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 (http://www.local6.com/news/3437893/detail.html). 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.