–George W. Bush
In wake of the terrorist attack Saturday that claimed 68 lives at the famous Nairobi shopping mall, and in wake of the 12th anniversary of 9/11, I revisited President Bush’s September 20, 2001 speech to a Joint Session of Congress:
On September the 11th, enemies of freedom committed an act of war against our country. Americans have known wars — but for the past 136 years, they have been wars on foreign soil, except for one Sunday in 1941. Americans have known the casualties of war — but not at the center of a great city on a peaceful morning. Americans have known surprise attacks — but never before on thousands of civilians. All of this was brought upon us in a single day — and night fell on a different world, a world where freedom itself is under attack.
Americans have many questions tonight. Americans are asking: Who attacked our country? The evidence we have gathered all points to a collection of loosely affiliated terrorist organizations known as al Qaeda. They are the same murderers indicted for bombing American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, and responsible for bombing the USS Cole.
Al Qaeda is to terror what the mafia is to crime. But its goal is not making money; its goal is remaking the world — and imposing its radical beliefs on people everywhere.
The terrorists practice a fringe form of Islamic extremism that has been rejected by Muslim scholars and the vast majority of Muslim clerics — a fringe movement that perverts the peaceful teachings of Islam. The terrorists’ directive commands them to kill Christians and Jews, to kill all Americans, and make no distinction among military and civilians, including women and children.
This group and its leader — a person named Osama bin Laden — are linked to many other organizations in different countries, including the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. There are thousands of these terrorists in more than 60 countries. They are recruited from their own nations and neighborhoods and brought to camps in places like Afghanistan, where they are trained in the tactics of terror. They are sent back to their homes or sent to hide in countries around the world to plot evil and destruction.
The leadership of al Qaeda has great influence in Afghanistan and supports the Taliban regime in controlling most of that country. In Afghanistan, we see al Qaeda’s vision for the world.
The Ron Paulistinian foreign policy worldview ridicules the notion that they “hate us for our freedoms”, believing Michael Schuer’s perspective to be far more sophisticated (I find his books useful- but he’s still just a man with an opinion like everyone else) and President Bush’s to be “simplistic”. There is merit in both perspectives- the belief that American foreign policy and presence and influence in the Arabian peninsula are at fault (as if radical, puritanical Islamic fundamentalists need American foreign policy as an excuse to attack non-Muslims- and Muslims not deemed sufficiently Islamic- all over the world); and the belief that they hate us for our way of life- our freedoms (the father of al Qaeda theology, Sayyid Qutb, received education in the States and was horrified and repulsed by our “decadent” lifestyle and cultural freedoms).
President Bush goes on to cite specific evidence of just how Islamic fundamentalists do hate “freedom”:
Afghanistan’s people have been brutalized — many are starving and many have fled. Women are not allowed to attend school. You can be jailed for owning a television. Religion can be practiced only as their leaders dictate. A man can be jailed in Afghanistan if his beard is not long enough.
The United States respects the people of Afghanistan — after all, we are currently its largest source of humanitarian aid — but we condemn the Taliban regime. (Applause.) It is not only repressing its own people, it is threatening people everywhere by sponsoring and sheltering and supplying terrorists. By aiding and abetting murder, the Taliban regime is committing murder.
The Taliban hated anything that was un-Islamic. (Remember: They did not tolerate the presence of the 1,700 year old Buddhist statues- historic significance and Afghan cultural heritage be damned).
President Bush was a man who said what he meant, and meant what he said:
And tonight, the United States of America makes the following demands on the Taliban: Deliver to United States authorities all the leaders of al Qaeda who hide in your land. (Applause.) Release all foreign nationals, including American citizens, you have unjustly imprisoned. Protect foreign journalists, diplomats and aid workers in your country. Close immediately and permanently every terrorist training camp in Afghanistan, and hand over every terrorist, and every person in their support structure, to appropriate authorities. (Applause.) Give the United States full access to terrorist training camps, so we can make sure they are no longer operating.
These demands are not open to negotiation or discussion. (Applause.) The Taliban must act, and act immediately. They will hand over the terrorists, or they will share in their fate.
