Alexander's Column

The global reach of terror

Mark Alexander · Mar. 1, 2002

President George W. Bush this week continued mixing foreign and domestic issues, in a two-pronged “competency” campaign for this election year. Ever mindful of his father’s fate after neglecting homeland concerns while prosecuting a successful war overseas, Mr. Bush extended his political “charm” offensive to pension protections and to welfare reforms that encourage marriage. The president said, “Statistics tell us that children from two-parent families are less likely to end up in poverty, drop out of school, become addicted to drugs, have a child out of wedlock, suffer from abuse or become a violent criminal and end up in prison. Building and preserving families are not always possible, I recognize that. But they should always be our goal.” (Common sense tells us that too!) Also calling for welfare recipients to be at jobs or in schooling for 40 hours weekly, the plan proposes states spend $300 million on programs that support marriage.

Mr. Bush’s plan also allots $135 million for education on abstinence, the practice of which, the President astutely noted, “works every time.”

And turning to his war on terror, Mr. Bush said, “You know, the enemy attacked a nation that they thought was weak. And, man, did they make a mistake. They thought the United States was so materialistic, so caught up in a false Hollywood vision of America, that we would accept their attack as part of the normalcy in America, that we would do nothing about it. And they’ve now learned that this nation is absolutely resolved to defend that which we hold dearest to our heart, and that’s freedom – that when somebody attacks freedom, that we’ll defend it with all our force and all our might. And that’s what we’re doing. I think the country has laid out a clear message – first, that either you’re with us or you’re against us in the fight for freedom. That either you stand beside this great nation as part of a coalition that will defend freedom and defend civilization itself, or you’re against us.”

And Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld concurred, in summing up with a reminder this week of the continuing dangers from Jihadi terror attacks: “Many countries were attacked by terrorists before September 11th. Some have been attacked or endangered since September 11th. And any could be attacked tomorrow. In short, the war on terrorism is truly a global struggle, and it affects all nations.”

Confirming Mr. Rumsfeld’s assertion, Germany’s Foreign Intelligence Service head August Hanning remarked, “I would warn against concluding from the fact that we have had no serious attacks since September 11 that the threat has diminished.” You will recall that three of the 9-11 terrorist attackers, including the lead 9-11 Jihadi organizer, Mohammed Atta, lived undetected in Hamburg. Hanning noted in particular that al Qaeda’s European operation cells are lying in wait.

And these comments are indicative of the general responses round the world – on tenterhooks but not any real eagerness for such proactive self-defenses as taking on the looming threat from the nexus of terror sponsorship and weapons of mass destruction in the “axis of evil” nations. Reports have now surfaced, however, that Victor Bout, an infamous Russian arms dealer, has been transporting Iraqi weapons to al Qaeda terrorists worldwide.

The global-reach war against Jihadistan cost the lives of an eight-man Army crew from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and two Air Force para-rescuers based in Japan – who were killed in an MH-47 helicopter crash last week during anti-terrorism exercises off Negros island in the southern Philippines. “They died standing for a noble cause of keeping the world free of people who do not believe in the rights of other peoples to live in harmony and freedom,” said Philippine chief of staff Gen. Diomedio Villanueva, in a ceremony honoring them and posthumously awarding them the Bronze Star, the Philippines’ highest peacetime military award.

We respectfully observe that the print and television media have given enormous attention to the life…and heinous murder of reporter Daniel Pearl, while only briefly noting the deaths of our military combatants – who also have mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, wives and children. Playing the media’s tune, the State Department Wednesday upped the ante in the Daniel Pearl murder case – offering $5 million for information leading to arrest or conviction of those involved. (While we in no way suggest that his death was less tragic than the deaths of our service personnel, we suggest that the lives of our combatants deserve equal time.)

And back to the living – about a third of the 300 Jihadistan terrorist detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are on a hunger strike, protesting confiscation of a prohibited makeshift turban one detainee fashioned out of bed sheets. (We suggest their overseers wait them out….)

On the war’s home front, the FAA announced it is “seriously concerned” about allegations from a former lead security investigator that air security lapses have been covered up. A raid at Boston’s Logan Airport picked up 20 workers, including six security screeners, who allegedly lied on their employment or security applications, and thus obtained improper access to “secure” airport areas. And relatedly, a New Jersey resident was charged with participating in a conspiracy to provide false identification materials to two of the 9-11 Jihadi attackers.