- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 28, 2002

We have a lot to be grateful for this Thanksgiving. Al Qaeda terrorists are being killed or captured in growing numbers; the economy seems to be stabilizing; the bulls are back on Wall Street; and Congress is away for the rest of the year.
The news that we captured Abd al-Rahim Al-Nashiri, the chief strategist in the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole, a close associate of Osama bin Laden and one of the most wanted al Qaeda cutthroats, is further proof that the United States is making progress in the war on terrorism.
In addition to the attack on the Cole, which killed 17 U.S. sailors, al-Nashiri is believed to be a key figure in a failed attack on the USS Sullivan and other U.S. and British warships in the Strait of Gibraltar.
His capture four weeks ago in the Middle East, outside Yemen, was a major coup for our intelligence and counterterrorism forces. CIA agents are interrogating him, and intelligence sources say he is providing the United States with valuable information about Al Qaeda's operations.
Not long after al-Nashiri's capture, the CIA staged a dramatic precision attack on a band of terrorists with an unmanned drone aircraft. Wiped out in that secret mission were Al Qaeda leader Abu Ali al-Harithi and five of his killers as they were driving down a remote road in Yemen.
So much for the criticism leveled in the past week by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and Al Gore that the administration's anti-terrorism mission has been a failure. Mr. Daschle's criticism was based on the belief that bin Laden is still alive. But the South Dakota Democrat blunders when he equates that lunatic's death or capture with victory in the war on terrorism.
The war on terrorism is not against one man but against a worldwide network of terrorists who have to be tracked down and killed or captured one at a time.
No wonder the Democrats do so badly in the polls on national security and homeland defense issues.
These two U.S. actions are not the only successes on the terrorist front. The al Qaeda-trained ringleader in the bombing of two nightclubs in Bali that killed nearly 200 people has been arrested in Jakarta, Indonesia. Dozens of others have been arrested elsewhere in recent months from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia.
It is said the best defense is a good offense, and that is at the heart of the U.S. war on terrorism. President Bush keeps saying "we have them on the run," and that is reaping a lot of unseen dividends in this shadowy conflict.
A dispatch in The Washington Post reports that "other [al Qaeda[ leaders may be forced to keep moving because apprehended al Qaeda members have been providing information about them." Insiders say that even more dramatic counterterrorist operations are in the works and will come to light soon.
Back here at home, there are improvements on our economic front.
Deflated stock values have partially recovered over the past two months as investors demonstrate renewed confidence that it is safe to get back into the financial markets again.
The possibility of a war in Iraq and continued terrorist threats mean uncertainty on Wall Street will persist. However, other things have been raising confidence levels: Dozens of arrested corporate accounting crooks are being prosecuted; the markets have toughened rules on conflicts of interest in the boardroom and among analysts; and businesses are giving stockholders more information about their books.
There are signs that the economy is slowly emerging from its lethargy. Corporate earnings have been improving. The number of workers filing for jobless benefits fell last week to its lowest in four months, despite forecasts that unemployment claims would rise.
The Conference Board's closely followed index of leading economic indicators was flat last month, after a 0.4 percent decline in September, suggesting the economy is recovering. The Federal Reserve Board's bureau in Philadelphia also reports stronger manufacturing orders and shipments this month, after a double-digit decline in October.
Moreover, the administration has been aggressively signing new trade deals with a number of countries, from the Pacific Rim to South America, which will open up new export markets for American manufacturers and farmers.
Meantime, we can all rest easier knowing Congress is out of town, which means it can't spend anymore money than it already has.
There was no agreement on a budget because the Democrats wanted to spend at least $13.5 billion more than Mr. Bush wanted. So the government is under a "continuing resolution," which forces the feds to spend only at last year's approved levels.
This means a substantial amount of money will be saved, perhaps as much as $180 billion if you compound the savings over 10 years.
And that's something for which we beleaguered taxpayers can all be thankful.

Donald Lambro, chief political correspondent for The Washington Times, is a nationally syndicated columnist.


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