Jewish World Review March 7, 2003 / 3 Adar II, 5763
The fight against Saddam isn't a distraction from the war on terror --- it's is
the main event
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, thought to have been the mastermind of the 9/11
hijackings, was captured in a pre-dawn raid Saturday by agents of the
Pakistani Interservice Intelligence organization (ISI) and the American FBI.
Khalid has been under indictment in the United States since 1996 for his
role in an aborted plan to hijack U.S. airliners in the Pacific.
Khalid's capture puts the lie to the notion that the focus of President Bush
and British Prime Minister Tony Blair on regime change in Iraq is a
"distraction" from the war on terror. The pursuit of individual terrorists,
and the neutralization of terror-supporting states can, must and is being
Even before Khalid's capture, the United States and allies abroad have made
significant progress in disrupting al Qaida and associated terror networks.
An al-Qaida network in Europe has been rolled up. The leader of the vicious
Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines has been killed. Abu Zubaida, then the
number three man in al-Qaida, was captured in Pakistan last year. Abd
al-Rahim al-Nashiri, thought to have been the mastermind of the bombing of
the USS Cole, was killed in Yemen. Each week the number grows larger.
Capturing Khalid may be a bigger step toward victory than even would be the
capture of Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden is the political head of al-Qaida.
Khalid was its operations chief. Jefferson Davis is still at large. But we
have Robert E. Lee in custody.
Many - including me - have criticized the president for not doing enough
fast enough about homeland security. But we have not had a major terror
attack here since Sept. 11. Doubtless, we've been lucky. The terrorists may
be weaker than we thought, or may just be biding their time. But our
security people must also be doing something right.
People who argue that war with Iraq would be a "distraction" from the war on
terror are idiots, or think ordinary Americans are. The hunt for individual
terrorists is chiefly an intelligence and law enforcement activity.
Producing regime change in terror states is chiefly a military activity.
There is little overlap between them.
Armored divisions and aircraft carriers and stealth bombers are swell things
to have, but they were of little use in tracking down Khalid Shaikh Mohammed
in the slums of Rawalpindi. The maximum overlap between the hunt for
al-Qaida members and the pursuit of regime change in Iraq is probably about
a battalion of Special Forces, who otherwise would be pursuing al-Qaida
elsewhere in the Mideast, but who currently are focused on Iraq.
The redirection of that battalion is hardly wasted. There probably are more
al-Qaida hiding out in the frontier regions of Pakistan than anywhere else
in the world. But, as the capture of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed indicates, it is
getting hot for them there. After Pakistan, there are more al-Qaida in Iran
and Iraq than anywhere else. The difference is that while the government in
Pakistan is, at least fitfully, hunting them, the governments of Iran and
Iraq are providing sanctuary.
Terror organizations like al-Qaida can exist without state support. But they
cannot be very dangerous without it. Terrorists need money, forged
documents, weapons and explosives, training and places to train. Hezbollah
in Lebanon has about 10,000 122 mm Katyusha rockets. You can't buy these in
a Wal Mart, or transport them without the assistance of a compliant
government. Without state sponsors in Iraq, Iran and Syria, al-Qaida and
Hezbollah would be little more dangerous than the Red Brigades were in Italy
20 years ago, than Aum Shinri kyo was in Japan a decade ago.
The coming battle with Iraq is Stalingrad for the terror chieftains. If they
lose it, they're toast, and they know it.
If Saddam Hussein is ousted, the terrorists will lose arguably their number
one state sponsor; land communication between Iran and Hezbollah terrorists
in Lebanon will be broken; Iran will be surrounded by secular, pro-Western
Muslim states, and be ripe for regime change from within. Syria and Libya
will become more nervous about sheltering terrorists.
The fight against Saddam isn't a distraction from the war on terror. It is
the main event.
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© 2002, Jack Kelly