KNOWING IS HALF THE BATTLE
It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.
Is Iraq the central front in the war on terror, or an unnecessary distraction? The answer would likely depend on who you ask, so let us begin with the enemy himself.
Earlier this month, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a written communiqué between two senior al Qaeda leaders. Dated July 9 of this year, it was reportedly intercepted in Iraq during routine counterterrorism operations.
This rambling, repetitive missive from Ayman al-Zawahiri--Osama bin Laden’s fellow Pakistan cave-dwelling deputy--to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, his top field marshall of mayhem in Iraq, is telling on many levels. Al Qaeda websites have come out against its authenticity, highlighting further its revelatory nature and the political damage to their cause that may ensue.
The United States Government is purporting to have the highest confidence in the letter's authenticity, posing an interesting dilemma. For those predisposed to reflexively dismiss anything put forth by the current administration (just under half the country, based on the last election results), including those of the tin foil hat wearing conspiracy crowd, this would logically infer agreement with the official position of Al Qaeda Online. You‘ve Got Jail.
"Either you’re with us, or you’re with the terrorists," said President Bush shortly after 9/11. In this case, you either believe us or you believe them, a motley crew of bloodthirsty killers. There’s precious little wiggle room. (Chew on that one, Melinda).
Being distrustful of global networks made up of genocidal lunatics, I do believe I’m going to have to side with the usually oxymoronic "government intelligence" agencies on this one.
As for the contents of the aforementioned thirteen page letter, it reads like the 7 Habits of Highly Defective People, or rather, a rough manuscript for a self-help guide to global jihad. In it Zawahiri makes it clear he’s been boning up on his Stratego, laying out a vision of war without end, whether the Americans pack up and leave tomorrow or remain another quarter century.
He admits that al Qaeda’s territorial ambitions extend well beyond the borders of Iraq, ultimately leading to the creation of a fundamentalist Islamic regime that would span the region and clears the way for a final showdown with the 58-year-old bogeyman of the Middle East. And no, I’m not referring to George W. Bush.
But don’t take my word for it. Let the Z-man speak for himself:
I want to be the first to congratulate you for what God has blessed you with in terms of fighting battle in the heart of the Islamic world, which was formerly the field for major battles in Islam's history, and what is now the place for the greatest battle of Islam in this era…Next, Zawahiri speculates that the jihad in Iraq requires several incremental goals:
It has always been my belief that the victory of Islam will never take place until a Muslim state is established in the manner of the Prophet in the heart of the [Middle East]… As for the battles that are going on in the far-flung regions of the Islamic world, such as Chechnya, Afghanistan, Kashmir, and Bosnia, they are just the groundwork and the vanguard for the major battles which have begun…
If our intended goal in this age is the establishment of a caliphate in the manner of the Prophet… then your efforts and sacrifices -- God permitting -- are a large step directly towards that goal. So we must think for a long time about our next steps and how we want to attain it…
The first stage: Expel the Americans from Iraq.Sadly, I don’t think it involves Geraldo.
The second stage: Establish an Islamic authority or emirate, then develop it and support it until it achieves the level of a caliphate -- over as much territory as you can to spread its power in Iraq…in order to fill the void stemming from the departure of the Americans, immediately upon their exit and before un-Islamic forces attempt to fill this void.Here he makes it patently clear that the war does not end upon U.S. withdrawal, but merely shifts crosshairs to the Iraqi Army and police forces left to fend for themselves.
The third stage: Extend the jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq.But keep in mind, there were absolutely no terrorists in Iraq until we got there!
The fourth stage: It may coincide with what came before: the clash with Israel, because Israel was established only to challenge any new Islamic entity.That’s right, the creation of Israel had nothing at all to do with the century-long obsession with wiping the Jewish populace off the face of the earth. It was all about whitey keeping the mullahs down. Where have we heard this tired excuse before?
…the [jihadists] must not have their mission end with the expulsion of the Americans from Iraq, and then lay down their weapons, and silence the fighting zeal. Instead, their ongoing mission is to establish an Islamic state, and defend it…In other words, we can fight them now in the streets and alleys with AK-47s and crude roadside bombs, or we can sit by and watch as they build a "legitimate" army of tanks, planes and missiles, and lobby at the UN for Security Council protection under the auspices of "national sovereignty."
And you can count on a mass slaughter of epic proportions as the Iraqi Shiites, northern Kurds and others who dared take a chance on a better future and defy their Sunni masters are repaid in full for being foolish enough to trust the Americans yet again.
Zawahiri also acknowledges an acute sense of political cunning and PR manipulation:
The Americans will exit soon, God willing, and the establishment of a governing authority--as soon as the country is freed from the Americans--does not depend on force alone.For those whose grasp of American history is as flimsy and weak as Zawahiri’s (i.e., you attended an Ivy League college or typical liberal arts university), keep in mind that the U.S. military did not "lose" the war in Southeast Asia. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, the United States Congress retroactively cut off our South Vietnamese allies from all the promised financial support that Richard Nixon assured them before the last American boots left the ground. Up until that point, the war was won. The troops had come home and the South was still free. Then came the media frenzy of Watergate.
Things may develop faster than we imagine. The aftermath of the
collapse of American power in Vietnam--and how they ran and left their agents--is noteworthy.
The North Vietnam Communists lost militarily on their home turf yet hung on because they saw their cause succeeding politically on ours, as eventually it did with an assist from celebrity activists, doom and gloom journalism, and a campus counterculture cast of thousands of self-indulgent students. The more things change, the more things stay the same.
The danger of the people--and their elected representatives--becoming distracted by domestic brouhahas is real, and should not be discounted in wartime. Neither should the eroding effect of a perpetually pessimistic opposition party and a mainstream press that behaves more like a fifth column than a fourth branch.
Zawahiri gets it:
…however far our capabilities reach, they will never be equal to one thousandth of the capabilities of the kingdom of Satan that is waging war on us. …more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media... in a race for the hearts and minds of [the entire Muslim world].The inane press comparisons or Iraq to Vietnam persist, yet the few that are still apt are worth noting. Once more, we are seeing U.S. victories on the battlefield spun into defeat on the home front by the filtering, distortion, and outright anti-American bias of the media. And once again, the only way we can lose the war at this point is if we as a nation turn on backs on the millions of innocent people we’ve committed to support. The antiwar movement purports to stand for peace, yet if successful, their aims will only lead to untold carnage of ordinary Iraqis.
"Know thy self, know thy enemy," instructed Sun Tzu, the oldest recorded military advisor.
The enemy have made their intentions known. They have staked out their allegiances. They have broadcast their objectives on Al Jazeera--the Fox News of the Middle East--as well as on CNN, the Al Jazeera of the West. Yet millions of Americans across the spectrum continue to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear.
Many still dispute whether Iraq is the central front in the war on terror. Though among the global terrorist network, the debate ended long ago. Just ask Osama Bin Laden:
"This Third World War is raging" in Iraq and "the whole world is watching,” he says. It is an outcome that will end in "victory and glory or misery and humiliation."
You want an exit strategy? How about "victory."