- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 8, 2001

America is emerging from the destruction, death and darkness of the September 11 terrorist attacks, as New

York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani says, "stronger and better than ever."

Nearly two months after that catastrophe stunned our nation and brought the mighty U.S. economy to a near-standstill, we are waging an economic and military comeback that is typical of America's can-do, never-give-up spirit and resolve.

Americans are working harder and productivity is up. The stock markets have been shaking off their earlier gloom, betting that the economy will recover next year and go on to new heights.

We are, as President Bush urged us to do, going about our business and our lives. The sold-out World Series was as dramatic as ever. Air travel is slowly climbing back. The government settled its damaging antitrust suit against Microsoft, giving the high-tech sector a needed boost. Plunging gas and oil prices are giving the economy a well-timed shot in the arm.

Even the latest economic data showing that the economy contracted by 0.4 percent in the third quarter was not as bad as the minus 1 percent or more forecasted by most business economists.

"That's proof that the tax cut passed earlier this spring had a positive effect, and that fiscal policy as well as monetary policy is working," White House economic adviser Larry Lindsey told me.

At the same time, Congress has passed strong anti-terrorism legislation giving the Justice Department and other law enforcement agencies new powers to fight terrorism here and abroad. Immigration procedures are being toughened, so we can arrest, imprison or deport violators of our laws.

After some time-consuming mistakes in the chaos of preparing for war and the fear generated by the anthrax attacks, the administration strengthened its war-making, national security apparatus:

A rapid-response, White House war-room information center was set up to shoot down Taliban misinformation and other terrorist propaganda. Frequent and up-to-date briefings are now held by defense officials and homeland security chief Tom Ridge to keep us better informed and confident that the war is going as planned. And Mr. Bush, far more visible than he was before, is meeting with allies as he rallies the country and the world in the war on terrorism.

Meantime, U.S. warplanes are relentlessly pounding the al Qaeda terrorists' bases and their Taliban militia supporters, who have dispersed into civilian centers, mosques, homes and other populated areas to avoid death.

Osama bin Laden is reported to be constantly on the run to avoid capture by covert Special Forces or death from the deep-penetrating bombs that are systematically destroying or sealing off the caverns and tunnels that have been his hiding places.

Finally, after too much delay, the Pentagon is aggressively arming, equipping and training the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance rebel forces in preparation for their assault on Kabul and other Taliban strongholds.

Still, the ratios between the two sides are lopsided in favor of the Taliban, who have an estimated 40,000 soldiers vs. the 20,000 in the Northern Alliance. But U.S. military planners believe that U.S. air support, which has kept the Taliban dug in and on the defensive, will give the rebels the edge to break through the enemy's front lines.

There also have been reports of defections to our side in the past week Afghan military chiefs who fought the Soviet occupying forces and have turned against the Taliban. That move is feeding fear and doubt in the Taliban militia, who have been devoting more of their time to searching out anti-Taliban opposition leaders.

One of their recent targets was opposition leader Hamid Karzai. He was saved by a daring U.S. helicopter crew and flown to safety in Pakistan. He is one of the leaders who would likely be part of a new government that would be friendly to the West.

All this being said, the war in Afghanistan will by no means be over if the rebels take control of Kabul and Kandahar in the coming weeks. The Taliban would flee to the mountains, and that would likely set the stage for a long, terrorist civil war that could go on for decades.

But a new, well-armed government, with the help of U.S. economic and military aid, would mean bin Laden and his followers would no longer have a safe haven from which to plot future terrorist attacks on the United States.

No one ever said this was going to be easy or quick. There are lots of places in the mountainous, Afghan terrain where al Qaeda can hide. But we have plenty of bombs, and eventually they are going to hit their terrorist targets with deadly accuracy.


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