…and defeatism is not a strategy. That is my short answer to the Democrats’ carping about President Bush’s speech last night. Most absurd, in my view, are the howls of outrage protesting Bush’s explanation that the war in Iraq is an important part of the war on terror that began on September 11. The Associated Press reports: “Bush Criticized for Linking 9/11 and Iraq”:
Democrats in particular criticized Bush for again raising the Sept. 11 attacks as a justification for the protracted fight in Iraq…
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi accused Bush of demonstrating a willingness “exploit the sacred ground of 9/11, knowing that there is no connection between 9/11 and the war in Iraq.”
Pelosi’s claim that there is “no connection between 9/11 and the war in Iraq” is mind-numbingly obtuse. Let’s itemize just the huge, obvious connections:
1) The people we are fighting in Iraq are Islamist terrorists, many of them associated with al Qaeda, the same organization that carried out the Sept. 11 attacks.
2) The principal purpose of the Iraq war is to promote the spread of freedom and democracy throughout the Arab world, which remains the only long-term cure for the problem of Islamist terrorism that anyone has proposed. (If the Democrats have an alternative, they’re keeping it a secret.)
3) After Sept. 11, knowing what terrorists could achieve with (relatively) conventional weapons, it was no longer acceptable to risk leaving in power a tyrant like Saddam, who a) had a decades-long fascination with weapons of mass destruction; b) had used weapons of mass destruction on many occasions; c) was a long-time supporter of terrorist groups; and d) had long been viewed as such a threat to America and its allies that since 1998, regime change in Iraq had been the official policy of the United States government, based on an act of Congress.
4) Let’s follow up on 3 c). One of the Democrats’ most ridiculous mantras is that there was no connection between Saddam’s Iraq and international terrorism. This claim is demonstrably false, but as usual, the Democrats are playing to the least well-informed Americans. Let’s just itemize a few of Iraq’s most notorious pre-war connections to 9/11 style terrorism:
a) Ansar al Islam, an al Qaeda branch, manufactured ricin for use in attacks on Europe.
b) Saddam hosted al Qaeda’s number two leader, Zawahiri, in the 1990s.
c) Saddam harbored, and put on a government pension, one of the few perpetrators of the first World Trade Center bombing who escaped apprehension.
d) Saddam harbored Abu Nidal, once the world’s most famous terrorist, until, for reasons that remain mysterious, Saddam apparently had him murdered shortly before the war began.
e) Saddam harbored Abu Abbas, organizer of the Achille Lauro cruise ship hijacking in 1984; Abbas was captured in Iraq during the first days of the war.
e) Zarqawi, the world’s most deadly terrorist, fled Afghanistan when the Taliban fell at the end of 2001 and went to Iraq. Why? Because he knew that terrorists were welcome under Saddam.
f) From Iraq, Zarqawi organized the murder of American diplomat Lawrence Foley in Jordan.
g) From Iraq, Zarqawi organized and financed a chemical weapons attack on Jordan that could have killed tens of thousands. The perpetrators of that scheme are now on trial in Jordan.
h) Saddam paid the families of suicide bombers to encourage terrorist attacks against Israel.
These are just some of the many connections between Saddam’s regime and international terrorism that we happen to know about. Others are known, and no doubt still more remain unknown.
The Associated Press seems to join in with the Democrats’ ill-founded attack on President Bush with this paragraph:
Bush urged Americans to remember the lessons of Sept. 11 and protect “the future of the Middle East” from men like bin Laden. He repeatedly referred to the insurgents in Iraq as terrorists and said they were killing innocent people to try to “shake our will in Iraq, just as they tried to shake our will on September the 11th, 2001.”
The “insurgents” are, in fact, terrorists, which is how they are pretty universally referred to by Iraqis. There are no soldiers taking the field against the U.S. armed forces in Iraq. There are only terrorists: suicide bombers with explosive belts around their waists and car bombers who blow up innocents, but not themselves. Why is this so hard for the AP and the Democrats to understand? In the case of the Democrats, I suppose the answer is that, if they admitted that the “insurgents” are in fact nothing more or less than terrorists, they would likewise have to admit that the war in Iraq has something to do with September 11 after all.
UPDATE: See also Andrew McCarthy in National Review, who notes various connections between Saddam’s regime and international terrorism; he includes the under-reported story of Ahmed Hikmat Shakir:
What does the