President George W. Bush forcefully explained last night -- some of us would say finally forcefully explained last night after too long a lull -- why our military operations in Iraq are crucial to success in the war on terror.
It was good to hear the commander-in-chief remind people that this is still the war against terror. Specifically, against Islamo-fascists who slaughtered 3000 Americans on September 11, 2001. Who spent the eight years before those atrocities murdering and promising to murder Americans -- as their leader put it in 1998, all Americans, including civilians, anywhere in the world where they could be found.
It is not the war for democratization. It is not the war for stability. Democratization and stability are not unimportant. They are among a host of developments that could help defeat the enemy.
But they are not the primary goal of this war, which is to destroy the network of Islamic militants who declared war against the United States when they bombed the World Trade Center on February 26, 1993, and finally jarred us into an appropriate response when they demolished that complex, struck the Pentagon, and killed 3000 of us on September 11, 2001.
That is why we are in Iraq.
On September 12, 2001, no one in America cared about whether there would be enough Sunni participation in a fledgling Iraqi democracy if Saddam were ever toppled. No one in lower Manhattan cared whether the electricity would work in Baghdad, or whether Muqtada al-Sadr's Shiite militia could be coaxed into a political process. They cared about smashing terrorists and the states that supported them for the purpose of promoting American national security.
Saddam Hussein's regime was a crucial part of that response because it was a safety net for al Qaeda. A place where terror attacks against the United States and the West were planned. A place where Saddam's intelligence service aided and abetted al Qaeda terrorists planning operations. A place where terrorists could hide safely between attacks. A place where terrorists could lick their wounds. A place where committed terrorists could receive vital training in weapons construction and paramilitary tactics. In short, a platform of precisely the type without which an international terror network cannot succeed.
The president should know he hit the sweet spot during his Fort Bragg speech because all the right people are angry. The New York Times, with predictable disingenuousness, is railing this morning that the 9/11 references in the speech are out of bounds because Iraq had "nothing whatsoever to do with the terrorist attacks." Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and the tedious David Gergen, among others, are in Gergen's words "offended" about use of the 9/11 "trump card."