Under President Bush’s leadership, America did not behave as a “paper tiger”. When Ron Paul and Michael Scheuer speak of “blowback”, I don’t think of al Qaeda attacking the WTC because of American interventionism abroad; I think of our response to 9/11 in kicking terrorist @sses in two theaters, and all across the globe for the last decade. What happened to al Qaeda in Afghanistan and al Qaeda in Iraq, and what ultimately happened to Osama bin Laden, is the true blowback.
As Douglas Feith puts it in War and Decision,
America, the President was saying, cannot rely solely on a defensive strategy- not if we hope to preserve our way of life. If all we did to prevent future attacks was beef up homeland security- limiting access to potential targets, searching persons and possessions, resorting perhaps to ethnic profiling and increasing intrusions on individual privacy- we would not be able to maintain our free and open society, “our way of life.” To preserve civil liberties, the President had to adopt a strategy of disrupting terrorist networks abroad, where they do much of their planning, recruiting, and training. He had to adopt a strategy of initiative and offense as well as defense. As I saw it, the President decided that, in dealing with the terrorists, he had the choice of changing the way we live or changing the way they live.
–War and Decision, pg 71
As it would turn out, the way all of us live has been changed.
I know a number of Flopping Aces readers believe President Bush to be naive in his praise of Islam as a “religion of peace”, but I believe the following was the right thing for him to say, as the leader of the free world; and I don’t believe he was just saying it because it was the presidential thing to say (to marginalize the terrorists), but because he- as a man of deep faith and respect for all faiths- earnestly believes this to be true:
I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world. We respect your faith. It’s practiced freely by many millions of Americans, and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah. (Applause.) The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself. 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. (Applause.)
Since 9/11, there have been many critics of the wars- believing the Bush administration knee-jerked reacted out of a desire for revenge (they did not- their objective was to preempt and prevent future attacks), lashing out at a country that did not attack us, and broadening the war- as if bin Laden and his “merry” band called “al Qaeda” was the sole enemy. That once the core membership was defeated- once Osama bin Laden was gone- we could declare victory, pack our bags, and come home.
That belief is fit for the flawed law enforcement model in dealing with terrorism during the 90s. But is not fit for the war we have found ourselves engaged in post-9/11.
What’s in a name?
There is a new trend sweeping the world of jihadism. Instead of adopting unique names, groups increasingly prefer to call themselves ansar, Arabic for “supporters.” In many cases, they style themselves Ansar al-Sharia — supporters of Islamic law — emphasizing their desire to establish Islamic states. Yet despite the fact that these groups share a name and an ideology, they lack a unified command structure or even a bandleader like the central al Qaeda command (or what’s left of it), thought to be based in Pakistan. They are fighting in different lands using different means, but all for the same end, an approach better suited for the vagaries born of the Arab uprisings.
A number of those who seem to want to roll us back to 9/10 believe that 9/11 begins and ends with the demise of Osama bin Laden. It does not.
Critics of the Bush administration’s post-9/11 strategy never seemed to understand the broader war, which encompasses much more than just one man and one terror group, al-Qaeda.
It’s one of the reasons why “Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11” is a constant refrain amongst Bush critics.
The war we find ourselves in, from the beginning, has been much more than about going after just one terror organization:
Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated. (Applause.)
President Bush was clear from the beginning: The war that was brought to us is larger than one terror network. And anyone who has picked up a newspaper for the last decade will often see in news stories related to the latest terror attack as being attributed to, if not al Qaeda, then to a terror group affiliated with ties to “the Base”. This is why terrorism articles will mention “al Qaeda network” or “al Qaeda affiliate“. Not always just al Qaeda as being the one and only Islamic terror organization. The distinctions and barriers between different jihad groups become blurred, with crossover training, funding, and shared ideology and goals. They may be in competition with one another at times, along with shifting allegiance and alliance; but there is also cooperation and mutual interests, in no small measure based upon shared/similar religious ideology.
Bin Laden’s 1998 fatwa was signed by 4 others representing other jihad groups besides al Qaeda, lumping themselves under the umbrella moniker, “World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders”.
