Almost daily we are confronted with news concerning the global war on terror. This month there have been three highly publicized and highly tragic terrorist events. First there was the 7/7 (July 7th) attack on the London public transportation systems killing scores of people. Then exactly two weeks later the same London public transportation system was subject to another attack. And more recently, a major resort city in Egypt was attacked by terrorists killing nearly 100 innocent people. (I trust the BBC will forgive me for labeling these fanatical bombers as terrorists.)
I am too frequently dismayed at the comments I hear from friends, pundits, and the media that the "reason" for these terrorist attacks is because American, British and other nations' forces are fighting in Iraq. The comments are along the line of "... if only George W. Bush and Tony Blair had not dispatched all those military forces to Iraq in an attempt to overthrow Saddam Hussein and eliminate the supposed threat of WMD, there would be no such attacks as those perpetrated on London and Sharm el Sheik, Egypt."
There may very well be terrorist attacks in London, in Egypt and elsewhere as a consequence of the coalition efforts to remove Hussein and democratize Iraq. Certainly some Islamic fanatics are motivated by the war in Iraq and the threat of a liberated Iraqi people. But let us review a bit of history that precedes Bush's presidential tenure and much of it preceding that of Tony Blair.
I was stationed in Germany in the late 1970's and early 1980's. I was there in November 1979 when a group of fanatical Muslim students stormed our embassy in Teheran and took over 50 Americans hostage. Some were released within days. Most were detained for 14 months. As I reported in this column in October, 2000, I had the responsibility for the airlift mission which returned our embassy hostages from Teheran, Iran on Inaugural Day, 1981. OK, let's reflect on that timing. November 1979, nearly 36 years ago, terrorists attacked an American embassy abroad. Jimmy Carter was President of the United States of America.
A few years later in 1983 Ronald Reagan was president. Terrorists attacked our Marines in Beirut, Lebanon claiming 241 American lives. Ten years later, New York witnessed the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Bill Clinton was President. In the summer of 1996, Islamic fanatics struck a U.S Air Force compound in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia killing 19 USAF airmen.
In August, 1998 two of our embassies in Africa (Nairoba, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania) were bombed. In October, 2000 the USS Cole was attacked in the harbor at Yemen. 17 USN sailors were killed in this terrorist attack. Bill Clinton was still president.
And then there was 9/11 and the loss of about 3,000 men, women and children with the terrorists using airliners as bombs to kill innocents and destroy our will as freedom loving Americans. George Bush was the President.
I only point out the sitting president during each of these terrorist attacks to show that it is not the actions (or inactions) of one political party or another that motivates these Islamic fanatics. There were two Democrats and two Republicans in office during the attacks cited above over the past 36 years. Neither the president nor the political actions of one administration or the other should be cited as "the cause" of current terrorists' attacks around the globe.
The root cause of these attacks is a fundamental belief by a relative handful of Muslims that we who live in freedom loving nations are infidels and we need to be destroyed or overrun by those who espouse their brand of fanaticism. I reported on this in my July 2004 column for this website (Lets Focus on the Real Enemy).
I am hopeful that the three major terrorist attacks this month in the U.K. and in Egypt will prompt a greater appreciation of the enemy we face in this World War on Terror. Already too many of our liberties and freedoms, along with too much of our economic treasure, have been surrendered to this shadowy enemy. It is more important than ever to focus on the real enemy!
This is not a war for real estate. It is not a war for any nation's natural resources. This is an extended war much like the Cold War, which stretched over several decades. We are engaged in a war that cannot be won by military might alone. We must penetrate the minds of our terrorist enemy and we must defeat their ideology. Is that really possible? I believe it is. But it will not happen if we continue to blame America, or if we fail to have the will to pursue a long and difficult global war on terror. It also will not happen unless we have the support and cooperation of other freedom loving nations around the globe. This is truly a "global" conflict. It will require a global effort. It will require America's leadership.
This conflict has been festering for decades. It may take decades to win.
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