A collection of the week's news from Israel
A service of the Bet El Twinning Committee of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto
A collection of the week's news from Israel
September 28, 2001
Issue number 346
Know Thy Enemy By Norman Podhoretz
Israel isn't the issue: Islamic fanatics hate America in its own right.
Is American support of Israel behind the hatred of this country that pervades the Arab world and that literally exploded into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11? Certainly this is what many in Europe believe, though thus far in the United States only a few anti-Israel intransigents, like the columnist Robert Novak, have voiced any such sentiment in public.
Now, some have found it very surprising that Israel is not (yet!) being widely scapegoated. But what seems much more remarkable is that within the Arab world itself, there has been less emphasis on Israel as the root cause of the attacks than might have been anticipated. To be sure, one of the great "crimes" of America in Arab eyes remains its support of Israel. Nor is there any doubt from what they say to one another in Arabic (as opposed to what their diplomats say in English, French or German) that wiping Israel off the face of the map is still one of the major hopes of Arabs everywhere--and of most non-Arab Middle Eastern Muslims like the Iranians as well. I would advise anyone in search of documentation to consult the translations from the Arabic press regularly made by the Middle East Media Research Institute and the Palestinian Media Watch.
I would also advise listening to Prof. Fouad Ajami, an American who grew up as a Muslim in Lebanon, but who has been virtually alone in telling the truth about the attitude toward Israel of the people from whom he stems. For years now, Mr. Ajami has been insisting that "the great refusal" to accept Israel--under any conditions whatever--persists "in that 'Arab street' of ordinary men and women, among the intellectuals and the writers, and in the professional syndicates." Moreover, "the force of this refusal can be seen in the press of the governments and of the oppositionists, among the secularists and the Islamists alike, in countries that have concluded diplomatic agreements with Israel and those that haven't."
Mr. Ajami adds that the great refusal "remains fiercest in Egypt," notwithstanding the peace treaty it has signed with Israel. We might have expected, then, that the Egyptians would be eager to blame American policy toward Israel for the widespread animus against the U.S. in their own country, especially since Egypt, being second only to the Jewish state as a recipient of American aid, has a powerful incentive to explain away so ungrateful a response to the benevolent treatment it has received at our hands.
But no. Only about two weeks before the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Ab'd Al-Mun'im Murad, a columnist in Al-Akhbar, a daily newspaper sponsored by the Egyptian government, wrote: "The conflict that we call the Arab-Israeli conflict is, in truth an Arab conflict with Western, and particularly American, colonialism. The U.S. treats [the Arabs] as it treated the slaves inside the American continent. To this end, [the U.S.] is helped by the smaller enemy, and I mean Israel."
Nor was this unusually candid acknowledgment the end of it. "The issue,"
declared the same writer in another piece, "no longer concerns the Israeli-Arab conflict. The real issue is the Arab-American conflict--Arabs must understand that the U.S. is not 'the American friend'--and its task, past, present, and future, is [to impose] hegemony on the world, primarily on the Middle East and the Arab world."
Then, in a third piece, also published in late August, Mr. Murad gave us an inkling of the reciprocal "task" he had in mind to be performed on America: "The Statue of Liberty, in New York Harbor, must be destroyed because of . . . the idiotic American policy that goes from disgrace to disgrace in the swamp of bias and blind fanaticism. . . . The age of the American collapse has begun."
If this is the kind of thing we get from an Arab country that everyone regards as "moderate," in radical states like Iraq and Iran, nothing less than identifying America as the "Great Satan" will suffice. As for the Palestinians, their contempt for America is hardly exceeded by their loathing of Israel.
For example, the mufti--or chief cleric--appointed by the Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat has prayed that God will "destroy America," while the editor of a leading Palestinian journal has proclaimed: "History does not remember the United States, but it remembers Iraq, the cradle of civilization. . . . History remembers every piece of Arab land, because it is the bosom of human civilization. On the other hand, the [American] murderers of humanity, the creators of the barbaric culture and the bloodsuckers of nations, are doomed to death and destined to shrink to a microscopic size, like Micronesia."
