"The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends; it is not our many Arab friends. Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists, and every government that supports them." Thus spaketh George W. Bush to a joint session of Congress on September 20. The war against that enemy is now in its third week in Afghanistan. Let me be upfront about it: I am 100% for bringing to justice those who mercilessly murdered 6,000 of our fellow citizens on September 11. While we must do everything possible to avoid even one innocent civilian casualty, we cannot allow such an act of darkness committed on our soil to go unpunished. However, before the bombs have stopped falling on Afghanistan, there are some in the Bush Administration who are already calling for widening the war beyond Afghanistan: namely in Iraq. In addition, many a pundit has argued that once we rid the world of Saddam, we must then pound Syria for its harboring of terrorists. Next, we should bomb Lebanon and Iran. And finally we should send carpet bombs on Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine. Then, and only then, is the war on terrorism completed. Not quite.
If President Bush truly meant that our enemy is "every government that supports [terrorists]," then after bombing Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, and Syria, we must point our cruise missiles toward Riyadh. Seymour Hersh reported in the New Yorker that National Security Agency intercepts have shown that Saudi money has been financing Al Qaeda and other extremist groups throughout the Middle East and Central Asia for several years now. After Saudi Arabia, we must begin bombing North Korea, as it is on the State Department's official list of states that sponsor terrorism. Next, we must attack Cuba. It is also on that State Department list. After finishing off Fidel Castro, our next targets should be Belfast, Dublin, and other cities in Ireland. After all, Ireland harbors the Real IRA, a group designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department in 2001. Ah, but we cannot declare the war against terrorism over until we begin our military assault against Latin America. In its annual report, "Patterns of Global Terrorism-2000," the State Department recorded 172 acts of terrorism against the United States that occurred in Latin America (the Middle East, by the way, was dead last on that list). What's more, if we are to wage war on those who harbor, hide, support, arm, feed, or even clothe terrorists, then we must send our bombs raining on Hamburg, Germany. Attorney General Ashcroft announced on October 23 that a cell in Germany was being actively sought in connection with the September 11 attacks in Washington and New York.
Obviously, this insane scenario will never happen. However, simply bombing countries that harbor terrorists as our modus operandi in this war will not eliminate the cancer of terrorism. It will serve only to radicalize more moderate Arabs and Muslims, the very people we need on our side. When asked if the U.S. should expand its war beyond Afghanistan, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak replied, "Don't widen the battlefield. You will have public opinion against you, and not only in the Arab world." Furthermore, if military action does indeed go beyond Afghanistan but focuses only on countries in the Middle East, then, no matter how many times Mr. Bush says otherwise, this war will not be seen as anything other than a war against Islam. That is exactly what Osama bin Laden and the thugs around him want to happen.
A much better, more truly American, approach would be to directly engage the elements hostile to the U.S. around the world. Marc Ginsberg, former U.S. Ambassador to Morocco from 1994-1998, has an excellent idea: create an U.S.-Muslim Policy Engagement Commission. This commission would be comprised of public and private-sector Middle East and Islamic experts, including Arab Americans and victims of terror, and travel to the Middle East and begin a dialogue on behalf of the U.S. to promote and improve Muslim-American understanding. Innocent people do not have to be killed, and our troops do not have to be constantly placed in harm's way. Ambassador Ginsberg, sign me up!
Hesham A. Hassaballa is a member of the Independent Writers Syndicate. He is a physician and resides in Chicago.
The truth is that the United States is winning, and will win, the war on terrorism.
The truth is that it is not a war on Islam, or Muslims, or even Afghanistan.
The truth is that it is a war of self-defense.
Americans don't hate Islam, or Afghanis. They just don't want to die.
No bombast, no boasting, no hate-filled speech. The truth can set you free.