Special Report

The Threat We Face…and the Path Ahead

Sober reflections before the July 4 partying begins.

By 6.30.06

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It had been assumed by many that with the end of the Cold War barbarism would have been a condition civilized people had left behind, a relic of a bygone era. But like so many predictions of contemporary society, this one is wrong.

After September 11th 2001, we have entered a period in which our enemy, radical Islam, is out to destroy America and other Western democracies. As Osama bin Laden noted in 1998, Muslims have an obligation to kill Americans, albeit most Muslims do not accept his argument. "The ruling to kill all Americans and their allies -- civilian and military -- is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it." In addition, there is the belief among radical Islamists that the infidels, namely Christians and Jews, must be forced to submit to Islam or die. "Our struggle is not about land or water," the late Ayatollah Khomeini said in 1980, "it is about bringing by force if necessary, the whole of mankind onto the right path."

Radical propagandists have attempted to inflame Muslims with overheated rhetoric. The examples cited are merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Al Manar, Hezballah's main vehicle for spreading anti-American propaganda, asked, "What structure built of gray sandstone in 1792 became a source of all oppressive decisions the world over? The answer: "The White House." In May 2004 Sheik Nasrallah said he is prepared for martyrdom. "Let Bush, Powell, Rumsfeld and all those tyrants in Washington hear... there will only be room for great sacrifice, for the call to martyrdom." The editor of Egyptian weekly Al Arabi is quoted in Memri as saying, "Anti-Americanism is like music" to his ears. He calls America "a plague" and "an ongoing crime." The head of the Sunni religious courts in Lebanon, Sheik Muhammad Kar'an, called America "the garbage of all nations." A professor of political science at Notre Dame University in Lebanon, Dr. George Hajjar said, "America is the New Nazism." He added, "I hope that every patriotic and Islamic Arab will participate in this war, and will shift this war not only to America, but to all corners... wherever America may be." Anis al Naggash, who was involved in terrorist attacks in the '70s and '80s, appeared on Al Manar in August 2005. He said, "The U.S. is the enemy of Arabs and Muslims... every person must resist it... if he can resist with weapons, it is his duty, mandated by the Koran. Any cleric with knowledge of Islam must declare jihad against the U.S., England, and their allies."

As late as this January three would be terrorists were arrested in Italy after vowing to launch an attack in the U.S. that would dwarf 9/11. Curiously, with the exception of the Philadelphia Inquirer, this story was conspicuously ignored by the U.S. press corps.

Through conversations that were wiretapped, Italian officials heard Algerian terrorists plan to kill tens of thousands of Americans. This is by no means the only plot to harm our citizens. In June 2006 FBI agents arrested seven Muslims in Miami in what was described as an early stage plot to attack Chicago's Sears Tower and other sites across the country.

Recognizing the anger and capability of the enemy, President Bush told graduates at the U.S. Air Force Academy, "We must keep in mind the nature of the enemy. No act of America explains terrorist violence, and no concession of America could appease it."

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times argues there is a better than even money chance a nuclear device will be set off killing 500,000 people or more. The 9/11 Commission report contends such an event is not merely a possibility; it is probable. And Osama bin Laden claims he has a religious duty to kill at least four million Americans.

DESPITE AN UNDERSTANDABLE DESIRE to deny this horrendous scenario, it must be confronted. Should we be unable to do so, or find that the sacrifice is too much of a burden, the threat will assuredly increase.

This is not an exaggerated claim since the threat was borne out on 9/11, and even before in the attacks on: the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the U.S.S. Cole, the Marine installation in Saudi Arabia, the 1993 explosion at the World Trade Center and dozens of other violent episodes, including the explosions in the British Underground and the Spanish rail system.

In order to counter other potential attacks intelligence is critical. We must be able to watch, listen and anticipate the evil deed over the horizon. We must realize that in the radical desire to sacrifice human life in order to serve a vision, every belief we value is in jeopardy.

There are some well-meaning critics who contend that every step taken to ferret out radical Islamic plots not only "dehumanizes" the enemy but dehumanizes ourselves. The ACLU in its effort to protect civil liberties seems to short-change the threat we now face. It is obvious that in the freedom-security equation, some freedom may be temporarily reduced in order to thwart the dangers that lurk in our midst. President Lincoln, after all, suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War.

The Patriot Act may be a small price to pay for bolstering intelligence operations that could forestall attack. It should be pointed out to libertarians who superordinate liberty that before liberty can be entertained, survival must be assured.

My major gripe with those who promote civil liberties to the exclusion of other concerns is their seeming unwillingness to consider enemy motives and potential actions. Surely we can take al Qaeda spokesmen at their word. What they say is that war is necessary, democracy is evil, science is misguided, and Islam must prevail even if Armageddon is fostered.

We are a long way from a "police state," which is glibly asserted as a criticism after every action taken by the Attorney General in the war against terrorists. Moreover, I am all for glorifying liberty which the United States has provided to its citizens in ample measure. Yet as a prerequisite for our future, we must recognize the threat that exists and in the process, glorify life even as we glorify liberty.

STILL, IT IS NOT ENOUGH to say glorify life; there are specific measures that must be taken to thwart possible terrorist acts in our nation. The wall of separation erected between law enforcement and national security agents must be shattered. Human intelligence assets -- emasculated by the Church Commission -- should be restored. Spying is a nasty, but necessary, business in a world as dangerous as ours.

Similarly, preemption is a critical feature of prevention. We must use every legal, i.e. constitutional, means at our disposal to undermine terrorist cells. We should encourage the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) to deport non-citizens who foster violent activity. It is noteworthy that more than 80 percent of mosques preach anti-American dogma and some actively promote terrorism, according to Steve Emerson's recent studies.

And last, despite a reluctance to consider profiling -- understandable since racial and ethnic differentiation is appropriately frowned upon -- it should be noted that 80 year old grandmothers from Des Moines haven't been identified as terrorist "sleepers." Yet remarkably they are often treated in the same fashion at airports as those carrying Saudi Arabian passports. This defies common sense and introduces a degree of unnecessary risk.

In many respects the radical Islamic response to modernity is like the Hieronymus Bosch painting "The Garden of Earthly Delights," which depicts a hell of obscurity and insanity, a world without reason or hope. Either the world submits to Islam, or the world is turned into the hell of destruction. In radical Islam religion is "flesh and blood" and unless one submits, death is the only recourse. Hence a persistent refusal to use power against this threat must be overcome. We don't need martyrs to survive, but we do need vigilance, intelligence and legal mechanisms that realistically recognize the threat we are now facing.

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About the Author

Herbert London is president of the London Center for Policy Research.