tactic, even though it unqeuestionably saved American lives, and Senator Kerry has never offered any sort of alternative which would have won that fight.
Moving ahead, the next move in the War on Terror becomes obvious, but before I point that out, I want to define this war. The Democrats have politicized the War for their own selfish gain, once again putting advantage over Country (yet they whine when their lack of Patriotism is noted), by pretending that President Bush has not explained his goals, defined his objectives, or laid out how we will exit the territory after winning. I should not also, that no Democrat has yet suggested a strategy which would effectively address the threat of Global Terrorism. Senator Kerry assures us he has a plan, but I find his claim no more reasonable than a Dan Rather newscast.
Now, back to the War. The reason the next move becomes obvious, is because it only requires a look at a map, a knowledge of recent history, and the advice of your Joint Chiefs of Staff. Cuba and North Korea are effectively neutralized for now from being able to export Terrorist cells. Cuba, because they have no Soviet sponsor; if needed, we could invade Cuba at any time, or simply bomb its regime out of any capability. In the case of North Korea, take a look at that map. See that large country on their border, the nuclear-armed one, with a very large army and a small tolerance for instability? Yes, China. Look, there's zero chance that China is going to make any public statements supporting the US position, but in simple fact, if NK develops a nuclear weapon, is it more likely to be a problem for the US, or someone closer? If NK gives the US a provocation by training terrorists, the possibility that China would turn a blind eye to a Special Forces raid rises strongly. In a few decades, China would be quite territorial about it, and there's no question they expect us to let them handle their close neighbors, but one of President Bush's lesser-known accomplishments is his accomodation with China. Bottom line, NK won't do anything to provoke a response that will hurt them worse.
Remember that I noted that most of the terrorist organizations are Islamo-fascist? It just makes sense that the US would want to make a move in the Middle East. But it would be neither easy nor reasonable, to move in on Iran, Syria, Libya, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, for that matter. First off, their governments are pretty much legit, except for Libya. Second, your Chiefs of Staff say that all but Libya would be a hard war, especially since you have little effective recon on the countries. And if you invaded Saudi Arabia, it would not only look bad, to invade an ostensible ally, but it would truly set off the Muslim world, to see Americans controlling territory needed for the hadj, especially since Mecca and Medina are off-limits to all non-Muslims.
Now then, Iraq is a different story. In the first place, they have broken, many times, the terms of their cease-fire, the US has a standing law that makes overthrowing Saddam the official US policy, and you have a lot of reconnaissance on the country. Moreover, if you can make the place a democratic republic, you not only improve the lives of many millions of people, you also improve the stability of the region, ethnically, religiously, and economically, as Iraq is a major petroleum processing nation, and it's just better for everyone, that such facilities should be controled by the people of Iraq, and not some maniacal tyrant. What's more, you go back to the results from 1991, and you remember the history on this guy - In 1981, he was trying to build an atomic bomb, until Israel raided Osirak. Several times in the '80s, he used Chemical Weapons in his war against Iran. You know he also used WMD on the Kurds. And after the first Gulf War, scientists announced he was much, much closer to building a nuke than anyone had expected. Add to that, the fact that no one knows what he has been doing with his known stockpiles since 1995, that he is known to be seeking nuclear weapons information, that he is experimenting with new biological weapons in his prisons, and this guy has gotta go. Strange, when you think about it, that Kerry and Edwards would try to claim otherwise.
So, with the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, two brutal regimes whcih sponsored and hosted terrorists are gone, and you have influenced Libya, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan and Cuba to various degrees, to change their ways. You've taken some heavy casualties since 2003 in the places you've gone to, but less than many predicted, and less (as a comparison) than California loses to a year of traffic accidents. Women and minorities have chances in Afghanistan and Iraq, which would never have happened without you, and it's no coincidence that while you have seen heavy fighting by terrorists in Iraq, they have not struck in America. You have wiped out some terrorist organizations, crippled many others, as well as hit their infrastructure for finance and technological research hard; it's no fluke that groups which once used sophisticated timing mechanisms and sent their cells to special schools, are reduced to improvised munitions and suicide bombs. You are winning, if the Old Media and the Democrats would let people know it.
And thats' where we are. Elect Kerry, and we'll throw away everything we've accomplished, in hopes that the French will forgive us, and the Terrorists don't mean everything they've said and done for the last 30 years. Re-elect President Bush, and we improve hope and stability in the Middle East, greatly lower the risk that terrorists will hit us here at home, and demonstrate that the US is still the leader of the Free World.