Bush Frames Battle of 21st Century ; in a Major Speech, He Outlined Five Key Steps to Combat Terror

By Howard LaFranchi writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, October 7, 2005 | Go to article overview

Bush Frames Battle of 21st Century ; in a Major Speech, He Outlined Five Key Steps to Combat Terror


Howard LaFranchi writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


President Bush went on the offensive Thursday with a spirited justification for the war on terror that sought to refocus Americans on what he sees as the central undertaking of this century: defeating the forces of Islamic radicalism.

In a speech that outlined his administration's step-by-step plan for confronting the 21st century's "ideology of hatred" and that restated why the battle is so important, Mr. Bush sought to address not only waning attention to the war on terrorism but also the debate over exactly why the US and the West are targets.

Citing 9/11 and a string of terrorist acts since 2001 stretching from Bali to London, Bush said, "No act of ours invited the rage of the killers - and no concession, bribe, or act of appeasement would change ... their plans" for burying liberty.

With those words, the president is striving to end the debate over whether continuing terrorist acts are a response to US and Western policies - for example the war in Iraq - or a fulfillment of radical jihadists' own ideology.

"I don't think the president has ever been anything like this comprehensive," Anthony Cordesman, a terrorism expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, says of the speech. Not only was it a "coherent statement of American policy," but it "has implications that go far beyond what he has said before."

For example, Bush repeatedly referred to Iran and Syria as countries that continue to abet terrorists around the world, and thus as players on the wrong side of the battle.

In his speech to the National Endowment for Democracy and with members of the Washington diplomatic corps present, Bush outlined a "comprehensive strategy" that includes:

* Preventing attacks before they occur.

* Improvement of homeland defenses against terrorists.

* Killing and capturing terrorist organization leaders.

* Denying weapons of mass destruction to "outlaw regimes" and others who would share and use them.

* Deny the sanctuary of outlaw regimes. (Bush accused Iran and Syria of a "long history of collaboration with terrorists.")

* Deny militants the control of any nation, as the Taliban once had in Afghanistan.

On that last point Bush made clear that he sees Al Qaeda in Iraq, under leader Abu Musab al- Zarqawi, as trying to take over Iraq to use as a launch pad for spreading its ideology throughout the Middle East. Calling Iraq "the central front" in the terrorists' "war against humanity," Bush said, "We must recognize Iraq as the central front in our war against terrorism."

To some analysts, the president's speech was an effort to shore up waning public support not just for Iraq but for the war on terrorism in general.

"What he's trying to do is say, 'It's still terrorism, stupid, and if we don't fight them they'll take over the world and the interests of Americans will be threatened," says Stephen Wayne, a political scientist at Georgetown University in Washington. "There's no change in the argument. …

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