I’ve been critical of many of this administration’s post-invasion mis-steps in Iraq, but I am still fervently in favor of winning this battle. You go to war with the president you have, to coin a phrase. We have no choice but to press on, refining political tactics, offering constructive criticism, supporting the troops, indeed providing more of them and more resources. Why? The answer is, to me, a simple one. Al Qaeda and the Jihadist forces have long had a battle-plan for the Islamic world – to turn it into a new Caliphate, use its oil revenues to wreak havoc on the free West, enslave Muslims in a new totalitarianism, and finish what Hitler started with respect to the Jewish people. The notion that our liberation of Iraq from Saddam has helped al Qaeda achieve these ends is, to my mind, oblivious to these underlying realities, which have been around for far longer than the past three years. In 2002, Saddam’s regime was teetering toward another generation of corrupt, half-mad dauphins eager to appease Jihadists if it served their purposes. Those who simply trust that Saddam could never have allied himself with these monsters are and were trusting Saddam, Uday and Qusay Hussein. Containment would not have stopped the threat. At some point the regime itself – a potential weapon of mass destruction in itself – had to be dealt with. There was a time when you could find almost no one – from Bill Clinton, Al Gore and Madeleine Albright to Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and Bill Kristol – who disagreed. They all ruled out appeasement. At some point, we had to fight. And we had to fight in the central area of the Arab world because the stakes had risen too high to risk piece-meal measures. Al Qaeda knew this, but believed that the Vietnam syndrome would still prevent the West from real action soon enough. They were wrong at first, but they may be onto something now.

NO SURRENDER: Has our incompetence in Iraq helped al Qaeda? In the short term, in some respects, sure. Has our endorsement of detainee abuse and torture helped them in the propaganda war? Absolutely. Has the Bush team been reckless and stubborn and duplicitous at times? You bet. But you know what would help al Qaeda far more than any of these depressing developments? A Vietnam-style retreat now urged by some and predicted by al Qaeda. Just read the following text from one of Osama bin Laden’s henchmen to the leaders of the Iraq Sunni-Jihadist insurgency. It’s from July. It spells out al Qaeda’s and the Muslim Brotherhood’s goals for conquering Iraq and the entire region, goals that have been in existence for decades, goals that we ignored for far too long and appeased for even longer. Money quote:

If our intended goal in this age is the establishment of a caliphate in the manner of the Prophet and if we expect to establish its state predominantly – according to how it appears to us – in the heart of the Islamic world, 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, and it is my humble opinion that the Jihad in Iraq requires several incremental goals:

The first stage: Expel the Americans from Iraq.

The second stage: Establish an Islamic authority or amirate, 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, i.e., in Sunni areas, is 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, whether those whom the Americans will leave behind them, or those among the un-Islamic forces who will try to jump at taking power.

There is no doubt that this amirate will enter into a fierce struggle with the foreign infidel forces, and those supporting them among the local forces, to put it in a state of constant preoccupation with defending itself, to make it impossible for it to establish a stable state which could proclaim a caliphate, and to keep the Jihadist groups in a constant state of war, until these forces find a chance to annihilate them.

The third stage: Extend the jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq.

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.

My raising this idea – I don’t claim that it’s infallible – is only to stress something extremely important. And it is that the mujahedeen 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. We will return to having the secularists and traitors holding sway over us. Instead, their ongoing mission is to establish an Islamic state, and defend it, and for every generation to hand over the banner to the one after it until the Hour of Resurrection.

This is our enemy. These are the people who murdered over 3,000 people in cold blood on 9/11 in the heart of New York City. The battle-field, whether you like the way we got here or not, is Iraq. That’s how al Qaeda sees it, and they are absolutely correct. If we can beat them there and open up a space for civic engagement in a democratic Iraq, we will have struck at the heart of their strategy and made the world a far safer and better place – for us and for the vast bulk of Muslims. We simply cannot and must not falter against these religious fascists. This is still a religious war for religious and political freedom – and it’s one that liberals as well as conservatives should realize they need to support. I know and feel the distress at the leadership of president Bush. But he’s still the president; and he’s fighting a war we have no choice but to win.


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