The point is that if Israel had never come into existence, or if it were magically to disappear, the United States would still stand as an embodiment of everything that most these Arabs consider evil. Indeed, the hatred of Israel is in large part a surrogate for anti-Americanism. Israel is seen as the spearhead of the American drive for domination over the Middle East. The Jewish state is a translation, as it were, of America into Hebrew--the "little enemy," the "little Satan"--and to rid the region of it would thus be tantamount to cleansing an area belonging to Islam (Dar-al-Islam) of the blasphemous political, social, and cultural influences emanating from a barbaric and murderous force. But the force, so to speak, is with America, of which Israel is merely an instrument.
We have all been repeatedly instructed in the past few days that suicide bombing, whether in Jerusalem or New York, represents a perversion of Islam fostered by a tiny minority of fundamentalists. This may well be so. Yet it is also true that exhortations to and celebrations of this tactic by leading Muslim clerics, notably in Egypt and within the Palestinian Authority, have for some time now drowned out the few lonely protests against it.
Nor is it only against Israel that suicide bombings have been incited and wildly applauded. Only last November, for instance, one of the official Palestinian Authority newspapers reported the results of a poll in which 73% of Palestinians supported "suicide missions against American interests in the Middle East."
Is it any wonder, then, that there was rejoicing among the Palestinians over the attacks "against American interests" in America itself? Is it any wonder that so many youngsters were dancing in the streets of East Jerusalem and Ramallah, when in textbooks published by the Palestinian Authority's Ministry of Education, and in use this very school year, seventh-graders were being taught that Islam "will defeat all other religions and it will be disseminated, by Allah's will, through the Muslim jihad [holy war] fighters"? So, too, 11th-graders were taught that Western civilization "has begun to collapse and to become a pile of rubble." A pile of rubble: the sight of the World Trade Center reduced to endless tons of debris must have seemed the fulfillment of a prophecy to young minds poisoned by such teachings.
Even before Sept. 11, there was something repellent about the continual exhortations to "restraint" oozing unctuously out of our State Department whenever Israel responded with any degree of force to suicide bombings and other attacks on its territory or its people. But now the United States, having experienced at firsthand what Israel has been going through, has rightly declared war not only against individual terrorists but also the groups or states that harbor or nourish or encourage them.
At such a time, it is quite simply bizarre that Secretary of State Colin Powell should be pressing the Israelis to meet with Yasser Arafat, who has been, and still is, guilty of everything we have now pledged ourselves to extirpate. A veteran terrorist himself, he is also the leader of one terrorist group and has given aid and shelter to others. Thus
Hamas, an openly terrorist organization that acts with Arafat's approval from territory he controls, declared in its weekly publication after the attacks on New York and Washington: "Allah has answered our prayers; the sword of vengeance has reached America, and will strike again and again."
What will the State Department come up with next? A proposal that American diplomats sit down with Osama bin Laden? After all, he denies having been responsible for the attacks on us, just as Arafat denies that he is behind the outbreak of terrorism which has been his response to a recklessly generous Israeli offer last year of terms for a peaceful settlement with the Palestinians. Having signed a piece of paper in 1993 in which he promised to eschew violence, Arafat was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Why not get bin Laden to make the same promise, and then give him the Nobel Peace Prize too?
The absurdity of the State Department's position on Arafat is compounded by its efforts to build a coalition against terrorism that will include some of the very states--especially Syria and Iran--against which we have in effect declared war for harboring and sponsoring this evil (in their case it is the Hezbollah, which almost certainly was connected with the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut and of American embassies in Africa in 1998). Evidently the idea is to make them change their policy. Yet given the enormous popularity of terrorism among their own peoples, the leaders of these countries (today's "princes and pharaohs," as Mr. Ajami calls them) are highly unlikely to act against this scourge, even assuming--and with many, it is a very shaky assumption--they actually wish to do so.
President Bush's father needed a coalition to expel Iraq from Kuwait, partly because there was so much opposition at home to Desert Storm. But "Little Bush," as he is mockingly characterized by some in the Arabic press, has the country solidly behind him, and the only possible justification for the coalition Mr. Powell envisages is to get staging areas and overflight rights in the region for military operations. Hence courting Pakistan and offering it incentives at least makes some sense.
