- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 24, 2002

White House spokesman Scott McClellan has "tentatively" confirmed reports that Osama bin Laden remains alive and at-large. Mr. McClellan told reporters that intelligence experts have "authenticated" the terrorist kingpin's voice on the latest audiotape broadcast by the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera satellite network. So what?
Al-Jezeera, al Qaeda's preferred television organ, has often aired tapes purporting to demonstrate Osama survived the collapse of his Taliban allies in Afghanistan. By last April, no fewer than eight post-September 11 Osama tapes had found their way into public circulation. Another popped up in October. The latest installment was aired by Al-Jazeera week before last.
Osama's potent propaganda value for Islamic militants means he'll probably never be allowed to die. And considering the revealing nature of some of the footage, most memorably Osama's gloating testimonial about how many of the September 11 hijackers were not told that they were on a suicide mission, Osama's real or contrived re-emergence reminds us that the war against terrorism is going to be a long one.
The Senate's lame-duck passage of legislation creating a Department of Homeland Security represented another necessary step in the war. After stalling the bill for five months, Senate Democrats belatedly permitted its passage 90 to 9 before Republicans assume leadership of the Senate in January.
Sen. Teddy Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, who purported to oppose the bill, was AWOL in Paris attending a fashion tribute to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, leaving Sen. Robert Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, to fight a surreal, rearguard action against the measure. Mr. Byrd, who has devoted his Senate career to funneling federal largesse to West Virginia, objected to the "massive new bureaucracy" created by the homeland security agency. One wonders if Mr. Byrd would have opposed situating the new Cabinet department in his home state.
Ironically, the Democrats were waging a guerrilla war against homeland security legislation while simultaneously excoriating President Bush for not having delivered Osama's head on a platter. Sen. Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, still smarting from the Nov. 5 elections, had the temerity to declare: "We've got to find Mohammed Omar, we've got to find Osama bin Laden, we've got to find other key leaders of the al Qaeda network or we will have failed." Tough talk for someone who complicated President Bush's efforts to prosecute such a fight.
Mr. Byrd, the Senate's ranking curmudgeon, declared the war against terrorism a flop. "We went to Afghanistan to hunt down the terrorists," Mr. Byrd whined, "but we do not know where Osama bin Laden or Mullah Omar are hiding."
This defeatism was too much even for San Francisco liberal and incoming House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat. "The war on terror is about more than Osama bin Laden," Mrs. Pelosi plagiarized, without crediting President Bush with the quote. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer wryly remarked that, "Individuals are free to focus on any one person if they think that's the best way to conduct foreign policy. That's a different approach than the president has."
Protecting America's citizens from terrorism will require much more than capturing or killing Osama bin Laden. Some may wish to reduce the scope of the threat to Osama's singular evil. But, as Thomas Hobbes recognized long ago, times of tranquility are remarkable exceptions to mankind's much longer history of war. Like the misnamed "Cold War" against Soviet totalitarianism, the struggle against terrorism is likely to be a protracted endeavor, requiring steadfastness, perseverance and sometimes, gunfights. The "Cold War" was, after all, very "hot" for the U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines dispatched to fight it between 1945 and 1989.
Whether Messrs. Daschle and Byrd like it or not, the logical next step in this new war is to disarm Saddam Hussein. His fixation with weapons of mass destruction does not represent his only, or even his primary, menace to peace and security. The fascist Iraqi dictator has long sponsored and sheltered terrorists who have targeted American, European and Israeli interests.
In 1993, Saddam tried to assassinate former President George Bush and the emir of Kuwait. He provides material assistance to radical Islamic terrorist organizations like the Palestine Liberation Front and the Abu Nidal Organization. He grants refuge to Abul Abbas, the mastermind behind the hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro and the murderer of Leon Klinghoffer. He pays a $25,000 cash bounty to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. And he uses the notorious Salman Pak camp in Iraq to train future terrorists.
Those who believe that "victory" in the war on terrorism depends on the demise of Osama bin Laden are overlooking the peril posed by the despot in Baghdad. "Our war on terror will be much broader than the battlefields and beachheads of the past," President Bush pledged in the aftermath of September 11. "This war will be fought wherever terrorists hide, or run, or plan. Some victories will be won outside of public view, in tragedies avoided and threats eliminated. Other victories will be clear to all. Our weapons are military and diplomatic, financial and legal."
Words like these will never endear President Bush to liberal politicians in the U.S. or to the socialist-pacifists leaders of Europe with whom he met last week in Prague. But in the end, what matters most is how they are perceived in places like Baghdad, Tehran and Damascus. Saddam may not be listening, but his generals are getting a very clear message: "call your travel agent."


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