Alexander's Column

The fight of our lives

Mark Alexander · Nov. 16, 2001

Our terrorist enemies al Qaeda and their Taliban host are on the run, and the people of Afghanistan are being freed from these tyrants. “We still have a ways to go,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld cautioned Wednesday, but he noted the happy Afghanis and music filling the streets of Kabul “are certainly very gratifying.” Mr. Rumsfeld also noted, though Special Forces unites have been in some heavy firefights, no Americans have been killed.

The Taliban fled Kabul Tuesday, and Northern Alliance forces entered the capital to restore order. City dwellers celebrated their freedom from Taliban rule joyously albeit hesitantly, honking horns and ringing bells. Northern Alliance troops swept the city for foreign mercenaries, including Arabs, Pakistanis, and Chechens who fought alongside the Taliban, killing several and capturing others. Southern Pashtun warriors rose Wednesday against southward-fleeing Taliban, more Taliban defectors switched sides, and by Thursday, al Qaeda and the Taliban had retreated to dwindling regions of northeastern and southern Afghanistan.

The Taliban commanders seem to have adopted Che Guevara’s old guerrilla maxim: “Live to fight another day.” Unfortunately for them, U.S. Special Forces have adopted President Bush’s old maxim: “Dead or alive….” And some key political leaders in Washington just want him dead. “I’m interested in hunting down these [terrorists] and bringing them to justice, and that’s killing them…,” said one of the Senate’s finest, Phil Gramm. “We have an old Texas Rangers principle that if you ride with thieves, you die with thieves. The modern incantation is if you ride with terrorists, your die with terrorists.” Demo Joe Biden, chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, added, “Kill him. Shoot him. I mean it.”

Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar called on his fighters to continue resisting in the name of Islam, invoking an unfortunate comparison with “slaughtered chickens.” Omar stated, “[Those not persisting in the battle are] just like a chicken with its head cut off. It falls in a ditch and dies.”

Our “smoke ‘em and choke 'em” campaign against terrorists has succeeded in these initial Afghan battle phases despite the assessment of notable TV talkinghead pundits’ “doom and gloom” forecasts that we were already bogged down in a quagmire! Vice President Dick Cheney chided “the hand-wringers who, a week or two ago, were saying: ‘It’s not going to work; you’re not doing enough; you’ve been at it now for three or four weeks, and my gosh, the war is not over yet.’ When you read the Washington press and see what all of the pundits have to offer and some of the talkingheads on Washington have to offer, it’s nice, at a moment like this, to be able to remind them that a lot of what they put out over the course of the last few weeks was just dead wrong.” Recent anti-Taliban military victories also proceeded more rapidly than the diplo-babbling hand-wringers would have preferred. Neighboring Pakistan in particular is worried about the configurations of political power sharing in a post-Taliban Afghanistan. The Federalist’s advice: Give freedom a chance!

But a reminder of how high the stakes really are and how important it is to cut off the head of al Qaeda: On Tuesday U.S. military planes destroyed a building believed to hold leading al Qaeda terrorists. Although post-strike evaluation had not determined how many or which of our terrorist enemies were in the building, plans for nuclear bombs, missiles, and related chemical and biological terror weapons were combed from the debris. “The current situation in Afghanistan is related to a bigger cause – that is the destruction of America … we will see these things happen within a short while. The plan is going ahead and, God willing, it is being implemented,” Taliban leader Mullah Omar said.

Indeed, the enemy is still lurking in our suburbs and the battle to extinguish them and their protagonists around the world has only just begun.

Al Qaeda’s potentate, Osama bin Laden, claims he has nukes. In a video circulating among his supporters, bin Laden openly admits responsibility for the 9-11 terror attacks, saying, “If avenging the killing of our people is terrorism, then history should be a witness that we are terrorists. Yes, we kill their innocents and this is legal, religiously and logically.” He calls the World Trade Center a “legitimate” target, saying the hijackers who flew airliners into the WTC towers and the Pentagon were “blessed by Allah to destroy America’s economic and military landmarks. …These events were great by all measurement. What was destroyed were not only the [WTC] towers, but the towers of morale in that country. …Bush and [British Prime Minister Tony] Blair don’t understand anything but the power of force. Every time they kill us, we kill them, so the balance of terror can be achieved. …Killing Jews is top priority.”

And Blair this week described further evidence linking most of the 9-11 terrorists to al Qaeda and bin Laden. Moreover, al Qaeda has known links to terrorism-sponsoring countries that have chemical, biological and radiological weapons capabilities. The world’s most dangerous outlaws may hold some of the world’s most dangerous weapons. “It does not take a leap of intelligence to know that if they have a relationship … then [bin Laden] either has them, will have them or wants to have them,” Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said. “I know a lot about it from intelligence. On the other hand, you have to know a lot more to know precisely whether you have these capabilities that are readily usable.”

In other news from the warfront, eight captive foreign aid workers for German-based aid organization Shelter Now International were rescued late Wednesday from a field southwest of Kabul by U.S. Special Forces. “I’m thankful they’re safe, and I’m pleased with our military for conducting this operation,” President George Bush said. After Taliban adherents spirited the missionaries south during retreat toward Kandahar, Northern Alliance fighters, yelling “freedom,” released them from their prison cells. As The Federalist alerted you in August, these Christians, providing humanitarian assistance to impoverished Afghan people, were seized under accusations of “preaching Christianity.” Detainees included Americans Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer, along with four Germans and two Australians. “I just know that it was through the prayers of the people that we were able to come out alive,” Miss Curry said. (Also, 16 Afghan detained employees of the mission group were freed.)

President Bush Wednesday signed an order creating a framework for special U.S. military tribunals to try foreigners accused of terrorist attacks, and to mete out sentences, including the death penalty. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld now has the authority to establish the courts, similar to those established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II. “Having fully considered the magnitude of the potential deaths, injuries, and property destruction that would result from potential acts of terrorism against the United States, and the probability that such acts will occur, I have determined that an extraordinary emergency exists for national defense purposes, that this emergency constitutes an urgent and compelling government interest, and that issuance of this order is necessary to meet the emergency,” Mr. Bush said in the order.

In other anti-terror justice moves, the Justice Department circulated a list of 5,000 foreigners to federal prosecutors nationwide, as persons “who might have information” about 9-11 attacks, and sought for questioning. Those on the list were identified only as males, ages 18 to 33, who entered the United States on nonimmigrant tourist, student and business visas after Jan. 1, 2000, from a terrorist-harboring country.

And a “going postal” anthrax footnote: Postal worker Leroy Richmond, last of six surviving inhalation anthrax patients, went home Tuesday from Inova Fairfax Hospital in Virginia. The Unaplaguer has fallen silent.

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