But no comparable justification can be jiggered up for pursuing the Syrians or the Palestinians or the Iranians, who are among those we should be punishing instead of wooing. I would even include the Egyptians here. Their leader, Hosni Mubarak, is always eager to cooperate with the United States, but at the same time, he has permitted his officially controlled press to spew forth venom against us that will come back to haunt him in limiting his own freedom of action.
Finally, it would be both immoral and stupid of this administration to exclude Israel as a major ally in the war against terrorism. The president's father prevented the Israelis from participating in Desert Storm (even after the Syrians, of all governments, acknowledged Israel's right to defend itself against the Scud missiles Saddam Hussein was firing at it). In thus excluding Israel, the elder Mr. Bush forfeited what we now know would have been an invaluable military asset in locating and destroying those same Scuds that were being fired at American troops in Saudi Arabia.
If George W. Bush were to repeat this egregious error, he would risk losing an equally invaluable asset in the new kind of war into which we have entered--namely, the expertise of the country that has experienced more terrorism than any other (and would have been more effective in dealing with it if we ourselves had not been holding it back).
Clarity of purpose cannot be achieved without intellectual and moral clarity; and in this situation, what clarity reveals is that we are in the same boat as the Israelis. It is easy enough to perceive that they are taken by the Arab world as our advance guard in the Middle East, so that wiping them out would be a major step toward getting rid of us. As the 11th-grade textbook I quoted earlier puts it: "We [Arabs] awoke to the painful reality of oppressive imperialism and we drove it out of some of our lands, and we are about to drive it from the rest."
But what is harder for us to grasp is that, just as the fervent wish of the Arab world to wipe the Jewish state off the map derives not from anything Israel has done or failed to do, but rather from its existence alone, so we are hated not because of our policies but because of who and what we are. The same textbook sums up one item of the indictment: "Western civilization, in both its branches--the capitalist and the communist [!]--deprived man of his peace of mind, stability and noble human examples whom he can respect, when it turned material well-being into the exemplary goal. . . . his money leading him nowhere, except to suicide."
True, they accuse us of all manner of horrible crimes, going back to the Indians. But as someone recently said, what really arouses their enmity is not what we have done wrong but what we have done right. To them our democratic polity, and the freedoms that go with it, are as corrupt and corrupting as the economic system that has created so much widely shared prosperity. They want to destroy all this, first in the Middle East itself, and then in as much of the world as they can, so that a different way of life--the way of life they believe is commanded by Allah--can rise up again in all its sacred purity from out of the degenerate rubble. (Wall Street Journal September 20)
The writer is editor-at-large of Commentary.
The Spirit of Munich Is Alive in the Middle East By Michael Gov
The West should support democracy, not more concessions to terrorism.
Land for peace is an ancient principle. There is a special place in history for all those who have given an extra mile of territory to avoid further conflict. That place is called Munich.
That we in the West have failed to heed our own history is apparent in the approach we take to the Middle East. Observing the escalation of violence in Israel, with seven dead in the latest suicide bombings, the instinctive prayer is for peace. As it was in the Thirties. And hope therefore fixes on the prospect of "talks”. As it did in the Thirties.
So determined are we to see "talks” as the solution, that they are held as the one inviolable good in a wilderness of tears. The prevailing media narrative therefore has "renewed violence threatening the talks”, as though they were mutually exclusive antagonists, violence the indivisible evil and talks the quintessential good of this drama.
But the truth about "talks” is that they are the product of violence, not its solvent. Munich was a reward for terror. Indeed the more "successful” talks are, the greater the legitimation for further violence. Once Sudetenland fell, who stood up for Prague? The talks which the West demands that Israel continues to hold with the Palestinian Authority will only confer further legitimacy on a terrorist state. It is not just that Arafat’s territory harbours terrorists. It is terrorist. Militarily, culturally, spiritually. Just as much as any totalitarian regime from our dark continent’s 20th century.
