Wednesday, July 14, 2004

War on Terror keeping us safe?

President Bush continues to defend his decisions in the War on Terror, citing that our involvement in Iraq has made the world safer. Even though no banned weapons have been found there, and there is lack of coordination between Saddam Hussein and Al Queda. He states “Today, because America has acted and because America has led, the forces of terror and tyranny have suffered defeat after defeat, and America and the world are safer (quoted in New York Times July 13, 2004).”
One must be skeptical…

First Question that comes to my mind is “Where is Osama bin Laden?” Osama bin Laden is the one responsible for actual attacks on the U.S. in the first place. Shouldn’t he have been the first priority in the war on terror? It seemed also frivolous to let Bin Laden’s family return to Saudi Arabia immediately after 9/11 ( One would think that they would have had some sort of knowledge about his whereabouts, who he knows, benefactors of Al Queda.

As far as Iraq itself is concerned, new threatening events seem to be popping up daily. July 14th, a car bomb killed 11 people, said to be the worst attack since Prime Minister Allawi took office (Washington Post, July 15th, 2004). Al-Sadr is preaching for armed aggression against the U.S. occupation, Zarqawi is coordinating attacks against the troops. On top of all that, the coalition is deteriorating, with 4 allies already gone, and another 4 gone by September.

From these instances alone, the president’s statements on the War on Terror seem outrageous. But what can be done better?

Fortunately, Allawi is has put blame for the attacks on the insurgency. His statement regarding the 7/14 car bombing seems focused on rallying the Iraqis against the insurgency. He said, ‘This is naked aggression against the Iraqi people. We will bring them to justice.’ Many Iraqis seemed disenchanted with the insurgency, but also with the U.S. As said in my previous column, the Iraqis need to be adequately trained and supplied to defend their country, for their own future.

A PBS Frontline special entitled “Saudi Time Bomb” drives home another point. It talks about how Fundamentalist Islamic Madrassas (religious schools) are funded by oil revenues from the House of Saud, lending a recruitment environment for militant groups. The frustrating thing is, many moderate Islamic schools, which want to explore democracy, try to compete with fundamentalist ones, but are unable to because they lack sponsors.
To get to the point, it seems that U.S foreign policy should be more focused on boosting these moderate groups, helping to foster economic development so that a disenchanted youth has more alternatives than embracing fundamentalism.
It seems that too often the War on Terror is geared towards, “Getting the bad guys.” “Smoking the vermin from out of their caves” seems too much of a focus.
That said, another positive is that many U.S. troops are selflessly trying to build schools and restore power to Iraq, and some progress is being made.

Bush needs a reality check about the War on Terror. The fortitude and perseverance of many Islamic moderates and Coalition troops can give us hope. But perhaps with the diverted attention from Afganistan, a corrupt Saudi regime, and actual WMDs, we should focus on changing our strategy, or America’s leadership.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Iraqi strife

Iraq needs to beef up its security forces in order to move towards stability. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's coordinated attacks are not only making transition difficult for Americans, but Iraqis who need the stability to refurbish the economy and build opportunity. Lack of opportunity and stability further creates the conditions that lead to young, disenchanted youth to find solidarity in hostile fundamentalist Islamic Groups.

With this in mind, one also has to recognize that the "silent majority" of Iraqi citizens are calling for reform. They want to move towards democratic ideals and moderate Islam. The September 13, 2003 Economist Survey, "In the Name of Islam," argues this point, adding the need for a "reformation" of sorts to solve the quarrel within Islam, an ongoing quarrel between fundamentalism and tolerance.

Whether one agrees with the March 2003 invasion of Iraq or NOT, the current situation in Iraq is of vital importance, producing an opportunity for reformation or further divulgence into radicalism. Whether one believes America is the proper judge and administrator of democracy-development in Iraq or NOT, the citizens of Iraq must have the final say and benefits over their government and its ability to represent them. Strong Iraqi-administered Security Forces are the first utilitarian step towards a budding democracy.

The Iraqi police force needs to be trained and supplied to deal with the insurgency and realize that their determination must be for their own country and livelihood. So, one must ask about the prospects of a self-sustained Iraqi security force.

Taking most of my information from a July 12, 2004 TIME article "Taking Back the Streets." I find reason to be optimistic, but vulnerabilities still exist.

Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, since the handover on June 28th, has made combatting the insurgency a main priority, naming General Mohammed Abdullah al-Shahwani head of Intelligence. Al-Shahwani's resume is impressive. He has ties to the CIA, working with them on one occasion on a failed coup against Saddam Hussien in 1990, and working with American covert teams prior to the 2003 invasion. In addition to his experience, he speaks of the need to energize Iraqis to defend their own country by securing it, lending leadership to a Iraqi's who are familiar to the lanscape and inner workings of the insurgency. He states, "...we will do better than the coalition because we know this country. This is our life (Time 31)."

Such leadership is much needed to energize Iraqis to defend their own security. However, many Iraqis believe that Allawi and Shahwani are puppets of the United States, believing the only solution is to "get rid of the americans (30). Growing percieved lack of credibility for the American occupation is seemingly threatening the credibility of their own leaders. Additionaly, with the lack of evidence of WMDs, ties to Al Queda, or threat to the U.S., the credibility of America's justification for war is doubtful. This makes it more important for Iraqi security forces to realize that they will be countering the insurgency for their own stability.

Iraqi security forces must also be given the ammunition and supplies need to fight the insurgency and establish peace. Too often, one hears of lack of ammunition and body armor causing the Iraqi police force to relinquish fighting an insurgency uprising. The American Military presence is having enough logistical troubles to be able to supply Iraqi Security on its own. A broader coallition is needed to insure proper logistical support to Iraqi security. NATO would need to be a large player in this. Success or failure in Iraq, as said before, has broad-reaching consequences for many nations. It's a shame that multilateral action is only now being seriously considered and acted upon.