Iraq was "The right war, at just the right time." Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is now cornered in Fallujah, and the Americans are gaining more and more Iraqi trainees, ready to fight for democracy, every week. It's only a matter of time, before the last rebel strongholds will be brought under control.
Planting the seed of democracy in the Arab world will stand as one of the greatest accomplishments of this or any Presidency, imho. The War On Terror will rage on for at least a decade more, probably more, but the days of "Oil-For-Terror" are over, and France has been exposed to the world as the biggest terror-abettor since Moammar Khadafy's heyday(see ?Mr. Claude," below). Hussein is in jail, awaiting his trial, which will be a legendary, mighty message to humanity, like the Nuremberg Trials after WWII.
It's a shame you didn't learn anything about the War On Terror while you were in Egypt, D'. Congrats on losing the weight, though.
Posted on Mon, Oct. 11, 2004
Terrorists' act will backfire
BY FRIDA GHITIS
The terrorists who massacred dozens of tourists and workers in the Egyptian resort of Taba have placed the government of President Hosni Mubarak in a dangerous dilemma. The perpetrators of the Thursday-night slaughter planned it that way. They wanted to score points with their Arab and Muslim audiences. But that was not their only goal. Weakening a government like Mubarak's, one that maintains relations with both the United States and Israel, had to stand at or near the top of their list of objectives. Unfortunately for the attackers, there is a better-than-even chance that the events will produce the opposite result.
Mubarak will find himself under pressure, particularly from Israel, to crack down on extremists. Increasing cooperation with Israel or being seen as yielding to Israeli pressures will unsettle many Egyptians and infuriate many others. Killing Israelis is not exactly an unpopular activity in today's Middle East. Stopping potential killers brings much more scorn.
Despite the political cost, there is little doubt that the Egyptian government will work to prevent another night of devastation. Egypt, with its poverty-wracked economy, cannot afford to see vital tourism once again decimated by terrorists. The last tourist massacre, in the town of Luxor in 1997, left 58 foreigners dead. It also brought the tourism industry to its knees, causing billions in losses and adding thousands of newly unemployed to Egypt's dusty, seething streets.
The cost of inaction goes beyond money and jobs. The Islamist ideology that fuels today's Muslim extremism was born from Muslim intellectuals in Egypt. Their ideological offspring assassinated Mubarak's predecessor, Anwar Sadat, and have tried to kill the current president more than once. A brutal crackdown put out the insurrection in Egypt.
But it spread the flames throughout the region. Osama bin Laden's right-hand man, Ayman al Zawahiri, an Egyptian, gave many of his fiery speeches inside the country's jails before joining forces with al Qaeda.
Mubarak will not hesitate to come down hard on extremists once again, even if it means cooperating with a man universally despised in the Arab world, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
The initial response did not look promising, but that will change. A spokesman for Mubarak first blamed the carnage on Israel's recent incursions in the neighboring Gaza strip, which have left dozens dead. The European Union did the same when it used the code word for ''the Israelis brought it on themselves.'' (The E.U.'s foreign policy chief called for an end to the ``cycle of violence.'')
But both were mistaken in tying Thursday's attacks to Israel's current Gaza offensive. On Sept. 9, the Israeli government warned its citizens to stay out of Egypt's resorts in the Sinai Peninsula because it had ''concrete'' evidence of impending violence. Israel's Gaza operations began on Sept. 29, after rockets fired from Gaza killed a couple of Israeli toddlers inside Israel.
Mubarak and his top aides will not shift blame to Israel and ignore the danger. When Israeli rescue workers rushed to the scene, only yards from the border, Egyptian officials stopped them and their ambulances from crossing. After Sharon called Cairo the gates opened, and the rescue operation proceeded. Israeli officials have advised rescue workers to stop their criticism of Egypt, a sign that cooperation is on the way.
The top advisors and most likely successors to the 76-year-old Egyptian president will surely urge him not to shun Israel's demands for action. His son, Gamal, a rising star in the country's political firmament, will counsel working together with Israel and the West. He used to work for Bank of America in London and favors pro-Western reforms. The other voice in his ear will come from Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman. Suleiman has had extensive contacts with Israel and the United States with regard to security issues. He will also embrace a joint approach.
As different groups compete for the badge of honor that is mass murder in much of the Middle East, they may succeed in scoring a propaganda, or even a recruiting, victory with the masses. But their goal of weakening the Egyptian government and fraying its ties with the Israeli government will most likely end in failure.
Frida Ghitis is a free-lance writer who covers world affairs.