Ayman al-Zawahiri of Egyptian Islamic Jihad
Ahmed Refai Taha, alias Abu Yasser, of al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya
From comment #59 in another post:
America is at war with terrorism- specifically a group called Al Queda. But Al Queda is not really a terrorist group. It’s a movement- a loosely connected series of terrorist organizations- all with different skills, tactics, causes, and objectives, but they are all connected by their enemies- NOT their religious interpretations. They all have warped versions of Islam at their core, but the specific manner or degree of religious extremism varies. Some terrorist groups are largely secular, and others insanely religious. Under Osama Bin Laden’s leadership, the groups form an Islamic movement bent on fighting Israel, Jews, Americans, Christians, and the economic power of the industrialized western nations. This is not a theory. This is Bin Laden’s description.
The name of his Islamic Front is known to most Americans as Al Queda. It is also known around the world as:
Group for the Preservation of the Holy Sites,
International Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders,
Islamic Army for the Liberation of the Holy Places,
Islamic Army for the Liberation of Holy Shrines,
And Islamic Sal.
The Al Queda leadership- including Osama Bin Laden- have worked with affiliated terrorist organizations by providing funding, training, training camps, logistical support, and on occasion through direct actions- at the very least through leadership, propaganda, and the creation of a common cause. Al Queda itself is estimated to have nearly 5000 direct members, but there are tens of thousands- perhaps hundreds of thousands- of varying militant Islamic extremists who train and kill with Al Queda as either allies or at the very least co-conspirators.
Some (just a few) of these affiliated terrorist groups that are allied with or “part of” Al Queda are:
Ulema Union of Afghanistan
Armed Islamic Group
Saafi Group for Proselytism and Combat
Asbat al Ansar
Lebanese Partisans League
Libyan Islamic Group
Harakat ul Ansar/Mujahadeen
Harakat ul Jihad
Moro Islamic Liberation Front
Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan
*Fatah Revolutionary Council (FRC),
*Arab Revolutionary Brigades (ARB),
*Black September (Organization- BSO),
*Black June Organziation (BJO),
*Revolutionary Organzation of Socialism Muslims (ROSM)
*Ansar Al Islam
*Ansar Al Sunni
*Fayadeen Al Saddam
*The National Liberation Army of Iran (NLA, the militant wing of the MEK)
*People’s Mujahidin of Iran (PMOI),
*National Council of Resistance (NCR),
*Muslim Iranian Student’s Society (front organization used to garner financial support)
*Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) branch/Palestine Liberation Front (PLF)/branch-Abbu Abbas faction
(Note: “*” indicates terrorist group in pre-war Iraq)
Pg 206-208, Saddam’s Ties to Al Queda, by Scott Malensek.
Yes, they do hate our freedoms:
Americans are asking, why do they hate us? They hate what we see right here in this chamber — a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms — our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.
They want to overthrow existing governments in many Muslim countries, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. They want to drive Israel out of the Middle East. They want to drive Christians and Jews out of vast regions of Asia and Africa.
These terrorists kill not merely to end lives, but to disrupt and end a way of life. With every atrocity, they hope that America grows fearful, retreating from the world and forsaking our friends. They stand against us, because we stand in their way.
We are not deceived by their pretenses to piety. We have seen their kind before. They are the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th century. By sacrificing human life to serve their radical visions — by abandoning every value except the will to power — they follow in the path of fascism, and Nazism, and totalitarianism. And they will follow that path all the way, to where it ends: in history’s unmarked grave of discarded lies. (Applause.)
President Bush never promised us a quick victory; but tried to prepare us for “the long war”:
Americans are asking: How will we fight and win this war? We will direct every resource at our command — every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence, and every necessary weapon of war — to the disruption and to the defeat of the global terror network.
This war will not be like the war against Iraq a decade ago, with a decisive liberation of territory and a swift conclusion. It will not look like the air war above Kosovo two years ago, where no ground troops were used and not a single American was lost in combat.
Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes, visible on TV, and covert operations, secret even in success. We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. (Applause.)
From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.
As exemplified by Saturday’s terror attack in Nairobi, Islamic terror threatens all of us, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, all across the globe:
This is not, however, just America’s fight. And what is at stake is not just America’s freedom. This is the world’s fight. This is civilization’s fight. This is the fight of all who believe in progress and pluralism, tolerance and freedom.