Militarily terrorist? Arafat’s own presidential guard, Force 17, and its allied forces engage in regular sniping against Jewish targets, on both sides of the 1967 green line. Force 17 has combined with Hamas to attack Israeli communities in northern Jerusalem, liaised with Hezbollah in attacks from Gaza, and engaged in its own mortar bombings of Israeli settlements in Gaza as well as kibbutzim in the neighboroughing Negev.
The Palestinian Authority’s summer camps train children to handle weapons with the aim, in the words of one 14-year-old, "to chase out the settlers”. In the words of the US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Edward Walker, "Arafat has embraced violence as his prime negotiating tactic”.
Culturally terrorist? Arafat’s newspapers produce a stream of anti-Jewish invective, its cartoons depicting Jews as worms, Nazis and hook-nosed dwarves labelled “the disease of the century”. Those same media have accused the Jews of implementing "the protocols of the Elders of Zion”, spreading "mad cow” disease by smuggling contaminated chocolate into the Palestinian Authority, infecting Arab children with HIV and engaging in an "organised conspiracy to harm male virility” through poisoned food. Arafat’s official school textbooks also practise the same subtlety. A set text for 13-year- old Palestinian children runs "Draw your sword, let us gather for war with red blood and blazing fire. Death shall call and the sword shall be crazed from much slaughter.”
Lest any child wonder against whom the crazed sword should be unleashed a prose exercise for eight-year-olds makes all clear: "Complete the following blank exercise with the appropriate word: ‘The Zionist enemy (blank) civilians with its aircraft’.” No gold stars I suspect for any pupil who writes in “salutes”.
And spiritually terrorist? How about the sermon of Sheikh Sabri broadcast on the official Palestinian radio in which he declared: "Allah shall take revenge on behalf of his prophets against the colonialist settlers who are sons of monkeys and pigs.” Should anyone doubt what fate awaits the children of "monkeys and pigs” another sermon from the same sheikh clarifies doubts: "Muslims, I am sure that Israel will eventually be destroyed and that the settlements will be your spoils.”
And it’s Israel that the UN thinks is racist? Anyone tempted to condemn Israel for its recent actions should just ask themselves, what would any other state do when, having granted land for peace, it finds that land is being used as a bridgehead for war? Perhaps even more pertinently, what do other Middle Eastern states do when they face any opposition activity on their own soil? If you want the answer consider what the late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad did to dissidents in Hama and President Saddam Hussein of Iraq to the Kurds of Halabja. If you can find witnesses alive.
And yet we expect talks with these people to be productive? In contrast to the practice of every other Middle Eastern state, democratic Israel is exercising restraint in the face of provocation. It responds to indiscriminate terror with limited, targeted, military strikes against the instigators of terror. Because, unlike every other Middle Eastern state, Israel is a democracy. And therein lies the inescapable, unspoken, obstacle to peace in the Middle East.
Arab nations, such as Arafat’s, Assad’s and Saddam’s, are tyrannies which need an external enemy to blame for the woes of an oppressed people. Israel is that enemy, as the Jews were for Hitler. It does not matter how much land Israel cedes, or how many settlements are removed to make the West Bank satisfactorily Judenfrei for Chairman Arafat, these tyrannies will still need their enemy. And so the campaign of terror against Israel will continue as long as their tyranny does.
The only way to bring lasting peace to the Middle East is to bring democracy to its peoples. And yet that is a course from which the West is steering away. It is no longer UK policy to back the opposition to Saddam, we place no sanction on Syria for its recent turn back to darkness, and we impose no penalty on Arafat for his reign of terror.
All we do is beat up on the victim. When will we learn? Ask Neville Chamberlain. (The Times of London September 11)
Friends Like These: Bush's Absurd Coalition By Martin Peretz
The most searing images, of course, are of the aftermath--of the immediate survivors of the dead: parents, siblings, spouses, lovers, friends, hoping against hope that somehow those who live in their hearts might have survived in the flesh. They haunted the grim environs of ground zero with photos and handbills, pressing them onto journalists and cameramen, as if maybe the missing would see themselves on television and remember to call home. And then there were the uncomprehending faces of the children who will never see their moms or their dads again. By Wednesday, as the volunteer doctors and nurses sat around idle for yet another day, it was clear that what was called rescue was not that at all. Rudy Giuliani ordered thousands of body bags, but there were almost no bodies, and for that matter very few body parts, to fill them. So let us no longer dissimulate: The World Trade Center is today a crematorium. This was a mass cremation, a mass cremation of the living.
