Special Report

Back to Basics

After 9/11 everyone but the intellectual preeners knew what the U.S. was fighting and why. Nothing's changed, except that the preeners think they can now save themselves from irrelevance.

By 2.23.03

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I recently spent five days in a hospital, cut off from most news by post-surgical procedures and pain relievers (a valuable experience in humility for a journalist; it makes you aware how little you matter). When I came out of the fog, on a Sunday, I turned on the TV to find Wolf Blitzer asking Condoleezza Rice, "Shouldn't we give the inspections more time to work?"

Ah, yes.

One of the wonderful things about immediate post-9/11 America was the broad realization that the media commentators, university professors, post-modernist wiseguys, Hollywooders, and intellectual fashion mavens who ordinarily dominate popular discourse simply had nothing to say. We have forgotten that in the 18 months since. The intellectual preeners have reasserted their sway, with their propaganda phrases ("has not made the case," "rush to war"), their reflexive anti-Americanism, their unfunny in-crowd put-downs, their insistence that "dissent" is being "muzzled," with their sheer pugnacious stupidity.

Back to basics:

President Bush almost immediately declared that the United States was at war, not only with terrorists but with nations that harbor terrorists. Virtually all Arab nations harbor or fund terrorists. Egypt created the Palestine Liberation Organization in the mid-sixties. Egypt savagely represses Islamic fundamentalist terrorists inside its own border, but looks the other way as those organizations pursue anti-U.S. tactics. Arafat took over the PLO by rousing opposition to what he called "stooges of Nasser." The PLO itself spun off Black September after Syria's expulsion of Palestinian refugees in that eponymous month. Iran directly created and sponsors Hezbollah and Hamas. Syria provides safe havens for both organizations on Israel's northern border. Iraq pays the families of suicide bombers $25,000, working through Arafat's Palestinian Authority. Through government sanctioned "charities," Saudi Arabia does the same thing.

Contrary to the chatter of the leftists, the connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda has been established firmly, by, among other reports, Jeffrey Goldberg's lengthy articles in The New Yorker and Monsoor Ijaz's recent report in the Daily Standard. The Bush administration knows far more than it can tell about this connection, because -- if it were to explicitly "make the case" publicly -- they would reveal intelligence sources and methods. The only proper response to this criticism is to ask (say) Noam Chomsky, "Oh? Do you have an intelligence agency? Do you have spy satellites? Do you get a morning briefing that summarizes secret reports from around the globe?"

The terrorist cat's paw strategy characterizes the entire region of variously thuggish dictatorships. They heard President Bush's declaration about "nations that harbor terrorists" loud and clear. Their response? Create and disseminate a blizzard of highly skilled propaganda, some of it public (the Saudi "peace" plan) and much of it undetected by lazy reporters, who recycle these disguised press releases as gospel.

One example: The too-neat story about how Osama bin Ladin escaped U.S. capture or killing by lateraling his satellite phone to an aide, sending U.S. forces in the wrong direction. Did any editor say, "Hmm…Seems to me I remember something about how we had an intelligence leak in the nineties about our ability to track satellite phones (Sen. Patrick Leahy), and didn't we learn at that time that Al Qaeda stopped using satellite phones for that reason? Maybe better look into that…"

Terrorist organizations may fling their networks world-wide, but they are, by nature, only an inch deep. They require four things: Stashes of money, stashes of arms, expert trainer-motivators, and the ability to travel between countries. Those four elements can be destroyed or disrupted with comparative ease. To support them, terrorists need help from nation-states: false ID papers and a place to live, train, and stash money in relative tranquillity. And at the simplest level, weapons can only come from nation-states: the plastic explosive C4, the Kalashnikov rifle, ammunition, grenades, detonators, and so forth. For anything more powerful, the nation-state is critical.

So why attack Iraq? Because it supports terrorists in all possible ways. Because it is the most thuggish of thuggish regimes. Because it demands a military solution, unlike other countries in the region. Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf responded to an ultimatum; Iran will fall from within, and Saudi Arabia may as well; Syria will go craven and cozy up to America when it sees where the muscle really comes from, and Egypt will slink along behind. (And the administration aims to withdraw from Korea, and force Japan and China to take regional responsibility. It cannot say that, of course.) Because it is the next logical step. Because it will seriously disable Al Qaeda.

Because, if the U.S. does not conquer Iraq, Saddam Hussein will give chemical or biological weapons to a terrorist group, which will use those weapons on us. (Incidentally, how does Noam Chomsky maintain simultaneously that Iraq is "no threat" to the West, and that going to war with Iraq will cause terrorist attacks on the West?)

Finally, contrary to the chatterlings, it is not the United States that threatens to split the Western alliance and destroy the UN and NATO. France and Germany are doing a fine job of that by playing petty power politics with a mortally dangerous world situation.

The Iraq war will take three days; we've got the targets painted already, and we've already suborned the Iraqi military. The country will go up in one big bang, and U.S. forces will round up stunned, staggering Baathists. The most common casualties will be ruptured eardrums After that triumph, George W. Bush and the United States will move from height to height, and all the natterers will go down to dust before us.

That's what they're really afraid of. Not of "destabilizing the region," not of "millions of casualties," not of "blood for oil." They're afraid we'll win.

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About the Author

Lawrence Henry writes every week from North Andover, Massachusetts.