- The Washington Times - Monday, September 13, 2004

It is becoming commonplace that the November presidential election will turn on the public’s perception of how things are going in the war on terror. Unfortunately, unless the American people themselves urgently assume a role in waging that war’s financial front, it appears the next president — whoever he may be — will confront more formidable foes in five terrorist-sponsoring states.

Consider the following recent developments:

• Iran: The Islamist mullahocracy in Tehran is well on the way to achieving its longstanding ambition to establish an indigenous nuclear weapons program. It has broken successive promises to gullible European foreign ministers to forgo such a capability. The Iranian regime now appears convinced it will be able to “go nuclear” with impunity — despite International Atomic Energy Agency protests and in the face of the likely paralysis of the U.N. Security Council and the difficulty of Israeli or American pre-emptive strikes against its nuclear facilities.

• North Korea: The other remaining member of the “Axis of Evil” also presses to acquire a nuclear arsenal. While the massive explosion that produced a mushroom cloud there last week is said not to have been caused by a “nuclear event,” press reports suggest the next one might be if, as some believe, Pyongyang is preparing to test of an atomic weapon. Like its Iranian friends, Kim Jong-il’s regime has concluded there are few, if any, costs associated with violating its nonproliferation commitments. And, given its track record, North Korea may well act on threats to sell nuclear weapons as it gets them to terrorist organizations and others with cash.

• Syria: Damascus persists in trying to prevent consolidation of the liberation of Iraq by allowing foreign fighters to slip across its border and join the terrorists trying to kill American troops stationed there. It helps Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations waging a proxy war against Israel. There are persistent reports Syria is hiding Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. And, despite a U.N. Security Council resolution jointly sponsored (improbably) by France and the United States, the Syrian regime continues a decades-long colonial subjugation of neighboring Lebanon (notably, by requiring the Lebanese constitution be rewritten to permit its puppet to remain president.)

• Sudan: The truly monstrous Islamist government in Khartoum is getting away with murder, yet again. While diplomats wring their hands and activists gnash their teeth in frustration, hundreds of thousands of civilians in Darfur join the millions previously slaughtered at the hands of the regime in southern Sudan. The U.N. Security Council cannot bring itself to impose sanctions and as a result — all other things being equal — the killing seems likely truly and permanently to stop only when every single Christian, animist and black citizen of Sudan has been liquidated.

• Libya: The purported abandonment by Moammar Gadhafi of his ambition to wield weapons of mass destruction has facilitated the Libyan dictator’s longstanding effort to buy his way off the U.S. list of state-sponsors of terror. (In his new book, “Treachery,” Bill Gertz questions the genuineness of this change of heart.) Yet, a prominent American Islamist activist, Abdulrahman Alamoudi, recently pleaded guilty to participating in a Gadhafi-backed plot to assassinate the Saudi crown prince. If American investment starts flowing into Libyan coffers, moreover, one predictable upshot will be vastly greater resources applied to Col. Gadhafi’s pet project: the spread of radical Islam throughout Africa.

As these dangers metastasize, American voters are asked to choose between, on the one hand, a Bush administration that seems determined mostly to kick the can down the road — hoping the U.S. will not have to take politically costly action anywhere until after November — and, on the other, a Kerry candidacy whose solutions to most international problems seem to involve appeasement.

The good news is that — if our government cannot or at least will not act to meet the growing threat from terrorist sponsoring states — virtually every one of us can do something that might actually have an effect on such regimes and their ability to pursue activities inimical to our security and interests: We can divest stocks of companies that do business with them and provide them billions of dollars in resources, advanced technology (some of it militarily useful) and moral cover.

Americans hold stocks in roughly 400 companies partnered with one or more of these five terrorist-friendly regimes through institutional investments (for example, through public pension funds, college and university endowments, mutual funds, 401(k) plans and life insurance portfolios) as well as their own personal portfolios. As a study recently released by the Center for Security Policy ( www.DivestTerror.org) reveals, America’s leading public pension funds alone own roughly $200 billion in such stocks.

By taking a page out of the divestment campaigns that brought down the South African government 20 years ago and are used today against “socially irresponsible” companies, average Americans can bring formidable financial pressure against those who would use our money to harm us.

Divesting stocks is not a panacea. But it can be a powerful contribution — perhaps the only one average citizens can make — to a war effort we can’t afford to see falter, let alone fail.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times.

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