Alexander's Column

Infinite Justice

Mark Alexander · Sep. 21, 2001

President George Bush addressed the nation Thursday night in what was one of the most important speeches in recent history (the text of which we will publish in full in Monday’s Brief). Unleashing “Operation Infinite Justice,” the first military phase of a long-term terrorist eradication effort called “Operation Noble Eagle,” President Bush emphatically stated that this will not be a nicely packaged 100 hour assault on a well-defined adversary, but a conflict which will include casualties and sacrifices.

The key points of the president’s address: “Tonight we are a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom. Our grief has turned to anger, and anger to resolution. Whether we bring our enemies to justice, or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done. … [Afghanistan will] deliver to United States authorities all the leaders of al-Qaida who hide in your land. … Close immediately and permanently every terrorist training camp in Afghanistan and hand over every terrorist, and every person in their support structure, to appropriate authorities. Give the United States full access to terrorist training camps, so we can make sure they are no longer operating. These demands are not open to negotiation or discussion. The Taliban must act and act immediately. They will hand over the terrorists, or they will share in their fate. … Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists, and every government that supports them. Our war on terror begins with al-Qaida, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated. … By sacrificing human life to serve their radical visions – by abandoning every value except the will to power – they follow in the path of fascism, and Nazism, and totalitarianism. And they will follow that path all the way, to where it ends: in history’s unmarked grave of discarded lies. [Not to mention "Communism”!] … From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime. … As long as the United States of America is determined and strong, this will not be an age of terror; this will be an age of liberty, here and across the world….. I will not forget this wound to our country, or those who inflicted it. I will not yield – I will not rest – I will not relent in waging this struggle for the freedom and security of the American people. The course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is certain. Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have always been at war, and we know that God is not neutral between them.“

Our first observation – thank God for the votes, ironically, of those active duty military personnel who put George Bush over the top in Florida last year! And second, several members of The Federalist Editorial Board – and many of our readers – will play significant roles in Operation Infinite Justice. To them and all of our fellow patriot warriors, we say God Bless You!

It is difficult to defend against an enemy who is largely undefined. It is more difficult to take effective offensive action against that enemy. Osama bin Laden’s terrorist organization, al-Qaida, is really a worldwide network of allied terrorist cells with state support primarily from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Pakistan and Afghanistan. This enemy has no borders, and the war, no well-defined fronts.

Despite the media’s fascination with the "New War on America,” there is nothing new about it, except, of course, we are far less prepared – both defensively and offensively – than we were a decade ago. Suicide bombers fulfilling Jihad are not new. Nor is a threatening network of terror new; indeed, some elements of this one are merely recycled Red terrorists who found new employment as “reincarnated” Islamic extremists.

The assault on our nation September 11th was unannounced, and, more significantly, its formation and execution undetected – until its implementation. It had one major purpose – to weaken our resolve to defend our national interests in the Middle East, and especially in support of Israel, the most significant outpost of American interests in the region.

This is Day 10 after the assaults on our countrymen, and as of yet, we can only detect the vague silhouette of the enemy who committed this atrocity. We know bin Laden was a significant principal in the assault because it has his signature characteristics. But he had collaborators, and absence of evidence now is not evidence of their absence. Eliminating bin Laden does not win this war.

“[Bin Laden is] the target at the moment,” said Dick Cheney. “But I don’t want to convey the impression that if we had his head on a platter today that that would solve the problem because it won’t.” “Indeed,” noted former CIA analyst Ken Pollack, “one of today’s great frustrations is coming to grips with this amorphous adversary.

Certainly, as Mr. Bush noted, we must determine who is with us – and who is not. (Some who say they are with us really won’t be.) We must therefore wage a comprehensive covert operations campaign to annihilate Al Qaeda operatives and destroy their facilities – and facilitators – around the world. In addition to diplomatic efforts and intelligence operations, we must wage a military campaign against Afghanistan for refusing to turn over bin Laden and for harboring Al Qaeda facilities and personnel. (Regarding the commitment of ground forces, however, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, the British on three occasions, and the Soviet Union all sent troops to Afghanistan – and all mounted a retreat.) We must also support the Northern Alliance – the legitimate government of Afghanistan attempting to oust the Taliban.

Sounding like a Berkeley protestor chanting the Leftist plaints of "restraint” and “patience,” Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar stated, “We appeal to the U.S. government to exercise complete patience,” adding that Afghanistan’s enemies consider Islam “a thorn in their eye and they seek different excuses to finish it off.” But we echo the words of Sen. John McCain, “God may have mercy on you. We will not! We will not!”

