Imagine the date is Sept. 12, 2001. Ask yourself this question: Are you willing to bet that two years will pass and there will not be another terrorist attack on American soil?
I will wager that there is not one person reading this column who would have made that bet two years ago.
There is only one reason for this relative security that Americans enjoy. It is not that the terrorists have given up their violent agendas or their hatred for us. They have not. It is not because U.S. borders are secure or because U.S. internal security systems have been successfully overhauled.
There is one reason — and one reason alone — that Americans have been safe for the almost two years since the September 11 attacks.
That reason is the aggressive war that President Bush and the U.S. military have waged against international terrorism and its “Axis of Evil.” The war on terrorism has been fought in the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan, and Baghdad instead of Washington and New York. By taking the battle to the enemy camp, by making the terrorists the hunted instead of the hunters, Mr. Bush and the U.S. military have kept Americans safe.
Now the battlefield of the war on terrorism is post-liberation Iraq. The jihadists of al Qaeda and radical Islam and Arab fascism are crawling out of the snake pits of Tikrit and slithering across the borders from terrorist bases in Syria and Iran to attack U.S. troops, U.N. diplomats and anyone helping the U.S. cause. Their goal is self-evident: To force the collapse of civil order and to inflict enough casualties on Americans that the United States will withdraw.
Such a withdrawal would be a massive defeat for the forces of order and decency not only in Iraq but in the world at large. It would be a dramatic victory of the forces of evil.
If Iraq can be secured and become a U.S. ally, then Syrian terrorism and Iranian terrorism and Palestinian terrorism will have no place to hide. American pressure on terrorists everywhere will be dramatically enhanced. If, on the other hand, the United States withdraws in defeat, then terrorism will flourish again in Baghdad, Basra and Tikrit, but also in Damascus, Tehran and Ramallah.
The way to think about the war on terrorism is to ask yourself who is supporting Mr. Bush and the U.S. military in this life and death engagement, and who is not?
Help is certainly not coming from the European nations who armed and then appeased Saddam Hussein and opposed the liberation of Iraq.
Far worse, with exception of fading candidates like Joe Lieberman and John Edwards, it is certainly not coming from the leaders of the Democratic Party, who from the moment Baghdad was liberated have with ferocious intensity attacked the credibility of the U.S. commander-in-chief, the justification for our mission in Iraq and the ability of our forces to prevail.
In this mission of sabotage, no political figure has stooped as low as Al Gore. In the wake of the war that went spectacularly well — the swiftest, most casualty-free liberation of a nation in human history — Al Gore has accused Mr. Bush of deceit and cynical manipulation of the facts with the purpose of misleading the American public and sacrificing U.S. soldiers. By linking these accusations to the Florida election recount, he and other Democrats have implied that the war was merely an instrument of a partisan plot to deprive them of their claim to the White House.
Mr. Gore’s bottom line in his Aug. 7 speech attacking Mr. Bush’s conduct of the war on terror was this: “Too many of our soldiers are paying the highest price for the strategic miscalculations, serious misjudgments and historic mistakes that have put them and our nation in harm’s way.”
Mr. Gore’s attack will be recorded as a milestone in the sad decline of one of the great U.S. political parties. In breaking bipartisan ranks in the war on terrorism, Mr. Gore is seconded by both leaders of the Democratic congressional delegation and every Democratic presidential nominee with the exceptions of Mr. Lieberman and Mr. Edwards, and by the party’s politically activist base.
It is a dark day for Americans when one of their two leading parties cannot be counted on to support the flag when it is committed in battle, and when the battle is the U.S. response to a bloodthirsty aggressor with access to biological, chemical and perhaps even nuclear weapons.
In a Memorial Day speech to American veterans, Mr. Bush had this to say about our adversary:
“The terrorists’ aim is to spread chaos and fear by killing on an ever-widening scale…. They celebrate the murder of women and children. They attacked the civilized world because they bear a deep hatred for the values of the civilized world.
“They hate freedom and religious tolerance and democracy and equality for women. They hate Christians and Jews and every Muslim who does not share their narrow and violent vision.”
The president vowed to stay the course, but noted that it is only recently that the United States has done so. “During the last few decades, the terrorists grew bolder, believing if they hit America hard, America would retreat and back down.”
Perhaps Mr. Bush had in mind al Qaeda’s attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, when President Clinton and Al Gore backed down.
Perhaps he had in mind al Qaeda’s attack on U.S. troops in Somalia, when President Clinton and Al Gore backed down.
Perhaps he had in mind the attack on the Khobar Towers, a dormitory housing U.S. soldiers, where President Clinton and Al Gore backed down.
Perhaps he had in mind the attack on the USS Cole, when President Clinton and Al Gore backed down.
“Five years ago,” Mr. Bush continued, “one of the terrorists said that an attack could make America run in less than 24 hours. They’re learning something different today. The terrorists have not seen America running; they’ve seen America marching. They’ve seen the armies of liberation marching into Kabul and to Baghdad.”
And they know and respect the difference.
Now we are engaged in a war to drive the enemy into the ground. We have taken or killed half of al Qaeda’s leadership; we have destroyed the regime of Saddam Hussein — harbor to terrorists and sponsor of suicide bombers — and captured or killed 42 of its top 55 leaders.
The enemy understands the war we are in. It knows that it is fighting for its life in Iraq. In sabotaging the peace in Iraq, its aim is to intimidate the United States and force our retreat. In his Memorial Day speech, Mr. Bush addressed this threat: “Retreat in the face of terror would only invite further and bolder attacks. There will be no retreat.”
Al Gore and the Democrats need to heed these words and change their course.
Unless the Democrats get behind this war, they will have no electoral future; if they do not, the nation will have no future that is secure.
David Horowitz is president of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture.