- The Washington Times - Monday, May 5, 2003

One of the senseless charges tossed at the Bush administration by critics is that the Iraq war was intended to divert the public’s attention away from the war against terror, which supposedly has stalled. Another claim is that international skepticism for the Iraq war represents a new global reality in which the United States is dangerously isolated from most other countries, which can be expected to oppose U.S. interests serially. Inherent in this view is that foreign leaders are recoiling from excessive American demands for cooperation in the aftermath of September 11. All these suppositions are wrong. The war on terror continues to progress, as evidenced in Indonesia.Last Wednesday, it was announced in Jakarta that the government of President Megawati Sukarnoputri had filed charges against the first suspect in the October 2002 bombings that killed more than 200 on the resort island of Bali. More indictments are on the way. Amrozi, the accused, is suspected to be a member of the al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah group. Prosectors charge that he drove the explosives-laden van to the targeted nightclubs. Last Thursday, an Indonesian judge convicted a man that evidence showed sold chemicals used by Amrozi in these attacks. In many such anti-terror cases, the wheels of justice are moving faster in Asia than America.The most important news, however, is that the trial is proceeding against Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual leader and founder of Jemaah Islamiyah. Abu Bakar is charged with treason for plotting the overthrow of the Indonesian government to replace it with a fundamentalist Islamic state. He also is accused of ordering an unsuccessful assassination of Mrs. Megawati, who is viewed as too pro-West. Al Qaeda operatives in custody have told Indonesian officials that the cleric masterminded a grenade attack on a U.S. diplomatic residence in Jakarta last September, attempted bombings of U.S. targets in Singapore as well as a series of church bombings on Christmas Eve two years ago.The recent crackdown is a bold step for Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, because there are influential anti-Western forces at work there. Mrs. Megawati and the military brass are mostly secular, but political parties that lobby to impose Islamic law have grown in recent years — largely because of a huge network of Arab-financed religious schools founded by Abu Bakar and others. Vice President Hamzah Haz, who is head of the nation’s largest Islamic political party, said that he hoped the September 11 attacks would “cleanse the sins” of America. He also publicly has defended Abu Bakar numerous times. Mrs. Megawati carefully is walking a thin line in trying to eradicate domestic terror elements while not stirring a revolutionary reaction from radical and popular Islamic groups, which are eager to replace her with the anti-American veep.It’s no easy task policing a nation of 17,000 islands stretched across 3,000 miles. In addition to jihadist activities, ethnic violence and separatist rebellions also plague the impoverished archipelago. Given these deep systemic problems, last week’s judicial actions against terrorists and alleged terrorists are impressive — especially in light of Jakarta’s opposition to the Iraq war. As detailed in the U.S. State Department’s annual report on global terrorism released last week, Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia all have serious anti-terror campaigns and have cooperated with the United States in tracking down terrorists and providing intelligence information. This is because these governments all perceive the common threat from Islamic radicalism. It’s also because the world isn’t as anti-American as it’s made out to be.



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