Thursday, July 28, 2005

Like it or not, every U.S. citizen is engaged in the Global War on Terror. This war was forced upon us on by cowardly terrorists on September 11, 2001. It seems apparent some members of Congress have not yet grasped that the U.S. and its allies are at war to defend our freedoms and way of life.

Recently, during consideration of HR 2601 — The State Department Authorization Bill for 2006 — two amendments were offered and the vote results were disturbing. Significant numbers of votes were cast against essential, common-sense provisions to help in the war on terror.

In the House, 124 members voted against an amendment by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, “to express the sense of Congress that the capture, detention and interrogation of international terrorists are essential to the successful prosecution of the Global War on Terrorism and to the defense of the U.S., its citizens and coalition partners from future attacks.”

A second amendment by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican, aimed to “enhance the security of the U.S. to pursue a transfer of responsibility to Iraqi forces only when they are ready to assume such responsibility and not to withdraw prematurely the U.S. Armed Forces from Iraq.” In the House, 137 House members voted “no” and thus to directly increase the peril Americans face.

While both amendments were approved and became part of the final House-passed bill, it is of some significance 28 percent voted against the first and 31 percent rejected the second.

There was dismay and outrage in this country at a recent poll in the United Kingdom that showed that 6 percent of Muslims in London support those who carried out the Underground bombings and a quarter sympathize with the bombers’ motives. Yet there is very little reaction to lawmakers inadvertently assisting terrorists who have the stated aim of destroying this country and our way of life.

Since the mid-1980s, I have watched and studied the extremist terrorist methods. They try to strike fear through publicized destruction and killing. They use explosives and guns, fly airplanes into buildings, attack transport systems and work to divide us. Perhaps most significantly, they are extremely patient, willing to die and ready to “wait us out.”

Suicide bombers recently struck in Egypt and in Britain twice, to say nothing of multiple suicide strikes in Iraq killing hundreds. They feed on encouragement conveyed by their leaders through Web sites, media such as al Jazeera and old-fashioned word of mouth. To be kind, the unsuspecting members of Congress who voted against the Rohrabacher and Ros-Lehtinen amendments provided the terrorist leadership raw meat with which to encourage their foot soldiers.

The United States is at war. This is a war without the usual rules and boundaries. It is a war against extremists who murder innocents and behead victims on TV. We must be vigilant and never provide these monsters encouragement or incentive. This war we must win: Elected lawmakers must remember that.

Rep. Jim Saxton, New Jersey Republican, is chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities.

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