Back To Basics In The War On Terror

GENERIC George W Bush September 11th terror CBS/AP

This column was written by Andrew C. McCarthy.
That's the guy I voted for.

President Bush's speech yesterday was simply stellar. Would that he gave it every day.

He didn't back down to pressure from Muslim interest groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The president clearly and repeatedly named names. Our enemy, he declared, is "violent Islamic radicalism," which comes in both Sunni and Shiite "strains." Gone was any suggestion that they are deranged or disconnected from a coherent belief system:

The terrorists who attacked us on September the 11th, 2001, are men without conscience — but they're not madmen. They kill in the name of a clear and focused ideology, a set of beliefs that are evil, but not insane. These al Qaeda terrorists and those who share their ideology are violent Sunni extremists. [The president later added that the Iranian regime and its proxy, Hezbollah, were "Shia extremists."] … They hope to establish a violent political utopia across the Middle East, which they call a "Caliphate" — where all would be ruled according to their hateful ideology.... This caliphate would be a totalitarian Islamic empire encompassing all current and former Muslim lands[.]... In pursuit of their imperial aims, these extremists say there can be no compromise or dialogue with those they call "infidels" — a category that includes America, the world's free nations, Jews, and all Muslims who reject their extreme vision of Islam.

He urged Americans to listen to our enemies and take them seriously, imploring us not to repeat the historic blunders of failing to listen to Lenin and Hitler before it was too late. We must listen to bin Laden's lieutenant, Ayman Zawahiri, when he declares that al Qaeda intends to impose its rule in "every land that was a home for Islam, from [Spain] to Iraq…. The whole world is an open field for us." We must listen to Hezbollah's leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, when he admonishes: "Let the entire world hear me. Our hostility to the Great Satan [America] is absolute… Regardless of how the world has changed after 11 September, Death to America will remain our reverberating and powerful slogan: Death to America." We must listen to the mullahs' bullhorn, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, when he warns that the "goal" of a "world without the United States and Zionism can be achieved"; when he adds that America's "doomed destiny will be annihilation"; and when he dares to threaten that our citizens must "bow down before the greatness of the Iranian nation and surrender[,]" or else "the Iranian nation will… force you to surrender and bow down."

In his clarion call, the President insisted that Americans grasp the stakes of Iraq, now the heart of the greater war. Because the enemy sure does. Al Qaeda, he pointed out, has
made clear that the most important front in their struggle against America is Iraq — the nation bin Laden has declared the "capital of the Caliphate." Hear the words of bin Laden: "I now address… the whole… Islamic nation: Listen and understand… The most… serious issue today for the whole world is this Third World War… [that] is raging in [Iraq]." He calls it "a war of destiny between infidelity and Islam." He says, "The whole world is watching this war," and that it will end in "victory and glory or misery and humiliation." For al Qaeda, Iraq is not a distraction from their war on America — it is the central battlefield where the outcome of this struggle will be decided. [Emphasis added.]


This is the challenge for every "phased withdrawal" proponent of cut-and-run. And they should be made to answer it — every last one of them.

Many patriotic Americans opposed the invasion of Iraq. More still are angry over missteps and misplaced priorities in the occupation. And, yes, few outside the administration are sold on Nouri al-Maliki, the Iran-friendly Hezbollah-phile who is prime minister of the new Iraq — where Islamic law is enshrined in the constitution, and where the cleric over whom the administration oddly gushes, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, is a pillar of the very intolerance that animates the radicals.

But all of that is secondary now.

"The war." Bin Laden has concluded, "is for you or for us to win. If we win it, it means your defeat and disgrace forever."

He's right. We are there. They are there. And we have to win. Period. As the President bluntly put it, defeat would mean our enemies
will have an open field to pursue their dangerous goals. Each strain of violent Islamic radicalism would be emboldened in their efforts to topple moderate governments and establish terrorist safe havens. Imagine a world in which they were able to control governments, a world awash with oil and they would use oil resources to punish industrialized nations. And they would use those resources to fuel their radical agenda, and pursue and purchase weapons of mass murder. And armed with nuclear weapons, they would blackmail the free world, and spread their ideologies of hate, and raise a mortal threat to the American people. If we allow them to do this, if we retreat from Iraq, if we don't uphold our duty to support those who are desirous to live in liberty, 50 years from now history will look back on our time with unforgiving clarity, and demand to know why we did not act.

That outcome is not acceptable. The nation owes its commitment to victory in Iraq. And the administration, mutually, owes its best effort to win. To make our first, unshakable priority the crushing of al Qaeda and the Shiite militias, and the influence of Iran — regardless of how uncomfortable that makes Maliki and Sistani. On that score, the President sensibly adhered to democracy-promotion in the region as a long-term goal, but he subordinated it to more immediate imperatives.

P.C. Creeps In

To be sure, there is still reason to be concerned that the administration is underestimating the degree of support our enemies enjoy in Islamic countries — and overestimating how "radical" the radicals really are. Thus, the President insists they are driven by a "perverted vision of Islam that rejects tolerance, crushes all dissent, and justifies the murder of innocent men, women and children in the pursuit of political power."

  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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