This cremation of the living was a satanic calculus of a certain brand of Muslim piety. And yes, of course, the overwhelming majority of Muslims neither adhere to it nor admire it. But the so-called moderate majesties of Saudi Arabia, the most privileged of the Wahabis, an austere sect in Sunni Islam, have been giving political support and, until recently, financial succor to the Afghani Taliban, the most wretched of the Wahabis, for years. The Taliban would have collapsed long ago without the aid of Saudi Arabia. And the Taliban, of course, harbor Osama bin Laden. So, in a way, the Saudis have also placed under their protection the World Trade Center cremator, even though he is one of their renegade sons.
Colin Powell probably doesn't mention that when he phones Riyadh, it's because he wants its princes to join the reconstructed Gulf war alliance. But Saudi Arabia was not as valuable an ally in 1991 as some remember. The Saudis had a virtual veto over when the war would end--and fearing that Saddam's ouster would empower Iraq's Shias, who might in turn rouse the Shias in Arabia, they made sure it ended with Saddam still in power. And Saudi Arabia has not been as valuable an ally since, either. Riyadh almost certainly impeded our investigation of the 1996 Dhahran bombing that took the lives of 19 American soldiers--soldiers in the Gulf to protect the oil that keeps the monarchy rich. (This duplicity fits a local pattern: The government of Yemen has obstructed our investigation into the attack on the USS Cole in similar fashion.) And Riyadh may now be doing the same thing again. Saudis were, it seems, well represented among the hijackers. And by yanking home a number of their citizens residing in the United States over the last week, the monarchy may be once again preventing the FBI from meeting with people who have information about the terror network. But at least the State Department has never classified Saudi Arabia as a terrorist state, something that can't be said of two of the other countries the Bush administration hopes to lure into the anti-terrorist coalition: Iran and Syria. The Bushies know that non-Arab Iran, the world center of Shiites, nurses theological grudges against the Taliban and other Sunni regimes. Tehran has also fought a war against Saddam, who may have had a hand in last week's abomination. So these are its anti-terrorist credentials. Unfortunately, Iran has also terrorized much of its own population; it funds, arms, and outfits a terrorist network of its own--centered around the Lebanese Shia murderers, Hezbollah. Will the United States now condone one strain of Islamic terror in order to combat another?
Powell's other desired partner is Syria. And it is true that the Baathist Syrian dictatorship--which hails from the tiny Alawite minority, which many Muslim fundamentalists don't consider part of the faith--isn't primarily interested in theological extremism. But the Assads have long been happy to stir it up amongst others--as a weapon against Israel or a stunt to divert their people from their miserable lot. And even when Damascus promotes secularism in the Arab world, it is secular terror. In particular, Syria is a primary patron of two Marxist Palestinian terrorist groups that have reemerged in the West Bank and Gaza during the new intifada: the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. These groups may not cloak their atrocities in the Koran. But for their victims, it makes little difference.
And secretary Powell is eyeing one more ally as well, a man this administration has kept an admirable distance from for the last nine months: Yasir Arafat. But the ironies here are no less rich. It's not just that Arafat is the world's senior terrorist--responsible for murders stretching back to the 1960s; it's that he is not at all emeritus. As recently as last week, Arafat's operatives were doing what terrorists always do: killing civilians at random. And lest the Bushies forget, not all those civilians have been Israeli. Many of the PLO's attacks in Israel over the years have claimed American lives, and Arafat's minions have murdered at least two American diplomats. Not to mention the Achille Lauro, where one of Arafat's loyalists pushed a wheelchair-bound American, Leon Klinghoffer, into the sea. The danger, of course, is that in appeasing Khamenei, Assad, and Arafat, the United States tells the Arab world that there is evil terrorism (i.e., terrorism against pro-Western Arab governments and against Americans) and there is tolerable terrorism (i.e., terrorism against the Jews). But if our dalliances with Muslim extremism two decades ago in Afghanistan should have taught us anything, it is that evil men cannot be trusted to restrict their evil to convenient targets. There is a fraternity of the bloodthirsty, and it is unquenchable unless it is destroyed. It will never be content just to kill Jews. Indeed, there were early, unconfirmed reports that Hamas--Assad's protégés and Arafat's brethren--may themselves have been implicated in last week's horror.
