Alexander's Column

We have been at war since Khobar Towers!

Mark Alexander · Feb. 14, 2003

It’s high time for some right thinking in rebuttal to those objecting to our imminent assault on Iraqi as we prosecute our war against Jihadistan. Despite those who would insist we are “about to go to war,” we have been at war since 11 September, 2001. Our principal adversary is not Iraq, but Jihadistan, that borderless nation of Islamic extremists with global reach, inhabited by al-Qa'ida terrorists and other Islamists who are targeting the U.S.

The “Islamic World” of the Quran recognizes no political borders. While orthodox Muslims (those conforming to the teachings of the “pre-Medina” Quran) do not support acts of terrorism or mass murder, very large sects within the Islamic World are indoctrinated with the “post-Mecca” Quran and Hadith (Mohammed’s teachings), which call for “Jihad” or “Holy War” against all “the enemies of God.” (Thus, why The Federalist terms this enemy “Jihadistan,” or “nation of holy war.”

Shortly after al-Qa'ida’s 9-11 attacks, President George Bush said: “This WAR on terrorism will be fought on a number of fronts, in different ways. The front lines will look different from the wars of the past.” A year later, Iraq’s support for al-Qa'ida was clear, prompting Mr. Bush to declare, “Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof – the smoking gun – that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.” In his most recent address to the nation, President Bush said, “It would take just one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known.”

Indeed, this conflict won’t be resolved diplomatically, and the war al-Qa'ida launched on our soil 17 months ago won’t be won defensively: this enemy can only be defeated in offensive, preemptive strikes. As Prussian general and military philosopher Karl von Clausewitz wrote in the early 19th century: “War is the continuation of policy by other means. … The best form of defense is attack.” The most effective policy to defend our homeland front against al-Qa'ida, is taking offensive action against al-Qa'ida’s state-sponsors, and that means in this phase of the campaign, “regime change” in Iraq.

But some Sociocrats and their cadre of Leftmedia talkingheads are doing what they do best – attempting to convert this perilous campaign into political capital. Their arguments are so ludicrous that even Demo Sen. Evan Bayh complained: “I don’t understand those who want to wait until the threat [from Iraq] is imminent. Do we wait until the missiles are launched, until the smallpox is in the country? The consequences of error could be catastrophic.”

The Federalist has compiled a list of the Left’s complaints and objections to the prosecution of the warfront with Iraq. Let us disabuse them of their self-serving and courage-deficient delusions:

Look who we were supporting in the 80s… It was 24 years ago this week, February 11, 1979, that a stated enemy of the U.S., the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, seized power in Iran, and seized the American embassy, thereby inaugurating the modern Islamic revolutionary movement. The Carter administration decided that one way to contain that revolution was to keep supporting Iraq’s war with Iran. Protecting legitimate U.S. national interests sometimes makes for strange bedfellows around the globe. However, two wrongs – supporting murderous regimes then and now – don’t make a right.

Bush is a cowboy – we can’t go to Iraq without a unified “international community” front… Perhaps the most widespread mantra of the Left is to accuse President Bush of having a “cowboy mentality” – a foreign policy propensity to go-it-alone, not to mention imperialistic ambitions. The President is sworn to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” This includes imminent threats to national security, with or without international consensus. Fortunately, an international consensus has emerged, “old Europe” notwithstanding.

Iraq is not an imminent threat… The information presented to the UN Security Council by Sec. of State Colin Powell last week is just the tip of the iceberg. For 16 months, the exposure of numerous connections between Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime and Osama bin Laden’s al-Qa'ida network provides more than adequate justification for a preemptive strike against Iraq. And the WMD threat from Iraq is not symmetric; rather, it is asymmetric in that there is imminent danger that Saddam has already provided, or certainly will provide WMD to surrogates like al-Qa'ida, who will then deploy or detonate those weapons in a major U.S. urban center – or that of an ally.

There is no evidence of WMD in Iraq – the UN has found nothing… “No evidence”? Once again, the Left subscribes to the notion that if you repeat a lie often enough, it will become the truth. As for “finding nothing,” UN inspectors will find little without Iraq’s mandated cooperation – and Iraq has NOT cooperated. Propagating the lie, the French unveiled a plan to triple the number of UN inspectors in Iraq. UN Chief Weapons Inspector Hans Blix panned the suggestion: “The principal problem is not the number of inspectors but rather the active co-operation of the Iraqi side, as we have said many times.” The U.S. has now presented ample evidence that Iraq is in possession of WMD – most recently in the very public forum of Secretary Colin Powell’s briefing of the UN Security Council.

As for Saddam’s humorous decree yesterday banning the production of WMD in Iraq, and ordering his ministers to “take whatever measures are necessary and punish people who do not adhere to it,” that order has already been issued, and Saddam is at the front of the line for castigation.

We talk with North Korea, so why not Iraq?… Many pundits have expressed concern that the Bush administration is devoting too much time to the issue of Iraq, while the more pressing issue of the North Korean nuclear program looms large, but is only given lip service. (As we recall, President Bush included North Korea prominently among the three nations forming the “Axis of Evil.”) What, exactly, has “talk” achieved in either case?

Of course, there is a substantial difference in motivations of Baghdad and Pyongyang. While Saddam Hussein maintains ties with terrorist organizations bent on the destruction of the West, posing a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States, Kim Jong Il is – not for the first time – applying pressure to his neighbors and the U.S. in order to obtain economic concessions.

