- The Washington Times - Friday, November 2, 2001

The United States will not suspend attacks against Afghanistan on Nov. 17 for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan because "we can't afford to have a pause," National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said yesterday.
"This is an enemy that has to be taken on, and taken on aggressively, and pressed to the end," Miss Rice told reporters at the White House. "And we're going to continue to do that."
America's Muslim allies including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Pakistan have demanded a halt to U.S. strikes against Taliban targets during Ramadan because the continuing carnage would be an insult to Islam. But Miss Rice countered that the terrorists who attacked the United States on September 11 made no effort to respect American sensitivities.
"We do not believe that al Qaeda or the Taliban or any of their kind are likely to be ones that are going to be observant of any kind of rules of civilization," she said. "They've never demonstrated that they were observant of any kind of rules of civilization before."
The decision to keep bombing through Ramadan is a significant change in policy from the previous administration, which in December 1998 announced it would bomb Iraq before the start of Ramadan. Critics said bombing was an attempt to divert attention from the impeachment of President Clinton that week.
"For us to initiate military action during Ramadan would be profoundly offensive to the Muslim world," Mr. Clinton said at the time.
By contrast, Miss Rice said it is more important to vanquish terrorism than to tiptoe around religious sensitivities.
"We think that the best thing that we can do for the world, for all of the allies in the coalition whether they are Muslim or not is to make certain that this war on terrorism succeeds," she said. "And that means we have to finish the mission."
Miss Rice, who is considered President Bush's closest foreign policy adviser, emphasized that the terrorists were the ones to strike first.
"I just want to remind everybody this is an action in self-defense," she said. "The United States was attacked on September 11th with incredible brutality. We continue to be concerned about further attacks.
"We have no choice but to try to go both to the source of this in Afghanistan and to try to root these organizations out wherever we can," she added. "And we have to get about that business. We can't afford to have a pause."
Muslim nations historically have rarely halted their own military campaigns during Ramadan. For example, Egypt and Syria chose that month for their 1973 surprise Yom Kippur attack on Israel in what became known in the Arab world as the Ramadan War.
The Prophet Muhammad himself won the Battle of Badr during Ramadan in 624 and later mounted a military campaign to reclaim Mecca during the holy month. In recent decades, Lebanese, Iranians, Iraqis, Afghans and Palestinians routinely waged war throughout Ramadan and sometimes even used the month as an occasion to intensify the bloodshed.
In addition to continuing the military campaign, the administration also is trying to beef up its defenses against anthrax and other biological weapons. To that end, Mr. Bush yesterday called for a strengthening of the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972, which was signed by 144 nations.
"Since September 11, Americans and others have been confronted by the evils these weapons can inflict," the president said in a prepared statement. "This threat is real and extremely dangerous. Rogue states and terrorists possess these weapons and are willing to use them."
Miss Rice added that the administration wanted to "move toward a system of strengthening the convention that focuses on criminal activity and underground activity."


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