If, as a result of what happened in New York, the Bush administration forces Israel to stand idly by in the face of terror in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, the Arab states will be pleased, which is presumably what the Bushies want. But it will subtly buttress the noxious argument--circulating on the European and American left--that the hatred that fueled bin Laden's atrocities has its roots in legitimate grievances against the Jewish State and, by extension, its American patron. And in the long run, legitimizing that canard will make us less safe, no matter how many coalition partners it brings.
The writer is editor-in-chief and chairman at TNR (New Republic Oct 1)
The Red Carpet and the Green Light [Excerpt] By Amir Oren
“There is no mention of the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, in the U.S. war plans. Contrary to the impression created in Israel, the Palestinian issue is marginal to the American war effort... Bin Laden's main gripe is with the regime in his home country, Saudi Arabia...The Americans - Secretary of State Colin Powell and Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer - succeeded in convincing Ben-Eliezer, a novice in the diplomatic arena, that President George W. Bush would really be very angry if the Israeli government were not to promptly agree to hold a meeting between Arafat and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. While this was indeed on the State Department's wish list, there was never any threat or condition set by the Americans...When Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld spoke with Ben-Eliezer, he made no mention at all of Arafat. This was no coincidence: The Pentagon is setting off for war, with or without the Palestinian leader...In fact, the president's national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice, pulled the rug out from under the feet of Peres, who is clamoring for the meeting with Arafat, by demanding that the Palestinian leader take more action to enforce the cease-fire he declared. It turns out that Peres, who is lobbying Washington to pressure Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to give the go-ahead for a meeting with Arafat, is essentially representing himself and paving the way for Arafat to win an invitation to the White House...A top Israeli envoy expressed frustration over the disparate directives he is receiving from the two-headed government in Jerusalem: "At four in the afternoon, on the way to an important diplomatic meeting, Peres calls and reminds me that Arafat is a partner for peace. At 4:30, as I'm at the door, the Prime Minister's Bureau reaches me and passes me on to Sharon, who reminds me that Arafat is a terrorist."(Haaretz Sep 24)
Urgent Change By Steve Forbes
The Bush Administration had better recognize quickly that it is in a deadly rut with our Mideast policy. The State Department still practices moral equivalency when dealing with the Israelis and Yasir Arafat's Palestinians, making it sound as if both parties are equally at fault for the violence. Not so. Arafat deliberately instigated and abetted this semiwar almost a year ago when he turned down the most generous settlement terms he or any other Palestinian leader is likely ever to get.
Washington must understand that Arafat doesn't want peace. He survives and thrives best when there is turmoil. He knows he couldn't last politically in a peaceful environment. Yet Washington persists in treating Arafat as a serious potential peace partner. U.S. diplomats repeatedly rap Israel's knuckles when Jerusalem targets known Palestinian terrorists for elimination or temporarily seizes Palestinian real estate following a terrorist outrage.
It's high time the U.S. got out of this deadly diplomatic cul-de-sac. We should move our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. We should cut off funding for the Palestinian Authority, saying so publicly and stating our reasons. We should give the Israeli government the green light to take the gloves off and break the backs of Arafat's terrorist cells. The Israelis could do the job within two weeks. The Palestinian Authority police, for instance, would no longer have arms, and any terrorist leader would know his life was in jeopardy. Although diplomats will deny it, an effective Israeli crackdown would reduce the violence to a fraction of what it is now. Such a move would be a shock to Arab states but, perhaps, a useful one. It is no use for them to pretend that Israel will cease to exist. They should know that if it is threatened, Israel will respond forcefully, effectively.
