- The Washington Times - Friday, October 7, 2005

President Bush yesterday gave his most detailed and defiant rationale for the war against terrorism, branding the enemy “Islamic radicals” for the first time and excoriating Syria and Iran.

The president also revealed that plans for numerous terrorist attacks have been foiled, although he declined to give specifics.

“The United States and our partners have disrupted at least 10 serious al Qaeda terrorist plots since September the 11th, including three al Qaeda plots to attack inside the United States,” he told the National Endowment for Democracy. “We’ve stopped at least five more al Qaeda efforts to case targets in the United States or infiltrate operatives into our country.”

The speech, which was delivered at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, was originally written for the fourth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, when anti-war demonstrations led by Cindy Sheehan and others were garnering headlines. But the onslaught of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita postponed the speech until yesterday, according to White House aides.

Mr. Bush felt it was time to reassert himself as the war’s chief prosecutor and, for the first time, began to regularly substitute the term “Islamic radicalism” for terrorism. He also unleashed a scathing attack on Iran and Syria for their ongoing support of terrorism.

The president said Damascus and Tehran “share the goal of hurting America and moderate Muslim governments and use terrorist propaganda to blame their own failures on the West and America, and on the Jews.”

He added, “State sponsors like Syria and Iran have a long history of collaboration with terrorists, and they deserve no patience from the victims of terror.”

The president’s speech was immediately denounced by Democrats. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts said it was “foolish for the president to brag openly about disrupting al Qaeda plots to attack us. His ‘bring it on’ attitude hasn’t worked, and such statements can only goad al Qaeda into trying harder.”

But Mr. Bush rejected such logic.

“Some have also argued that extremism has been strengthened by the actions of our coalition in Iraq, claiming that our presence in that country has somehow caused or triggered the rage of radicals,” he said. “I would remind them that we were not in Iraq on September the 11th, 2001 — and al Qaeda attacked us anyway.

“The hatred of the radicals existed before Iraq was an issue, and it will exist after Iraq is no longer an excuse,” he added. “The government of Russia did not support Operation Iraqi Freedom, and yet the militants killed more than 180 Russian schoolchildren in Beslan.”

Mr. Bush said the “self-defeating pessimism” of war critics is unjustified. The remark drew a sharp rebuke from Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat.

“There’s nothing pessimistic about demanding that our government do better by our troops,” Mr. Kerry said. “And there’s nothing more pessimistic than an administration refusing to provide candor and leadership equal to our troops’ sacrifice.”

Mr. Bush spent much of his 40-minute speech giving a detailed explanation of the enemy’s origins, strategy and tactics. He compared the threat of global terrorism in the 21st century to the threat of communism in the 20th century.

Seeking to put a face on terrorism, the president repeatedly invoked the names of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his top deputy in Iraq, Abu Musab Zarqawi. He explained that terrorists want to take over Iraq and use it as a base of operations from which to expand Islamic radicalism.

“The militants believe that controlling one country will rally the Muslim masses, enabling them to overthrow all moderate governments in the region and establish a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia,” he said.

“Some might be tempted to dismiss these goals as fanatical or extreme,” he added. “Well, they are fanatical and extreme — and they should not be dismissed. Our enemy is utterly committed.”

After the speech, White House press secretary Scott McClellan explained that some of the foiled terrorist plots referenced by the president could not be explained in greater detail because the information is classified. But he cited two unclassified examples, a plot by Jose Padilla to detonate a “dirty bomb” and a plot by Iman Faris to blow up a bridge in New York.

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