- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 26, 2004

In the flurry of news bombarding us each day of the ups and downs from all fronts in the war on terrorism, it is easy to forget the larger ideals it is all about.

Car bombings in Baghdad… pipeline attacks in Riyadh… assassination attempts in Islamabad… foiled terrorist plots in Thailand… victories in Afghanistan… arrests in Columbus, Ohio… may cause people to lose sight of the values we are fighting for in this war — and the values we fight against.

We cannot let that happen. A democracy such as ours can only go to war and win with the informed support of the people. The terrorists can never defeat us militarily. But they can divide us and defeat us politically if the American people become disappointed and disengaged because they don’t appreciate and support the overriding principles that require military action.

The same, of course, is true for the people of Iraq, our allies in Europe, Asia and throughout the Muslim world. They need to better understand and embrace our purpose and what it means for them.

What we are fighting for in Iraq and around the world is freedom. What we are fighting against is an Islamic terrorist totalitarian movement that represents as dire a threat to individual liberty as the fascist and communist totalitarian threats we faced and defeated in the last century.

What we are fighting for is an expanding worldwide community of democracies. What we are fighting against is the prospect of a new evil empire, a radical Islamic caliphate that would suppress the freedom of its people and threaten the security of every other nation’s citizens.

The Islamist jihadist terrorists who wage holy war against us in Iraq and elsewhere represent a system of values exactly the opposite of America’s. There is no better way to know this enemy than to read their words. The father of the jihadist movement, Sayyed Qutb of Egypt, wrote in 1952, “The death of those who are killed for the cause of God gives more impetus to the cause, which continues to thrive on their blood.”

Restoring the caliphate — the seat of secular and ecclesiastical power that existed for centuries across a wide territory — is their goal. They would create a new evil empire, stretching from Istanbul to Islamabad, from Khartoum to Kabul, from Kuala Lampur to Bangkok, and beyond.

Osama bin Laden is the leading advocate of this jihadist view in the world today, the current mastermind of this malevolent movement. Every American should carefully read his clearly stated words of intention to know why we must defeat him.

In his February 1998 “Declaration of the World Islamic Front for Jihad,” bin Laden said “to kill Americans and their allies, both civil and military, is an individual duty of every Muslim … every Muslim who believes in God and hopes for reward [must] obey God’s command to kill the Americans and plunder their possessions wherever he finds them and whenever he can.”

In his November 1998 “Letter to America,” bin Laden condemned the United States because, he said, like all democracies, it is a “nation who, rather than ruling by the Sharia of Allah in its Constitution and laws, chooses to invent your own laws as you will and desire.” After the attacks of September 11, 2001, he gloated triumphantly that “the values of Western civilization… of liberty, human rights, and humanity, have been destroyed.” In this war of ideas and values, bin Laden is the quintessential anti-American.

The values and ideas we cherish and Osama bin Laden denounces are on the line in the Iraq war. To call the war in Iraq separate and distinct from the larger war on terrorism is inaccurate. Iraq today is a battle — a crucial battle — in the global war on terrorism.

We must show the Iraqi people, and people throughout the Islamic world, that democracy can deliver, opportunity can replace despair, hope can conquer hatred. A generous Marshall Plan to vitalize and democratize the Middle East and Central Asia, like the one called for in legislation I recently cosponsored with Nebraska Repblican Sen. Chuck Hagel, is urgently needed.

In the end, the war on terrorism will be won not just with swords, but with ploughshares as well, in the form of economic opportunity and political freedom.

In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson said: “The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty.”

We fight today in Iraq alongside Iraqis and throughout the world alongside freedom-loving Muslims against the jihadists for the same values President Wilson articulated nearly 100 years ago. If we can hold the American people together again around our noble cause, we are destined to prevail and secure our liberties, and the people of Iraq and the Muslim world are destined to prosper in freedom and opportunity.

Joseph Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, is a member of the U.S. Senate and was the Democratic vice-presidential nominee in 2000. This article was adapted from a speech to the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, June 16.

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