- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Over the weekend, Iraqis struck back with a crucial blow to the terrorist insurgents as voters went to the polls for the second time this year and voted in support of a constitution. The election comes on the heels of an important announcement. Last week, U.S. intelligence officials released the 6,300-word al Qaeda playbook for what they hope is the gradual defeat of coalition forces and an emerging democracy in Iraq.

Just four days prior to the referendum vote, U.S. intelligence officials released a letter from Ayman al-Zawahri, al Qaeda’s No. 2 operative, to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a leader of the insurgency in Iraq. In the letter, al-Zawahri predicted that American forces “will exit soon” and he acknowledges that the war in Iraq will be won “in the battlefield of the media.” Al-Zawahri’s belief that the insurgency must improve its efforts in engaging in geo-political warfare proves that the battle for the hearts and minds of Iraqi’s still goes on. It should come as no surprise that al Qaeda members in Iraq are now attempting to denounce the letter as a fake.

The letter proves that the media war is a key aspect to their overall effort to thwart democracy in the Middle East. The 6,300-word document outlined the terrorist political campaign to defeat coalition troops in Iraq, not by traditional military victory, but by carefully plotting an offensive on American public opinion.

Their short-term objective is clear: The insurgency must succeed in defeating an emerging democratic Iraq by eliminating its current military protectors. The insurgents’ plan is simple: Drag the fight on by continuing to murder innocent Americans and Iraqis until American public opinion has waned.

More importantly, al-Zawahri’s letter outlines long-term goals for the terrorist network in Iraq. These goals include: 1) the expulsion of U.S. forces, 2) the establishment of an Islamic authority in Iraq, 3) expanding the fight to other secular countries in the Middle East, 4) taking the fight to Israel.

The goals of the al Qaeda network constitute the means to a desired ending that the United States simply cannot allow.

Withdrawal from Iraq or setting a timetable for retreat would give way to the terrorists’ goal of transforming Iraq into a fascist regime based on religious fanaticism.

If al-Zawahri’s letter proves one thing, it proves that a time-table or so-called exit strategy is irresponsible at best and deadly at worst. Understanding al Qaeda’s goals leads us to the certain fact that Muslim extremists have planned to export their terrorist ideology long before the invasion of Iraq. It is important to remember that coalition soldiers were not in Iraq on September 11; in fact, we have been a longtime target of their hate.

The offensive in Iraq is a response to the growing disease of Islamic extremism, not a symptom. The ultimate solution, however, cannot be attained with soldiers and guns; it can only be won through the democratic process, which is a vehicle for freedom and hope.

The will of a people seeking freedom from fear cannot be deterred by violent attacks; it can only be defeated with oppression, violence and hatred, which al Qaeda can adequately supply. The road to democracy is one that requires time and patience. Yes, the costs have been high, and with every life lost they get higher. However, the rewards of a free Iraq will be much greater and will save even more lives in the end.

The constitution vote signifies a huge victory in the “media battlefield” in the war for Iraqi freedom. As an Iraqi official said recently, “they [the terrorists] are frightened by democracy in Iraq.” Now, more than ever we must remain steadfast as Iraqis continue to move toward an independent democratic society.

Surely, democracy is the biggest and most effective weapon in America’s arsenal. The war on terror cannot be won without it.

Rep. K. Michael Conaway, Texas Republican, is a member of the House Armed Services Committee.