Months after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the United States landed in Algeria. Of course, neither Hitler nor Tojo were there. But that was then and today is now. Our response to September 11 was indeed to eliminate al Qaeda and its Taliban hosts. But our subsequent liberation of Iraq might be better understood by Americans with reference to the first American events of World War II. We went to North Africa, for that was where Hitler had to be dealt with.
So too with Iraq. Unfortunately, this remains misunderstood. In response to Gen. David Patraeus and his report on Iraq, the co-chairmen of the September 11 Commission said the United States would be at war with jihadists for decades because there were millions of “dissatisfied youths” in the Muslim world with grievances sufficient to motivate them to join al Qaeda.
How misinformed they are, but so are our institutes of higher learning, our intelligence agencies as well as our Foreign Service. At its core is the mistaken view that it is U.S. policy toward Israel which is at the heart of the grievances of the much-vaunted “Arab street,” and that if only the United States would dump the Jews into the Mediterranean or give the Palestinians a state, all would be forgiven. This is the insidious message of Professor Noam Chomsky and former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer, both recently praised by Osama bin Laden.
But we are not at war with the Arab street. And we are not at war because of our policies toward Israel. We are at war with nations with a vision that requires them to kill all those they perceive to stand in the way of a new totalitarian Islamic caliphate, including fellow Muslims. To that end, the United States has been attacked since at least the 1960s by the PLO and its tributaries, the terror organizations headed by Yasser Arafat, a wholly owned creation of the Soviet KGB. The attacks became more ferocious with the establishment of the radical regime in Tehran under the Ayatollah Khomeini, brought to power because of feckless U.S. policy. In short, the Axis of Evil today is no different than the Axis of Evil of World War II.
It is now clear that Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan, among others, worked with al Qaeda and other terror groups, such as Hezbollah and Hamas, to attack the United States in a global effort to destroy our influence in the Middle East and wrest for themselves control over a vast amount of the world’s petroleum resources behind the shield of pious religious propaganda. Iran, Al Qaeda and Hezbollah worked together to destroy our embassies in Africa in 1998, while Saddam Hussein wrote checks to al Qaeda and facilitated the meetings of the September 11 hijackers in Malaysia. According to Americans who ran the prisons in Iraq, inmates said Saddam was training thousands of terrorists from the Islamic world with the intention of attacking U.S. interests.
Unfortunately, analysts have been willing to believe the fairy tale that terror groups were a band of loosely affiliated jihadists without direction from a nation’s military or intelligence services, ready to fold up their tents if their grievances were eliminated. Just as it was denied the Soviet Union supported the terror of the Red Brigades, the Baader-Meinhof gang, and Black September, the PLO or others, they now deny that Iran, Syria, Iraqi Ba’athists and elements of the Saudi and Pakistani governments, fund, provide sanctuary, military training, weapons and direction to terror groups.
The fight to topple Saddam was not initiated because of September 11 per se, but the events were the catalyst to see Iraq’s refusal to abide by U.N. resolutions in a different light. Following the World Trade Center bombings of 1993, the Clinton administration, according to Laurie Mylroie (author of “Saddam Hussein’s Unfinished War against America”), determined that terrorism would be treated as solely a law enforcement problem, an after-the-fact go-hunt-the-bad-guys type of enterprise. Could we continue this policy in light of the cooperative effort between Saddam and terror groups, including al Qaeda, with weapons of mass destruction looming in the background?
Then-President Clinton’s refusal to take action against the nation-states behind the terrorist attacks aimed at the United States and its allies got us to September 11. When presented with the option of going after such rogue dictatorships — such as the Taliban and Saddam — he again and again said “That is too hard to do,” according to Dick Morris, Richard Clarke, former National Security Council staffers Steve Simon and Daniel Benjamin and Rich Lowry of National Review. This in turn was due in large part to the decades-long efforts by U.S. presidents to seek a deal through the “the peace process” in the Middle East.
Again and again we bought the fiction that just the right kind of deal would assuage the terror in the hearts of the jihadists, when in fact Iraq, Iran and Syria — and their terror puppets — wanted no such deal at all. These states were not potential peace partners. They were our enemies bound to our destruction. Why else have Syria and Iran all but invaded Iraq? That is the lesson of September 11.
Peter Huessy is president of GeoStrategic Analysis.