Priorities in the war on terror

By Joseph Farah

Something important has been terribly obscured by the United Nations’ role in the Iraq crisis.

With all the focus on Iraqi arms and the development of weapons of mass destruction, we have lost sight of the fact that Iraq is a sponsor of terrorism.

Whether Saddam Hussein unilaterally disarms or not doesn’t change the fact that he has – for more than a decade – given aid and support to terrorist groups, including Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network.

Certainly we care whether Iraq is developing nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. It’s a matter of grave concern. If he has them – and there seems to be no doubt about that – he could and would allow terrorists to use them against us.

But since when did our war on terrorism become exclusively focused on the issue of weapons of mass destruction?

Didn’t President Bush promise immediately after Sept. 11 that the United States would pursue terrorism wherever and whenever we found it? Didn’t he promise to pursue the terrorists to the ends of the earth? Didn’t he promise that there would be no safe haven for them?

Well, guess what? The terrorists have a safe haven in Iraq. Not only has Iraq provided them with material support, Baghdad has permitted them to maintain training bases there. Yes, even al-Qaida has a presence there right now, according to senior intelligence officials and no less an authority than Vice President Dick Cheney.

So, will we forget about the terrorists if Iraq disarms or pretends to disarm? Why has our focus on Iraq been exclusively on this issue of weapons of mass destruction? We’re not in a war to rid the world of nuclear weapons, we’re in a war to rid the world of terrorism.

Once again, the United States’ preoccupation with world support and securing allies – both real and imagined – has served to make us lose our focus.

If the U.S. made the case that al-Qaida and its terrorist allies were at work in Iraq, Washington would have the moral high ground it needs to make war on Saddam Hussein. It wouldn’t matter whether Baghdad had weapons of mass destruction or not.

Afghanistan had no weapons of mass destruction. The only reason the U.S. and its allies invaded and liberated the country from its oppressive Taliban rulers was Afghanistan was hosting al-Qaida. Why are the rules of engagement in this war changing now?

There are many compelling reasons to attack and liberate Iraq:

  • It’s only a matter of time before Saddam Hussein gets weapons of mass destruction that he will use against the U.S. and other nations, including Israel;

  • Saddam Hussein is a monstrous totalitarian dictator and cruel oppressor of his own people;

  • Iraq, under Hussein, has proved to be a threat to its neighbors;

  • If Iraq is liberated, it could create a domino effect of freedom in the region;

But the most important reason to target Iraq is it harbors and sponsors terrorism. We must never lose sight of this fact. The administration is not making this case strongly enough. This must be the centerpiece of our policy toward Iraq, not an afterthought.

If we are worried about world approval of our actions, frame them in the context of our war on terrorism. America was attacked by terrorists. We are justified in pursuing them and eliminating the threat.

At the moment, the U.S. is conducting policy toward Iraq as if it were unrelated to the war on terrorism. It most definitely is not unrelated. We would not be contemplating an attack on Iraq if it were not a prime sponsor of terrorism, including al-Qaida terrorism. This must be made clear by the policymakers. If our objectives are not clear, neither success nor failure in our mission will ever be adequately defined.

Iraq is the next theater of operations in the war on terror. Period. End of story. Everyone understands this at some level, yet it is not being explained. It is not being articulated. Backing down from dumping Saddam Hussein at this point is unthinkable. The president’s father made that mistake once. Let not the sins of the father revisit the son.