- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 12, 2007


There is no photograph of Satan, so we must improvise with what we have: Osama bin Laden. Looking like a Middle East version of a bad “Just for Men” beard dye commercial, bin Laden has resurfaced to deliver another rambling address to America.

Conversion to Islam, he said, would mean no taxes, just a low single digit “alms” requirement. Maybe he’s trying to appeal to the Republican base. The downside to his vision of no taxes and its accompanying fundamentalist baggage would mean a transformation in our way of life; from prosperity and individuality, to living in dirt and serfdom. No thanks. Our nation was born fighting and defeating tyranny and only fighting and defeating this latest tyranny will sustain it.

The gist of the opposition to the war and to the reports by Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker is that they are either not telling the truth or are not telling the entire truth. Facts and figures are in dispute about the number of sectarian killings and the general level of violence in various Iraqi provinces. Some areas appear less violent than others, but a political settlement remains elusive.

Opponents of the war and of continued American involvement cannot forecast what will happen if the United States pulled out before some stability is established. Neither will they accept responsibility if a pullout produce a bloodbath, followed by a huge terrorist base that would surely spawn new and more devastating attacks on the United States.

We can’t suddenly say, “never mind” and pretend what we’ve been engaged in these six years is no longer of any consequence. While we debate timetables and withdrawal, Osama bin Laden and his legions are taking the long view. They want to penetrate America with their twisted ideology until there are sufficient fanatics prepared to rain massive death and destruction down on us. They’ve proved they are serious, they continue advertising their future plans and are building a religious and educational infrastructure inside the United States from which terrorist attacks could be carried out.

Many mistakes — political and military — were made at the start of this war, including repeated claims that Islamofascism was not a threat. While those mistakes were costly, it would be a colossal mistake with catastrophic consequences to abandon this war until it ends on terms favorable to the United States and Iraqis who have repeatedly braved death to vote for a new government.

While much of the focus continues on Iraq, an equally important war must be prosecuted and won at home. Like a vast shell game, we must find the Islamofascist pea inside growing numbers of pods. Is the mosque down the street from you peaceful, or a sanctuary for terrorist plots? Is the Islamic school teaching peaceful religion, or jihad? Is the government monitoring them, in spite of opposition to such things from “civil libertarians”? How many civil libertarians exist in the type of society bin Laden wishes to impose on us? If bin Laden succeeds, the American Civil Liberties Union will be among the first organizations crushed, after appropriate thanks for helping to make the takeover possible.

Last week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported the Department of Homeland Security has not made even moderate progress toward eight of 14 government benchmarks in the four years since it was created. According to GAO, the least progress was made in improving emergency preparedness and eliminating bureaucratic and technical barriers to the sharing of information between government agencies. Whatever bipartisanship remains in Washington should ask why, six years after September 11, 2001, the walls between intelligence agencies have not been torn down.

Last week, in advance of the Petraeus-Crocker reports, small groups of journalists were invited to the White House for a “deep background” briefing from a top administration official. While acknowledging many mistakes, the official said timelines for withdrawal are a prescription for disaster and “the effects we wanted” in Iraq “have started to happen.”

The only hope in this war is to win it, no matter how much frustration, or division in Iraq (and America) and no matter how long it takes. Osama bin Laden knows the alternative. And he is willing to impose it on the entire world if we fail.

Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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