Winning is the Best Defense

Some argue that 9/11 should not become a memorial but a battle cry, yet human nature seems peculiarly engineered to relive its triumphs and tragedies. Amid the commemoration of these martyrs for religious freedom, U.S. citizens can take solace in the knowledge that we are safer now than at any point in our recent history. George W. Bush’s persistent War on Terror has removed the terrorist wolves from America’s throat and relentlessly hunted them down in their dens of iniquity.

His sensible approach stands in stark contrast to the (in)actions of his predecessor. Bill Clinton, who believed the Axis of Evil was composed of Dole-Gingrich-Starr, sacrificed national security due to Cabinet deadlock, chose cordiality with Democratic Senator Dennis DeConcini over the intelligence needs of CIA Director James Woolsey, and refused Sudan’s offer to arrest Osama bin Laden years before 9/11. Bin Laden drew inspiration from Clinton’s hasty retreat shortly after Somali warlords killed American GIs and dragged their bodies through the streets of Mogadishu, as well as Clinton’s nonfeasance over al-Qaeda’s bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen.

Not since Jimmy Carter had the nation been so prone to terrorist attack. It would not take the bloodthirsty Islamists long to seize the moment. Yet before the dust had cleared at Ground Zero, bin Laden’s benefactors in the Taliban had been toppled like ancient “infidel” statues of the Buddha.  Osama bin Laden – if he survived the operation – was left without a base of operations, and a pro-Western government in Afghanistan took the place of a totalitarian one. And Bush had only begun.

He quickly began to tighten the noose around the neck of international Islamic terrorism. The death of Mohammed Atef began a series of intelligence finds that led to massive arrests and stopped al-Qaeda’s affiliate in the Philippines, Jamaat Islamiya, dead in its tracks. The information gathered by the arrest of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the “Brain” of al-Qaeda, has continued to expose the enemies arrayed against the American way at home and abroad. In all, a full two-thirds of al-Qaeda’s leadership has been captured or sent to their eternal reward.

The war with traitors in our midst also began in earnest. The USA PATRIOT Act gave John Ashcroft’s Justice Department the flexibility to pursue terrorists with the same zeal as drug dealers and mafiosi, without depriving the average American of his rights. The new potency allowed Ashcroft to shut down terrorist cells such as the Buffalo Six, the Portland Six, the Detroit Four, and a suspected group of militants in northern Virginia.

In June, Ashcroft nabbed Columbus, Ohio, truck driver Iyman Faris, who confessed to conspiring with al-Qaeda to launch a wave of domestic terrorism as an encore to 9/11. Faris, who met with Osama bin Laden, said they planned to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge and derail U.S. trains.

More destructive plots soon came to light. On August 12, British national Hemant Lakhani tried to sell shoulder-fired missiles to an undercover FBI agent, whom he believed to be an al-Qaeda strategist. During the sale at Newark International Airport, Lakhani helpfully suggested the “terrorist” order 50 anti-aircraft missiles to shoot down American commercial airliners. Just before his arrest Lakhani, who had been asked to have one shipment of weapons ready by “the anniversary” of 9/11 last year, had ordered several tons of C-4 plastic explosives from a Russian supplier, as well.

Lakhani and Faris represent the most serious threats to American safety that have been publicly revealed. And both were stopped cold by law enforcement officials following Bush administration procedures. This is a far cry from the days when the feds arrested “the 20th hijacker” Zacarias Moussaoui but, under Clinton-era regulations, could not investigate his suspicious behavior. Had the Patriot Act been law on September 10th, 2001, history may have played out differently.

However, the Bush administration has taken all steps to assure that for the past two years, Americans could go to work and school free of the specter of terror. In addition to paralyzing more than 3,000 terrorist operatives around the world, the Attorney General’s Office has cut off the pipeline of cash flowing from the this country to terrorist havens, freezing $133 million in assets worldwide. To underscore how definitively the tide has turned, there has even been talk (though precious little else) of reinforcing our porous borders. Having passed through the crucible of mass slaughter, the Bush administration drew the appropriate conclusions and is pursuing the right course of action. Now, thanks to George W. Bush and John Ashcroft, we are slowly but surely winning the War on Terror, domestically and overseas.

In addition to toppling the Taliban and capturing Islamofascist thugs around the world, the Bush administration removed one of the world’s most lethal threats to American security: Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime. Bush suffered international humiliation thanks to the intransigence of the “Axis of Weasel” and patiently endured the ravings of America’s own ultra-leftist protesters. Then, having turned the opinion of the U.S. and the UN in favor of Resolution 1441, he proceeded to do it all again on behalf of a second UN resolution, all for the sake of bolstering sagging ally Tony Blair. Ultimately, Bush defied “the will of the international community” to secure his country’s safety, launching the most civilian-conscious war plan in history.

And the war, contrary to the rhetoric of Democratic presidential hopefuls, has made America safer. Unlike those nations where the Left supported military incursions – Somalia, Haiti, Sudan (Clinton’s infamous aspirin factory bombing), Serbia, East Timor, and Liberia – Iraq posed a long-term threat to American lives by meeting with al-Qaeda leadership, allowing the al-Qaeda affiliate group Ansar al-Islam to operate a training facility within its borders, undeniably sponsoring a WMD program, financing suicide bombers, and, on at least one occasion, attempting to assassinate a former president of the United States. George W. Bush’s courageous stance obliterated the threat of an apocalyptic scenario coming to pass at the hands of either Saddam Hussein or his successors. The armed forces have also removed the many layers of henchmen who ran Saddam’s thugocracy, capturing or killing 39 of the 55 most wanted players (as of 9/10/2003). Bush has made sure the Axis of Evil is one nation short. For that, we should all breathe easier.

However, it is in Iraq that the battle persists. As President Bush said earlier this week, Iraq is now the focus, the front line, in the War on Terror. Islamist extremists have decided to make Iraq the site of their ultimate jihad, convinced by eight years of Clintonesque reversals that America will ultimately lose its nerve and retreat before the advancing Mohammedan hordes. All the Democratic presidential candidates (except two apparently hopeless hopefuls: Lieberman and Edwards) attempt to outdo one another in their verbal sabotage of our Iraq policy. They cite everything from the growing casualties list – which will only grow higher if America shows weakness at yet another critical moment – to a feigned concern over the federal budget deficit. (Those frugal Democrats, bless them all!) Their strategy is to hope that by closing their eyes to the problems of the world, those problems will evaporate; in that sense, the Democratic Party has truly become the party of Clinton.

We can bear no such illusions; as today’s commemoration reminds us, too much rides on this decision. Bush’s aggressive stance has rolled terrorism away from our doorstep, dismantled the terrorist infrastructure, transformed an anti-American state sponsor of terrorism, and made our nation far safer than it was two years ago. It is his stance alone that has assured “(t)he war on terror has been fought in the streets of Baghdad and Kabul instead of Washington and New York.” We must enhance our security by remaining steadfast in Iraq, passing appropriate measures to intensify the hunt for internal “sleeper cells,” and increasing the number of airline pilots licensed to carry handguns in the cockpit. These actions will help us assure that a tragedy on the magnitude of 9/11 remains a memory, rather than a continual reality. On this commemoration of 9/11, we must remember the dreadfully high cost it took to fashion a responsible policy aimed at protecting ourselves from the terrorist threat – and the unbearably high cost we will pay if we are talked into rescinding it.

This story originally appeared as the lead story on September 11, 2003, on FrontPage Magazine.