Jewish World Review Oct. 21, 2003 / 25 Tishrei, 5764
Is this war being won? You bet, just don't ask the congressman with the embarrassingly bad timing
In a speech Monday, U.S. Senator and frequent administration critic Kent
Conrad (D-N.D.) took to the Senate floor to launch into an attack of the
administration's handling of the war on terror. This was poor timing: yet
another senior al Qaeda leader was arrested in Afghanistan less than four
hours before Conrad's lecture-the third arrest of a major al Qaeda operative
since the onset of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Conrad used the weekend release of an Osama bin Laden audio tape to argue
that America is distracted from the war on terror, and that the Bush
administration has failed by diverting attention to Iraq. "The evidence I
see is that the resources and the attention are going to Iraq that I believe
should have been first directed at taking out Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda,"
he said. But the evidence, whether he sees it or not, argues for just the
opposite. Though overwhelming attention has been paid to the
reconstruction-and increasingly, the casualties-of Iraq, terrorists have
largely been held at bay, killed, or otherwise muted.
Despite an enormous operation in Iraq and growing criticism on the hustings,
the administration is continuing to drain the swamp of international
terrorism. Though it's infrequently the lead story on the nightly news or in
editorial pages, thousands of arrests by thousands of troops and
intelligence forces have been achieved around the world since the attacks of
September 11, 2001.
Critics of Operation Iraqi Freedom-most notably then-presidential candidate
Bob Graham-claimed, as Conrad now does, that the buildup to war drained
people and resources from the war on terror, allowing al-Qaeda to
regenerate. But a careful consideration of the facts shows that argument to
be little more than rhetoric and red meat for political activists in the
Democrat base. As Monday's arrest in Afghanistan of the Taliban's liaison to
al-Qaeda, Mullah Janan, highlights so effectively, the international effort
Janan was captured with an assist from Afghan troops (who now cooperate
with, rather than attack, U.S. troops) in the province of Uruzgan. A senior
commander, Janan is credited with close ties to Osama bin Laden himself, and
likely bears information as to his whereabouts. And given his ties to al
Qaeda, Janan likely possesses useful information for the troops hunting-and
defeating-an international terror network.
Remember Afghanistan? It's the country that once served as home-base for
al-Qaeda, stoned women in sports stadiums before capacity crowds, and banned
girls from attending school. And though it is not yet a secure and modern
haven for democracy, young girls are enrolling in schools, and women-once
banned from appearing in public unescorted-now serve at the highest levels
Success, though, is not limited to Afghanistan and the military victory in
Iraq. Already this year, in the height of planning for the invasion of Iraq,
numerous al Qaeda leaders were captured or killed. Successes include the
arrest in March of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who many believe was responsible
for planning the 9/11 attacks. And in August, a senior al Qaeda official
known as Hambali was arrested in Thailand-a major victory for the war on
terror. Hambali was the operations chief of the Jemaah Islamiyah terror
group and the suspected mastermind of the terrorist activities in Southeast
Asia, including the bombings in Bali, and Jakarta. And though it wasn't
given much attention, his younger brother Rusman Gunawan was among 17 people
arrested as a result of raids on three Islamic schools in Karachi, Pakistan.
American military and intelligence officials, through joint efforts with
nations around the globe, have made numerous captures (both public and
otherwise), destroyed training centers, and disrupted hundreds of planned
attacks, all while successfully liberating Iraq.
In a speech to a joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001, Bush
warned that efforts in the war on terror would include "dramatic strikes,
visible on TV," but that others would be "covert operations, secret even in
success." It is impossible to know how many secret successes American
military and intelligence forces have achieved, but one thing remains clear:
the war is being won, whether critics and armchair generals like Conrad
acknowledge it or not.
JWR contributor Robert Stewart, a former Army intelligence analyst, is now a writer based in
Washington, D.C. Comment by clicking here.
© 2003, Robert Stewart