However, no one is ignoring the North Korean threat. The U.S. representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Kenneth Brill, noted that “the time is right for the Security Council to begin considering this issue, [because Pyongyang’s] nuclear weapons program poses a direct threat to international peace and security. … [The threat that North Korea] will sell fissile material to rogue states and terrorists is too great to ignore.” Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has already raised the specter of this scenario; look for significant attention to be paid to the Korean Peninsula in the aftermath of a second Gulf War.

This war is just about oil… While some detractors suggest prosecuting the Iraqi front is solely about oil, in the Middle East, oil is intrinsic to regional stability, and regional stability is intrinsic to the national security interests of the United States – including U.S. demand for Middle East oil.

Prosecuting Iraq will invite escalated terrorist attacks… Indeed, the front with Iraq in our war with Jihadistan is the most perilous yet. At best, successfully disarming Iraq will cut off one major WMD resource for al-Qa'ida and other terrorist organizations. At worst, al-Qa'ida has already been supplied some WMD by Iraq. For sure, al-Qa'ida IS planning new attacks against the U.S. using various conventional and WMD assaults, with the objective of reducing our economy to ruins. Some analysts at the highest levels of the intelligence and military communities believe that al-Qa'ida will, eventually, detonate a nuclear weapon (not just a radiological dispersion device but a fission weapon) in a major U.S. urban center – and that this attack IS inevitable.

Will the prosecution of the Iraqi front “invite” these attacks – make the inevitable happen sooner rather than later? Perhaps it will accelerate some conventional, biological or chemical attacks. Disarming Iraq will, in effect, disarm a great number of al-Qa'ida operatives – but it will NOT disarm all of them. However, failing to put Saddam out of business will ensure that al-Qa'ida operatives are fully armed.

The good news – for the 17 months since 9-11, al-Qa'ida “sleeper cells” now positioned in the U.S. have been quiet. Our intelligence sources estimate that there may not be enough of those cells to expend them on conventional attacks (car bombs, homicide bombers, et al.). They conclude this means that those cells have not yet acquired nuclear-strike capability.

The Iraqi front with Jihadistan is replete with pitfalls. There are going to be many casualties – both military and civilian. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared: “There are moments in history when the judgment and the resolve of free nations are put to the test. This is such a moment. The security environment we are entering is the most dangerous the world has seen. The lives of our children and grandchildren could well hang in the balance.”

President Bush understands the enormous risks and implications of this conflict. No one has suggested that prosecuting the front with Iraq is a panacea; the war with Jihadistan does not end there.

On the Homeland Security front…

CIA Director George Tenet informed the Senate this week that multiple intelligence sources indicated an al-Qa'ida terrorist attack is very likely, saying this information was “not idle chatter” but rather “the most specific we have seen, and it is consistent with both our knowledge of al-Qa'ida’s doctrine and our knowledge of plots this network – and particularly its senior leadership – has been working on for years.” Tenet added that the Jihadi network is “living in the expectation of resuming the offensive,” and indicated the next attack may involve a radiological weapon. FBI Director Robert Mueller noted that there are believed to be “several hundred” Muslim extremists residing in the U.S. in al-Qa'ida sleeper cells “that we have not identified.”

Speaking of all those unidentified al-Qa'ida cell members that found their way across our borders and have settled in U.S. suburbs, we have only made marginal progress securing those borders. To wit, four Cuban defectors floated their coast guard patrol boat straight into the Hyatt Marina Resort in Key West, Florida, late last week, then walked into town and surrendered to a policeman. The Cubans were armed, and their vessel was still flying the Cuban flag.

Key West fortifications not withstanding, the “high alert” issued last Friday bumped all 425 military bases in the U.S. from Threat Condition Alpha to Threat Condition Bravo. Stinger anti-aircraft missiles have been deployed around Washington, DC, and combat air patrols have been stepped up over Washington and New York. Police with automatic weapons are present on the streets in large numbers.

But, alas, the heightened threat alert may be more déjà vu than protecting you. You recall that information about terrorists entering the country from Canada leading to that alert issued just before Christmas turned out to be a hoax. Now it appears that part of the body of “intelligence” leading to the latest enhanced alert was provided by an al-Qa'ida captive – who, subsequently, failed a polygraph. (We note, however the additional evidence of serious threat is legitimate.)

Predictably, the recent high alert has given all the 24-hour news cycle talkingheads something to chatter about over plenty of “terror alert” graphics, and that has inspired some urban dwellers to empty hardware stores of WMD countermeasures like duct tape and plastic.

Regarding the effectiveness of the national threat alert advisory system, the Homeland Security Department is charged with the judicious issuance of alerts, even though they may be the result of “unconfirmed, unsubstantiated, uncorroborated and unspecified” threats. (Of course, if the threats were confirmed, substantiated, corroborated and specific, there would likely be no need to issue an alert because there would be enough information about the threat vector to countervail it.) The reason for issuing warnings is threefold: First, millions of alert citizens are a far more effective deterrent against a general threat than a few thousand counter-terrorism agents. Second, if a warning is issued only through state and local law enforcement networks, it would take about one nanosecond for that information to find its way into the 24-hour news cycle – thus giving control of the message to TV talkingheads – generating confusion and, potentially, panic. And third, issuing such alerts tends to desensitize the public, preparing the nation to psychologically process an attack if it does occur. (It is a cold irony that because the grotesque images of 9-11 are etched into the memory of virtually every American, we are better prepared to manage the horror of the next attack.) But threat alerts must be issued judiciously, or they may, ultimately, be ignored.

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