We ask every nation to join us. We will ask, and we will need, the help of police forces, intelligence services, and banking systems around the world. The United States is grateful that many nations and many international organizations have already responded — with sympathy and with support. Nations from Latin America, to Asia, to Africa, to Europe, to the Islamic world. Perhaps the NATO Charter reflects best the attitude of the world: An attack on one is an attack on all.
The civilized world is rallying to America’s side. They understand that if this terror goes unpunished, their own cities, their own citizens may be next. Terror, unanswered, can not only bring down buildings, it can threaten the stability of legitimate governments. And you know what — we’re not going to allow it. (Applause.)
President Bush invoking American exceptionalism:
Great harm has been done to us. We have suffered great loss. And in our grief and anger we have found our mission and our moment. Freedom and fear are at war. The advance of human freedom — the great achievement of our time, and the great hope of every time — now depends on us. Our nation — this generation — will lift a dark threat of violence from our people and our future. We will rally the world to this cause by our efforts, by our courage. We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail. (Applause.)
Fellow citizens, we’ll meet violence with patient justice — assured of the rightness of our cause, and confident of the victories to come. In all that lies before us, may God grant us wisdom, and may He watch over the United States of America.
The baton has since passed to the current President. Are we still exceptional? The indispensable nation? The last best hope? Are we winning?
We still live in a fairly open society. How will our lives change once more should an American shopping mall, an amusement park, a ball game, a rock concert, come under a terrorist attack?
Al Shabab claims that the mall attack was in retaliation for Kenyan “interventionism” against them in Somalia. Not because they “hate us for our freedoms”. And yet why then:
The gunmen, the man said, released the children who were still alive and informed his injured wife that she, too, could leave if she converted to Islam, making her recite the Shahada, Islam’s basic profession of belief.
And if not for retaliation against Kenya (targeting non-Muslims) and Uganda (targeting a restaurant and rugby club popular amongst foreigners) for their interventionism against al Shabab in Somalia, then what would they be doing?
Living in peaceful harmony? Coexistence with non-Muslims?
In the absence of interventionism- American-led or otherwise- against Islamic terrorism, would the violence and cruelty go away? Or made worse?
In other news, in Iraq on Saturday:
As the world focuses on the Syrian civil war, the use of chemical weapons, and the rise of al Qaeda and Islamist groups, the resurgence of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which is al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq, is going largely unnoticed. Violence in Iraq has spiked this year, with a wave of suicide bombings, car bombings, and armed attacks. As al Qaeda focuses energy on Syria, it certainly hasn’t left Iraq behind.
Al Qaeda clearly has the resources to carry out attacks such as today’s, in which five suicide bombers and a multitude of car bombs were used. One attack included a suicide assault team against a police special forces base in Bayji.
Sadly, attacks such as today’s in Iraq have become commonplace, and the country is dangerously close to slipping back to 2006-2007 levels of violence, when the al Qaeda-led insurgency was at its peak. Deadly bombings and suicide attacks against civilians and at markets and mosques are now an everyday occurrence.
The impact of the US’ inability to negotiate a deal with the Iraqi government to leave behind intelligence, logistics, special operations forces, and air support to continue to assist the Iraqi military post-2011 is now being felt in full. The failure to pursue al Qaeda in Iraq allowed the group to regenerate and launch deadly insurgencies in both Iraq and Syria.
In Pakistan on Sunday:
A pair of suicide bombers launched a coordinated attack at a Christian church in Peshawar today, killing at least 78 people and wounding scores more. The suicide bombers opened fire on churchgoers before detonating explosives-packed vests within one minute of each other. One of the bombers detonated inside the church, the other detonated outside.
No group claimed credit for the attack, but it is likely the work of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, or one of the numerous jihadist groups operating in Pakistan’s tribal areas and the greater northwest. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has been especially keen to attack those deemed non-Muslims.
But of course, this can be traced back to blame American foreign policy and military interventionism:
According to the BBC, the attack has been claimed by the Taliban-linked group called Jandullah, which said the attack was retribution for drone strikes in the northwest tribal areas.
And if we weren’t pro-actively engaging them in acts of “interventionism”, what then would they be up to?
Simplistically speaking, Islamic extremists do hate us for our freedoms- our freedom to live outside of Islam’s control; and our freedom not to live under their notions of what constitutes Shariah.