Military and security author Tom Clancy weighed in to defend the CIA against unwarranted criticisms of its nonperformance in not staving off last Tuesday’s attacks, noting that the 18,000 member agency has only about 800 field intelligence officers tasked to such matters: “The loss of so many lives in New York and Washington is now called an ‘intelligence failure,’ mostly by those who crippled the CIA in the first place, and by those who celebrated the loss of its invaluable capabilities. …Those who inflict their aesthetic on the rest of us are never around to clean up the resulting mess. … The intelligence community was successfully assaulted for actions taken under constitutionally mandated orders, and with nothing left to replace what was smashed, warnings we might have had to prevent this horrid event never came. …The next time America is in a fight, it is well to remember that tying one’s own arms is unlikely to assist in preserving, protecting and defending what is ours.”

Nonetheless, there was a massive intelligence failure here, and sources indicate that a more attentive (read: less politicized and back-scratching) U.S. intelligence effort would most likely have dealt properly with warnings. Indeed, in August two senior military intelligence experts from the Israeli Mossad alerted the CIA and FBI that a cell of as many of 200 terrorists was seemingly preparing a big operation. One senior Israeli security official remarked, “They had no specific information about what was being planned but linked the plot to Osama bin Laden and told the Americans that there were strong grounds for suspecting Iraqi involvement.”

A Washington administration official replied, “If this is true then the refusal to take it seriously will mean heads will roll. It is quite credible that the CIA might not heed a Mossad warning: it has a history of being overcautious about Israeli information.” Further intelligence now suggests that closely directing the September 11th mission were two of the world’s foremost terrorist masterminds: Imad Mughniyeh, from Lebanon, head of the special overseas operations for Hezbollah, and Dr. Ayman Al Zawahiri, of Egypt, a senior member of Al-Qaeda and possible successor to the ailing bin Laden.

Other reports describe telltale meetings of approximately 400 participants from the most extreme terror groups in Beirut last February and in Tehran in late April, in service of what was termed “The Jerusalem Project.” Participating groups reportedly included bin Laden’s Al Qaeda, Hamas and Islamic Jihad of Palestine, Hezbollah of Lebanon and Iran, other Middle East militants – and at least one attendee living in the United States.

So what’s next?

President Bush also announced the creation of a Cabinet-level Office of Homeland Security, a coordinating office of all “federal departments and agencies, as well as state and local governments,” to be headed by Gov. Tom Ridge. In that announcement, President Bush made it clear that the risk of assault against Americans on American soil remains high.

Here is how analysts associated with The Federalist Editorial Board evaluate the risk of additional assaults on our nation. There is a high probability that bin Laden will respond to President Bush’s speech with a second assault in the next 48 hours, and a significant probability that next week, next month or next year – bin Laden’s surrogates and comrades WILL strike again. Given our country’s “open borders” and the probability of pre-positioned terrorist cells on U.S. soil now, it will be very difficult for the “war on terrorism” to eliminate the risk of these assaults anytime soon.

The next tier of attacks, when – NOT “IF” – they occur, will be similar to those of September 11, 2001, in that there will be multiple targets and that the attacks will likely occur in a narrow time frame for maximum effect. However, we expect them to differ in that they will involve NBCWMD – nuclear, biological and/or chemical weapons of mass destruction levied against urban centers with the objective of substantially disrupting continuity of government and commerce over wide geographic sections of the nation.

Specific targets in urban areas are too numerous to list, but suffice it to say, the targets will be selected on the basis of their impact profile (high profile public events and/or targets such as communication and power grids or facilities).

The objective of terrorism is to break our will as a people – as a nation. If we don’t kill these people – wipe ALL of them from the face of the earth, they will be back – and back again – and again. And the best offense starts with a good defense.

Civil preparedness is the best way to mitigate effects of terrorism on our families and our resolve as a nation – thus preparedness is essential. For that reason, in Monday’s Brief, The Federalist will post links to our Web site’s “Recommended Action Plan for Mitigating the Effects of Terrorism on Your Family and Community” for your family and community. The plan includes excerpts from a series of articles we published in 1999, which emphasized that Y2K was a catalyst for renewing civil preparedness in the event of a major manmade or natural disaster. (Of note, in those editions, we made specific reference to only one terrorist – Osama bin Laden – and that the highest probability target would be a “major East Coast population center.”)

We encourage you to take reasonable steps toward preparedness based on these recommendations.

Perhaps the best guides for our mission in coming days are those heroes of United Airlines Flight 93, who fought their terrorist attackers, leading to their plane crashing in rural Pennsylvania. Last week, we noted participation in this heroic act by Thomas Burnett. Others we must salute for joining Burnett are Todd Beamer, Jeremy Glick, Mark Bingham, and Lou Nacke. And patriots rightly note that these men, by constitutional definition members of the “militia,” were the only effective defenders stopping any of these terrorists from carrying out their evil designs.