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Sunday, September 07, 2003
The "war on terror" live!
Stephen F. Hayes has two main arguments in "Saddam's al Qaeda Connection," an article in the September 1-8 edition of The Weekly Standard. (Thanks to Saragon for the link.) The first is that those who have said that a link between former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime and al Qaeda has been disproved are wrong to do so. The second, and related, argument is that evidence suggesting a link has been discovered since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March.
Hayes is on solid ground with the first point. Former Vice President Al Gore and others who have said that proof that a link did not exist have been wrong to do so.
However, the second point is far less clear. Certainly there is additional reason to think -as if there had once been any doubt- that Saddam's regime was not actively waging a "war" against al Qaeda, but that hardly is proof of a link. Nor are the allegations that members of al Qaeda and representatives of Saddam's regime were in contact -some of which appear quite strong- proof of a link and in some cases they even cast doubt on a link, as Spanish intelligence reportedly also does. What is left are some very valid, but hardly conclusive, reasons to believe such a link existed, although perhaps only time will tell what is truth and what is fiction.
For the sake of the argument, however, let's say that a definitive link did or, to the extent that the regime still exists, does exist. That would undoubtedly do much to justify the recent, and perhaps, depending on your definition, still ongoing war in Iraq, in the minds of many. I, on the other hand, would find it a bit more convincing if the Bush Administration was up in arms about Great Britain inviting Syria -a country that the Central Intelligence Agency says is a sponsor of terrorism- to this year's Defence Systems & Equipment International, where Syria could learn more about military equipment and perhaps even purchase some. (Syria has declined the invitation to attend, according to the Defence Export Services Organisation, which appears to be a branch of the British government.) But it isn't, because Great Britain is an ally and it is best to not think too logically about the "war on terror, a fact borne out by out there isn't even one definition of the enemy amongst those in power.
United States President George W. Bush declared the U.S. had begun a "war against terrorism" in September 11, 2001 speech. This has remained a constant in his administration's rhetoric and actions in the nearly two years since then, but who are the terrorists? Who are the enemy?
—The term “terrorism” means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.However, last Wednesday U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell got involved in the following exchange:
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, in some capitals, the countries members of the Security Council, there is still a lot of criticism to the United States that these unilateral action create the instability inside Iraq and the United States has to solve it as unilateral, too; it wasn't any terrorism in Iraq before the war.Since Saddam's regime was clearly not "subnational," one has to conclude that Powell defines terrorism a bit differently -more as a substitute for "evil"- than the State Department, the organization he is in charge of.
Powell, of course, may very well have just been speaking off the top of his head and not realized his faux pas, but that just highlights the problem. No such confusion could have been had in all but possibly one -the Cold War- of the numerous conflicts the U.S. has been part of in the past. In contrast, the "war on terror" will likely need this ambiguity in the future the same way we need oxygen. If it were defined narrowly, victory might be achievable but, a it is currently defined, it can go anywhere, everywhere, take break and be quite successful while continuing to the dominant narrative of the time.