Sunday, July 03, 2005

Iraq, 9/11, and the Bush Speech: Part 1

On Tuesday night, President Bush delivered some remarks on the state of affairs in Iraq. Overall, I thought it was a good speech, competently delivered. The following passage was particularly Churchillian in tone:

America and our friends are in a conflict that demands much of us. It demands the courage of our fighting men and women, it demands the steadfastness of our allies, and it demands the perseverance of our citizens. We accept these burdens, because we know what is at stake. We fight today because Iraq now carries the hope of freedom in a vital region of the world, and the rise of democracy will be the ultimate triumph over radicalism and terror. And we fight today because terrorists want to attack our country and kill our citizens, and Iraq is where they are making their stand. So we'll fight them there, we'll fight them across the world, and we will stay in the fight until the fight is won.

Not surprisingly, many Democrats were less than enthusiastic in their response. In particular, some expressed anger over the president's references to 9/11, claiming that Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks and that the president was exploiting the memory of September 11th for his own ends. Such reactions are sadly indicative of the current Democratic Party's utter lack of fitness to lead this nation in time of war.

For one thing, the administration has never claimed that Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 attacks. What it has argued, correctly, is that Baathist Iraq was an active state sponsor of terrorism, including having links to al Qaeda and other jihadist organizations. As Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard points out yet again, there was indeed a decade long relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. Such ties also existed with al Qaeda affiliates such as Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Saddam Hussein's regime trained, harbored, and assisted anti-American and anti-Israeli terrorists. Baathist Iraq was also an active sponsor of radical Sunni Islam and source of anti-American incitement. Of all the regimes in the Middle East, Iraq's was the only one that openly celebrated the 9/11 attacks. Finally, the available prewar intelligence indicated that Iraq was actually increasing its involvement in terrorism directed at the United States. Yet many Democrats and much of the elite media bizarrely and obtusely continue to insist that overthrowing such a regime had nothing to do with fighting terrorism.

Andrew C. McCarthy provides the best overall explanation for why eliminating Saddam's dictatorship was an essential part of the War on Islamist Terror:

On September 12, 2001, no one in America cared about whether there would be enough Sunni participation in a fledgling Iraqi democracy if Saddam were ever toppled. No one in lower Manhattan cared whether the electricity would work in Baghdad, or whether Muqtada al-Sadr's Shiite militia could be coaxed into a political process. They cared about smashing terrorists and the states that supported them for the purpose of promoting American national security.

Saddam Hussein's regime was a crucial part of that response because it was a safety net for al Qaeda. A place where terror attacks against the United States and the West were planned. A place where Saddam's intelligence service aided and abetted al Qaeda terrorists planning operations. A place where terrorists could hide safely between attacks. A place where terrorists could lick their wounds. A place where committed terrorists could receive vital training in weapons construction and paramilitary tactics. In short, a platform of precisely the type without which an international terror network cannot succeed.

No, Saddam's Iraq was not involved in 9/11, any more than the Third Reich participated in attacking Pearl Harbor. However, just as defeating Nazi Germany was essential to winning the war against fascist totalitarianism, so ending the threat from Baathist Iraq was vital if we are to prevail against Islamist totalitarianism.


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