Why we fight
Five years ago, we Americans awoke to the horrifying reality that -- like it or not, accept it or not -- our nation was at war with a terrifying and mysterious enemy.
Significantly, it was a group of ordinary Americans who launched the first counteroffensive in this new war. They, of course, were the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93, and they were led in their charge by the battle cry of Todd Beamer: "Let's roll!" Having been made aware of the World Trade Center attacks via cell-phone communications with their loved ones, the men of Flight 93 acted swiftly and surely -- and they died as free men in defense of their beloved country.
In the weeks preceding this five-year commemoration of 9/11, this column has examined the locus of the threat we face. The so-called "war on terror," we concluded, is a misnomer. Terrorism is a tactic, a means to an end. Islam, conversely, is the ideology behind modern terrorism. It's an ideology that is also inherently fascist. It is no coincidence that these terrorist-fascists happen to be Muslim, for Islam itself is a clerical-fascist system of belief.
Next, having identified the origin of the threat, we examined the nature of it. While the September 11 attacks constitute a grave tragedy, it is hardly the gravest possible. Far more worrisome, we argued, is the stated intention of our jihadist foe to detonate nuclear weapons -- preferably several simultaneously -- in major U.S. urban centers. With our borders virtually unguarded and only five percent of incoming containers at our shipyards being inspected, it's possible that one or more such weapons are already within our borders. Many prominent voices in the security community agree that such an attack is probable, if not inevitable.
As we approach the anniversary itself, we are reminded of the words of President Bush: "These terrorists target the innocent, and they kill by the thousands. And they would, if they gain the weapons they seek, kill by the millions and not be finished. The greatest threat of our age is nuclear, chemical or biological weapons in the hands of terrorists and the dictators who aid them."
That statement wasn't part of the Bush/Rumsfeld rhetorical onslaught of recent days. Nor was it poll-driven spin with an eye toward November's crucial congressional elections. Rather, it was part of a speech to British lawmakers at Whitehall Palace, London, in November 2003.
Notably, President Bush's language has changed little since then. Addressing the Military Officers Association of America earlier this week, the President again intoned the threat of a WMD attack from jihadists: "Bin Laden and his terrorist allies have made their intentions as clear as Lenin and Hitler before them," he said. "The question is: Will we listen? Will we pay attention to what these evil men say? We're taking the words of the enemy seriously."
While the President's view of the conflict has only galvanized in the past five years, his view of the enemy has matured significantly. He is no longer reflexive in affirming Islam as a "religion of peace," as he did at a mosque in the days following 9/11. Instead, President Bush has finally begun to speak bluntly about the threat posed by "Islamic fascism."
Regrettably, the same cannot be said of other Beltway voices. "The facts do not lie," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid in response to the President's recent remarks. "Under the Bush administration and this Republican Congress, America is less safe, facing greater threats and unprepared for the dangerous world in which we live."
Reid and his cohorts, who cannot or will not see the connection between the war in Iraq and the global war on Islamic fascism, reinforce and are reinforced by Americans who insist we are engaged in a "war for oil." 9/11 Scholars for Truth, a group of pseudo-academic conspiracy theorists, claim that the Bush administration itself (after eight whole months on the job) orchestrated the 9/11 attacks. Indeed, the movement has grown to such an extent that it has produced the Journal of 9/11 Studies under a veneer of scholarly respectability.
The picture abroad is little better. Only this week, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin ran up the white flag, rejecting any talk of a "war on terror," much less a war on Islamic fascism. "We will only end this curse," he said, "if we also fight against injustice, violence and these crises."
Thanks to the likes of de Villepin and Reid, we now not only fight Muslim fascism abroad but also defeatism at home and throughout the West. As we've stated before, we should call political opportunists such as Reid, John Kerry, Ted Kennedy and Nancy Pelosi precisely what they are: Traitors.
In stark contrast to the words of these scoundrels, the actions of Todd Beamer and his comrades on Flight 93 live on in our nation's commitment to defeat this jihadist scourge. Just this week, the administration released its revised National Strategy for Combating Terrorism, a document that details how our actions adapt as the war evolves.
Appropriately, the NSCT identifies Islamic terrorism as "a form of totalitarianism following in the path of fascism and Nazism" and rearticulates U.S. strategies of international cooperation and force -- including pre-emptive force -- in defeating the enemy. The most important weapon in this war, however, is our nation's commitment to democratization abroad. "Democracy," the document continues, "is the antithesis of terrorist tyranny, which is why the terrorists denounce it and are willing to kill the innocent to stop it."
With democracy as the cornerstone of our war-fighting strategy, our nation has become the primary target of Islamofascism. That our foe is willing to kill the innocent to check the course of democracy serves as a stark reminder of what Todd Beamer and his colleagues were fighting for, and why we must continue fighting the long war until the battle is won.
Islamic fascism is not why we fight, it's what we fight. The distinction is more than merely rhetorical. For all our necessary emphasis on what we're fighting -- Islamic terrorists bent on the destruction of the West and the establishment of a new caliphate -- we cannot forget what we're fighting for.
In March of 2003, the president and a bipartisan congress insisted we needed to invade Iraq in order to thwart Saddam's plans to develop WMD and outsource it to Jihadi surrogates. The nuclear WMD risk was, and remains, a perilous impending threat, though significantly reduced with the removal of Saddam's regime. But seasoned intelligence and national security analysts would argue that our ultimate objective -- to establish an Islamic democracy in the cradle of the Islamic world in order to protect our vital national interests -- is as critical, if not more so today, as it was in 2003.
The United States of America is the last best hope of Western civilization, and we fight because we know our way of life is worth defending to the last man. As we reflect back upon the events of September 11, 2001, let us humbly remind ourselves why it is that we fight. Let us remember that no great civilization is defeated from without until it is first defeated from within.