A strong Israeli move against this wave of terror would lead to a sullen, cold peace in which nonviolent Palestinian forces could develop politically and economically. This would not be the stuff of heartwarming photo-ops, but it would make possible the process of semipeaceful coexistence. What is Ariel Sharon's government waiting for? Does it really believe Palestinian outrages will change so-called international opinion toward Israel? What Jerusalem shouldn't fear is a destructive reaction from Washington. (Forbes Magazine Oct 1)
The Right War By Robert Kagan and William Kristol
President Bush's speech before Congress Thursday night conveyed both the determination and the reassurance the American people needed. But what gave the president's address historic significance was the courageous and visionary mission he set for his administration and for the nation. For Bush pledged not only to find and destroy Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda terrorist network in Afghanistan, and not only to attack and vanquish the brutal Taliban regime that has given bin Laden aid and sanctuary. The president declared that while America's "war on terror" begins with Al Qaeda, "it does not end there." The war, he insisted, will require that "every terrorist group of global reach" be "found, stopped, and defeated," and our enemies, he declared, will include not just those groups but also "every government that supports them."
We trust these words will reverberate far beyond Kabul, in Tehran, Damascus, Khartoum, and above all, in Baghdad, where sits the man whom Secretary of State Colin Powell recently called "one of the leading terrorists on the face of the Earth." Evidence that Iraq may have aided in the horrific attacks of September 11 is beginning to accumulate. American intelligence officials have learned that one of the men who carried out the attacks on the World Trade Center, Mohammed Atta, met with an Iraqi intelligence official in Germany several months ago. Other bits of evidence of Iraqi complicity may emerge in the future. If Attorney General John Ashcroft's investigation does begin to piece together a puzzle that includes Iraq, the American public will demand that the kind of forceful response now being assembled against the Taliban be turned with even greater fury against Saddam and his regime. And they will be right.
But Bush's Thursday speech was significant because the president made clear that taking decisive action against Saddam does not require absolute proof linking Iraq to last week's attack. A few days before, Secretary Powell was even more explicit in saying that the United States should target those "groups out there that mean us no good" and "that have conducted attacks previously against U.S. personnel, U.S. interests, and our allies." That means the war on anti-American terrorism must target Hezbollah, the terrorist group backed by Iran and Syria, as well as the Taliban. And it must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power, by supporting the Iraqi opposition and, if necessary, by using American military force to complete the tragically unfinished task begun in Operation Desert Storm a decade ago.
The president revealed in his speech a deep understanding of an important point: that the "war on terrorism" is not merely a war on terrorists. It is also, and perhaps even more significantly, a war against the kinds of regimes that support and employ terrorism as a deadly weapon in their war against us. Saddam Hussein, because of his strategic position in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East, surely represents a more potent challenge to the United States and its interests and principles than the weak, isolated, and we trust, soon-to-be crushed Taliban. And unlike the Taliban, Saddam Hussein may soon have at his disposal not only terrorist networks, but biological, chemical, and even nuclear weapons. Is it conceivable that the United States would destroy the Taliban but leave the Iraqi regime untouched? Could the war the president so eloquently rallied us to Thursday night be considered won if Saddam were still in power three years from now, aiding our enemies and developing weapons of mass destruction?
As both the New York Times and the Washington Post reported this past week, there has been an argument within the Bush administration over how centrally to target Iraq. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and others in the Pentagon and in Vice President Cheney's office have argued that no war on terrorism can possibly succeed if there is not a change of regime in Iraq - which is what Wolfowitz meant when he said a week ago that it was necessary to "end states that support terrorism." The president made clear in his speech that the war on terrorism must bring about a change of regime in Afghanistan. He surely knows that a change of regime in Iraq may take longer, but is every bit as important.
Indeed, we find it hard to believe that anyone in this administration, whether in the State Department or in the White House or in the CIA, can seriously be arguing that the Iraqi regime should be left alone. In 1998 a group of prominent figures sent a letter to President Clinton urging him to take strong action against Saddam Hussein. They warned that if Saddam were to "acquire the capability to deliver weapons of mass destruction, as he is almost certain to do if we continue along the present course, the safety of American troops in the region, of our friends and allies like Israel and the moderate Arab states, and a significant portion of the world's supply of oil will all be put at hazard." They pressed President Clinton to make it the aim of American foreign policy to "remove Saddam Hussein and his regime from power."