Two Wins Against Terror
Elections in Afghanistan and Australia turn out to be nothing like Spain.
Monday, October 11, 2004 12:01 a.m. EDT
Democracy is a force terrorists dread. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has warned his al Qaeda associates that democracy in Iraq would "suffocate" the terror campaign he is orchestrating from his base in Fallujah. Voters Saturday in two very different parts of the world proved his point. Australians enthusiastically re-elected John Howard, a staunch U.S. anti-terror ally, and the Afghans pulled off, against tremendous odds, the country's first national election for a president.
In Afghanistan, voters bravely defied death threats from Zarqawi's Taliban allies and turned out by the millions in an unprecedented demonstration of people power. Only three years ago, Afghan women risked being flogged or even executed for trying to exercise the most basic rights. On Saturday, they lined up to vote equally with men, even if in keeping with Muslim tradition women voted separately.
In the three years since U.S.-led forces liberated Afghanistan and ended the country's use as a training ground for al Qaeda, three million refugees have returned. Some 10 million registered to vote. Children have gone back to school, and girls are being educated. Per-capita income is up sharply, and the economy is growing at a 20% rate, albeit from a small base. Yes, as Senator Kerry keeps reminding us, the opium trade has been revived, but so long as global demand persists, only Taliban-type tactics will be able to eliminate it completely.
Australia, by contrast, is an established democracy with a modern economy. But its election also provided a test of the anti-terror strategy launched by President Bush after 9/11. Prime Minister Howard supported the invasion of Iraq, sending Australian special forces to assist in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
Most of the forces have now been withdrawn, leaving only a few hundred Aussie troops in Iraq. But entry into the war was not popular with Australians and there were predictions Mr. Howard would be upset by his Labor Party and strongly antiwar challenger, Mark Latham. Jemaah Islamiyah terrorists, who are affiliated with al Qaeda, tried to influence the election by setting off a bomb outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta last month. Yet Australians didn't flinch and Mr. Howard won handily on Saturday. His Liberal-National coalition took 83 of the 150 seats in Parliament, improving his government's position.
No doubt his victory was attributable to the success of his free-market economic policies, which have delivered unparalleled prosperity with low inflation, unemployment and interest rates. But had he lost, the press world-wide would have trumpeted that it was because of his support for Mr. Bush. The world has taken a few turns for the better since terrorists were able to swing an election in Spain in March.
In Afghanistan, it may be weeks before a final vote tally is completed and there have been complaints of irregularities. But it appears that President Hamid Karzai, another staunch ally of the U.S., won the election.
Mr. Karzai's popularity offers further evidence that the U.S. should have moved faster toward local leadership in Iraq. He was installed as interim leader within weeks of the fall of the Taliban and provided the Afghan presence that ensured that the U.S. and its allies were never seen as an army of occupation. Instead, as our Michael Gonzalez writes nearby, the biggest fear of many Afghans is that foreign troops will leave before the task of reconstruction is complete.
It's also worth remembering that Afghanistan's transformation has been accompanied by predictions of doom all along the way. First, it was said that the U.S. could never topple the Taliban, especially if we got in bed with the Northern Alliance. Then we were going to end up bogged down for years like the Soviets and British. Next we didn't have enough troops, and Mr. Karzai was too weak and the warlords too strong. Saturday's election doesn't end the troubles there, but Afghanistan's progress so far is a major success for the Bush Doctrine of taking the battle to the terrorists and spreading freedom to prevent their return. -------------------------------------
Many Helped Iraq Evade U.N. Sanctions On Weapons
By Craig Whitlock and Glenn Frankel
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, October 8, 2004; Page A01
BERLIN, Oct. 7 -- As part of its stealth effort to evade U.N. sanctions and rebuild its military, the Iraqi government under President Saddam Hussein found that it had no shortage of people around the world who were willing to help. Among them: a French arms dealer known only as "Mr. Claude," who made a surreptitious visit to Iraq four years ago to provide technical expertise and training.
Mr. Claude worked for Lura, a French company that sold tank carriers to Iraq, according to documents recovered by the top U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq. The mysterious Frenchman may have also helped the Iraqis attempt to acquire military-related radar and microwave technology, despite a U.N. ban on such trade with Iraq since the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
Other French military contractors came to Baghdad with offers to supply the Iraqi government with helicopters, spare parts for fighter aircraft and air defense systems after 1998, when U.N. weapons inspectors withdrew under pressure, according to a report issued this week by Charles A. Duelfer, the chief U.S. weapons inspector. The report cites evidence that contacts between the French suppliers and Hussein's government continued until last year, less than one month before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.