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Bush’s grade on the war on terrorism

The primary enemy of the U.S. is al-Qaida. Few Americans understand this unconventional adversary.

Al-Qaida was officially started in 1989 by Osama bin Laden from Saudi Arabia and an Egyptian named Muhammad Atef. Its gestation into a quasi-military terrorist organization started when Muslim Arabs volunteered to fight the Soviet invasion of Islamic Afghanistan during the 1980s.

At that time, it was funded by wealthy Saudis and the American CIA. One of its fundamental beliefs is that no Islamic country should allow cultural or military influence on its soil from infidels, particularly Americans.



The Soviet defeat in Afghanistan brought great pride to the more radical elements of Arabic Islam who have felt humiliation by the technologically superior West for centuries. After the Soviet defeat, the U.S. pulled out and thereby allowed al-Qaida, with its wealthy Arabian benefactors, to fund an extremist Islamic government (Taliban) and training grounds. Thousands of Muslims from around the world were indoctrinated there.

Al-Qaida is not some tightly knit organization headed by Osama (although the U.S. press has created this image). It is more a loose social network of Muslims radicalized in Afghanistan that resent American freedom, wealth, military power, and cultural influence.




The headwaters of its ideological and religious extremism come from the radical clerics of Arabia and are indirectly funded by petrodollars. Al-Qaida was also involved in the Bosnia, Kosovo, Somalia and Macedonian conflicts. Local Arab secular dictators such as Saddam Hussein, Kadaffy (Libya) and Assid (Syria) fear al-Qaida and are its natural enemies.

Fighting a terrorist enemy like al-Qaida requires a very different strategy from anything we have seen before. Mechanized divisions and great aircraft carriers are of little value. Our top priority should be to develop alternate energies and increase energy efficiencies in order to break our addiction to imported oil. This would drive the price of oil down and strain the petro-dollar financing of al-Qaida.

We also need to improve our intelligence capability in countries where al-Qaida operates. Our success against the Taliban in Afghanistan was brilliant; it was based much more on intelligence, special forces and political maneuvering than brute military might. Indiscriminate bombing and the accidental killing of innocent civilians is a sure recipe for disaster in this kind of struggle.

The unconditional military and financial support the U.S. has given Israel in its land grabbing and slow genocide against the Palestinian Arabs has made recruiting by al-Qaida very easy. A more even-handed approach to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict would take a lot of wind out of al-Qaida’s sails.

To prevail in this conflict will take intelligence, perseverance, and sophistication. Ultimately, our values of freedom, inclusion and tolerance will win out; most moderate Muslims believe in those values.

How have Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld fared so far in this struggle? I give them a “D” at best. The Afghan strategy has worked well, and now NATO is fully involved. Most of the world’s richest nations have committed funds to rebuild Afghanistan, and Osama is living in a cave.

However, Bush has done very little to encourage alternate energy or energy efficiency. Our addiction to imported oil is as great as ever.

Bush has created an enormous fear of terrorism in the public mind and presented himself as our protector. The Patriot Act is more of an attack on our privacy and freedoms than a protection against terrorism.

The Homeland Security Department has done some good things but is mostly expensive political pork. Does anyone really believe that police raking up overtime in patrol cars and government employees on “heightened alert” overtime are going to foil a terrorist attack?

Fighter planes in the air and helicopters aimlessly flying around are unlikely to protect us from a van full of explosives at a mall. You cannot protect every domestic location where people gather in large groups.

This year, 750,000 illegals will walk across our borders unimpeded ” hardly an obstacle to a serious terrorist. Bush has caved into the business demand for cheap labor, the social service industry demand for more clients, and the Hispanic demand for open borders ” all at the expense of the American middle class.

Finally, the most colossal miscalculation of all is the war on Iraq. This enormously expensive adventure has now cost us 3,000 soldiers ” either killed or seriously maimed ” with no end in sight, and no WMD, no al-Qaida, and no rich allies to defray the costs.

Don’t count on the Shiites, the Sunnis, the Baaths, or the Kurds to all getting along. There will be no democracy. Would you run for president in a country where 100,000 people would be perfectly willing to assassinate you?

What there will be is an expensive American puppet police state that in the end won’t be a huge improvement over Saddam. We tried that with the Shah of Iran and look what it got us. It looks like Cheney isn’t even going to get his oil and we are heading for a trillion-dollar deficit.

Michael Schwalm lives in Lake Wildwood.


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