Know Thy Enemy .

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 10, 2004 | Go to article overview
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Know Thy Enemy .


Byline: Frank Gaffney Jr., THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The single most important effect of the report of the September 11 commission may prove not to be its lessons about the 2001 attacks on New York and the Pentagon or the new intelligence "czar" it recommended to try to prevent a repetition, possibly vastly more devastating. Rather, the commission's biggest contribution may have been making it politically possible to name our enemies - an essential prerequisite to understanding what we are up against and to dealing with it effectively.

As the commission put it: "The enemy is not just 'terrorism,' some generic evil. This vagueness blurs the strategy. The catastrophic threat at this moment in history is more specific. It is the threat posed by Islamist terrorism - especially the al Qaeda network, its affiliates, and its ideology."

The commission went on to declare unanimously: "Osama bin Laden and other Islamist terrorist leaders draw on a long tradition of extreme intolerance within one stream of Islam ... motivated by religion and [it] does not distinguish politics from religion, thus distorting both. ... Our enemy is twofold: al Qaeda, a stateless network of terrorists that struck us on September 11; and a radical ideological movement in the Islamic world, inspired in part by al Qaeda, which has spawned terrorist groups and violence across the globe. ... The second enemy is gathering, and will menace Americans and American interests long after Osama bin Ladin and his cohorts are killed or captured. Thus our strategy must ... [prevail] in the longer term over the ideology that gives rise to Islamist terrorism.

It hardly seems coincidental that President Bush for the first time observed in remarks last week that, "We actually misnamed the 'war on terror.' It ought to be [called] 'the struggle against ideological extremists who do not believe in free societies and who happen to use terror as a weapon to try to shake the conscience of the Free World.' "

Obviously, Mr. Bush's new moniker for the conflict won't fit on many bumper stickers. But it marks a dramatic and welcome departure from politically correct euphemism that left millions of Americans confused about whom we are fighting and why.

The September 11 Commission made itself clear on both points: "Bin Ladin and Islamist terrorists mean exactly what they say: To them, America is the font of all evil, the 'head of the snake,' and it must be destroyed or utterly converted." And "[The Islamist ideology] is not a position with which Americans can bargain or negotiate. With it, there is no common ground - not even respect for life - on which to begin a dialogue. It can only be destroyed or utterly isolated."

What makes this bipartisan assessment so important is that it departs dramatically from the demands of self-declared "leaders" of the Muslim-American community. For years, organizations like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the American Muslim Council (AMC) and the Muslim Public Affairs Council have been romanced by the Clinton and Bush administrations.

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