The War Didnt Begin on 9/11
Jeff Jacoby, columnist of the Boston
Globe is almost always "right on." In this essay he makes clear
that Islam's war against the West, mostly the United States, has been
going on for a long time. Except that we didn't want to acknowledge and
realize it. The last paragraph really sums it up.
Gerardo Joffe, President
by Jeff Jacoby
The Boston Globe, September 11, 2003
The war we are in didn't begin on Sept. 11, 2001. It began
22 years earlier.
On Nov. 4, 1979, Islamist radicals stormed the US embassy in Tehran and,
with the support of the Ayatollah Khomeini, proceeded to hold 52 Americans
hostage for the next 15 months. The Carter administration's response
an embargo on Iranian oil, a break in diplomatic relations, and a botched
rescue attempt the following April was feeble and inept. It was
also the start of a pattern that would be repeated time and again in the
years and administrations that followed.
When a string of American citizens living in Lebanon were abducted
and some of them tortured and killed by Iranian- and Syrian-backed
terrorists between 1982 and 1991, the United States reacted not with a
terrible swift sword, but with a pathetic arms-for-hostages ransom scheme.
When a massive car bomb at the US embassy in Beirut murdered 63 people
in April 1983, and another attack in October killed 241 Marines in their
barracks, the Reagan administration promised vengeance, but in the end
merely withdrew US troops from Lebanon.
And so it went when TWA Flight 847 was hijacked and Navy diver Robert
Stethem murdered in 1985. When the cruise liner Achille Lauro was seized
and Leon Klinghoffer shot dead in his wheelchair. When Pan Am Flight 103
was blown up over Scotland, killing all 259 people on board. When the
World Trade Center was bombed in 1993. When dozens of Americans were murdered
by Arab terrorists in Israel. When two US military compounds in Saudi
Arabia were destroyed in 1996, leaving 26 dead and more than 500 wounded.
When Al Qaeda blew up the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. When
the USS Cole was attacked, and 17 sailors killed, in 2000.
Atrocity followed atrocity, but the fury of the United States was never
aroused. The terrorists and the Middle East dictatorships that sponsor
them attacked us again and again, but Washington retaliated when
it bothered to retaliate with only half-hearted gestures and empty
No, the terror war didn't start on the 11th of September. What happened
on 9/11 is that America began fighting back. And the counterattack was
launched not from Washington but from the skies over southeastern Pennsylvania,
when the heroic passengers of United Flight 93 rose against the terrorists,
and aborted the fourth attack.
In the two years since they went down fighting, much has changed in the
terror war. The Taliban regime that harbored Al Qaeda in Afghanistan is
no more, and thousands of terrorists have been captured or killed. Osama
bin Laden is on the run, his ability to wreak terror crippled. Saddam
Hussein, one of the world's most dangerous tyrants and a key terrorist
ally, has been brought down, and the United States is rebuilding Iraq
into a stable democracy.
Most important of all, American eyes have opened to the threat from Islamofascism,
the totalitarian ideology that has succeeded Nazism and Communism as the
foremost menace to the norms of civilization and the liberty of the West.
President Bush understands, as he put it earlier this week, "that
terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength; they are invited
by the perception of weakness." And that "the surest way to
avoid attacks on our own people is to engage the enemy where he lives
But if much has been accomplished in the war on terrorism, the worst sponsors
of terror nonetheless remain untouched. We have taken the fight to the
terrorists, but we have not yet taken on the terror-states that are their
mainstay and refuge: Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. The governments of
those three countries, more than any other, were responsible for Sept.
11 and the 22 years of terrorism that preceded it. Until they are toppled
or transformed, the war against us will go on.
Bush grasps a critical point: The root of international terrorism is the
lack of freedom in the Muslim Middle East. Iraq is the central theater
in the war against terrorism because the terror mafia is determined to
prevent the emergence of a stable and democratic Arab country. The president
rightly said in his speech on Sunday that as liberty puts down Iraqi roots,
the terrorists will retreat. But retreat to where? To oblivion? No
back across the border to the terror strongholds they are coming from:
Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia.
For years, the State Department has identified the theocratic dictatorship
in Iran as the world's foremost sponsor of terrorism. For almost as long,
it has charged the Ba'athist regime in Syria with providing safe haven
to notorious terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. Saudi Arabia spawned
not only Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 9/11 hijackers, but the petrodollars
and Wahhabi fanaticism that have long sustained the terror mills. Regime
change in Tehran, Damascus, and Riyadh is essential to the eradication
of Middle East terrorism. It is time the administration began saying so
How best to effect that change is a question for the experts. It need
not necessarily involve military force. Diplomatic and financial support
for Iran's pro-American democratic resistance, for example, might well
be enough to topple the hated mullahs who rule the country.
What is critical is to recognize that we are in a fight to the death.
Either America will destroy the terror masters or the terror masters will
keep destroying Americans. Two years after 9/11, let us strive to be like
the heroes of Flight 93 to have the moral clarity to see what must
be one, and the strength of will to do it.
Facts and Logic About the Middle East
P.O. Box 590359
San Francisco, CA 94159
Gerardo Joffe, President
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