The signatories of that 1998 letter are today a Who's Who of senior ranking officials in this administration: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Under Secretary of State John Bolton, Under Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky, Assistant Secretary of Defense Peter Rodman, and National Security Council senior officials Elliott Abrams and Zalmay Khalilzad. If these Bush administration officials believed it was essential to bring about a change of regime in Iraq three years ago, they must believe it is even more essential today. Last week we lost more than 6,000 Americans to terrorism. How many more could we lose in a world where Saddam Hussein continues to thrive and continues his quest for weapons of mass destruction? Do we really want to find out?
We are at war. It will not be easy. But the sacrifices we will make will be fully justified, and redeemed, if we fight the right war, and fight it to victory.
(Weekly Standard (Editorial) Oct 1)
How the Israelis Are Helping U.S. Fight Terror War By Zev Chafets
Israel's contribution to the American war effort already has begun. The Israelis have what the CIA famously lacks: exceptionally good "human intelligence assets."
Since 1991, these sources have concentrated not only on Palestinian terror groups, Syria and Lebanon — all of them possible American targets — but on Iran and Iraq as well. Disclaimers notwithstanding, Israel also has considerable information on Osama Bin Laden. It was from Israel, for example, that news was leaked that Syria has been playing host to Bin Laden's immediate family.
As a general rule, and certainly since Sept. 11, what Israel knows, America knows. Virtually nothing is being withheld. Most intelligence is passed along directly and in full via the American Embassy in Tel Aviv.
In a few cases where highly sensitive data could expose sources, material is summarized for the CIA. But for all practical purposes, Israel's intelligence establishment is now functioning as a branch of the U.S. war effort.
This cooperation exists across a range of subjects. For instance, Shin Bet, Israel's counterintelligence organization, has offered to provide the FBI with operatives who can speak Arabic and Farsi, and can administer and decipher polygraph tests in those languages.
A similar offer was accepted by the French government several years ago after a spate of terror bombings in Paris subways. The FBI, however, is sidestepping a firm answer on the issue by saying it's only interested in U.S. citizens — a category that includes some Israelis.
Israeli security experts also are consulting with various civil defense agencies in the United States.
On the tactical military level, the U.S. has positioned everything from sleeping bags to Patriot anti-missile batteries and other weapons systems in Israel. During the past few years, American and Israeli pilots have trained together in the skies of the Middle East, and Marines have conducted joint exercises with elite Israeli infantry in the Negev Desert and elsewhere.
The Pentagon is highly cognizant that Israel is America's one truly dependable Middle Eastern ally and certainly the most militarily valuable. It has the region's best army, vast experience in dealing with terrorism and, most importantly, a public that sees the problem through American eyes. Polls show that Israel is the only country, aside from America itself, whose people are ready to go to war.
The State Department, on the other hand, seems to regard Israel as an embarrassment. Diplomats are concerned that Israel's inclusion in the coalition would offend some "moderate" Arab countries that have pro-Bin Laden majorities. Far better to appease the mobs than incite them, they believe, which is why third-rate dictatorships like Egypt are being ardently courted, and feelers have gone out to terrorist states like Syria and Iran. But when the fighting starts, the decorative State Department coalition will become an irrelevancy, as Arab states duck for cover. Israel, on the other hand, will remain a genuine ally. There is only one kind of strategic cooperation it won't provide: passivity.
During Desert Storm, the first Bush administration persuaded the Israeli government under Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to sit still for Iraqi Scud missile attacks. Saddam Hussein hit Israel with 39 missiles, an unfettered aggression that terrorized the public and enraged some political leaders, including Ariel Sharon. The Israeli assessment is that Iraq still has 10 to 15 missiles. They haven't been well-maintained during the past decade, and their crews are judged to be in a low state of readiness after years of inaction, but it is possible some Iraqi Scuds could once again hit Israeli cities — and that this time the missiles might be fitted with chemical or biological weapons.
If that happens, it is highly unlikely that any amount of American pleading will prevent Prime Minister Sharon — or any sane Israeli leader — from immediate and drastic retaliation. (New York Daily News Sep 26)