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War on Terror is Defining Issue

War On Terror Is Defining Issue

Adam Sparks, Special to SF Gate

September 7, 2004


There is only one swing state that will determine the outcome in this upcoming election -- and it's not located in the Midwest. That state is Iraq: a newly liberated and sovereign state.

The conventional wisdom is that the success or failure of that country's fledgling government may well determine the election here. Pundits say that if the violence settles down, Bush wins, and if the insurgency continues unabated, with the loss of more American lives, Kerry wins.

There is another alternative: Bush wins if he can clearly explain to U.S. citizens the relevance of the liberation and occupation of Iraq and why it's worth the American lives lost. The president made his case convincingly and was aided by equally powerful speeches from Senators John McCain and Zell Miller and former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. And in a major coup, he announced the endorsement of the same firefighter's union that he met at Ground Zero following Sept. 11. Senator John Kerry, who is still on the defensive about his weak military voting record, won't be able to recover by Election Day.

Last week's Republican convention delivered the mojo it needed to cut through the spin and the media static and tell the American people directly -- at last -- why we're in Iraq. The convention had begun with low expectations but ended up blowing everyone away. It was a home run. The polls are showing a large bounce for Bush, with the Time magazine poll having him ahead by 11 points.

President Bush remembers Sept. 11, as he reminded Americans during his acceptance speech, by declaring:

"This election will also determine how America responds to the continuing danger of terrorism -- and you know where I stand. Three days after September 11th, I stood where Americans died, in the ruins of the Twin Towers. Workers in hard hats were shouting to me, 'Whatever it takes.' A fellow grabbed me by the arm and he said, 'Do not let me down.' Since that day, I wake up every morning thinking about how to better protect our country. I will never relent in defending America -- whatever it takes."

Of course, nearly everyone believes the world is better off without a brutal tyrant like Saddam Hussein in power, but not everyone is convinced the continuing violent occupation by American troops is worth the cost. The president made his case clearly and convincingly to the American people. He explained how Iraq fits into the War on Terror and now has a clear path to his re-election.

Moderate Arab Voices

Fortunately, there are some new, brave and moderate voices among Arabs who are now praising Iraq's liberation and democratization. Amazingly, the Middle East's largest English daily, based in Saudi Arabia, just came out with a startling endorsement of America's actions in Iraq. (Read it and weep, Michael Moore and John Kerry.)

Bush was right to have gone into Iraq. The president identified three nations as an "axis of evil" in his State of the Union address to Congress in January 2002: Iraq, Iran and North Korea, the last of which has nuclear warheads. Iran is now building them, and Iraq had been secretive about its WMDs, large stockpiles of which it had once admitted it possessed. All three were ruled by madmen. The world had reason to be concerned.

America recalls when, a few days after 9/11, the president bellowed through a bullhorn while standing in the rubble of the World Trade Center, addressing the gathered rescue workers, "I can hear you, and the people who knocked those buildings down will soon hear from all of us." America cheered. We were at once united.

We soon went into Afghanistan and removed the Taliban. That government, a regime of Islamic radicals that had sponsored Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, was soon replaced by an administration that allowed women to attend schools, children to fly kites and people to listen to music. The world cheered the liberation of that nation.

The world woke up to the new 9/11 era and the Bush Doctrine: Terrorists and the nations that harbor them will not be tolerated.

Shortly, thereafter, Saddam, the Iraqi madman -- who had danced in the streets during the 9/11 attacks, who had previously tried building illegal nuclear plants, had gassed his own people and had invaded neighboring Kuwait -- played footsies with weapons inspectors from the United Nations. While the United Nations equivocated, the United States acted decisively to remove a psychotic dictator who had terrorized his people for three decades. In a post-9/11 world, there needs to be clarity. The president showed that clarity. And although the Bush administration's claims of links between Iraq and al Qaeda are tenuous, there is no doubt Saddam condoned terrorism. His regime was itself a WMD.

Many terrorists found safe haven in Iraq. Americans may have already forgotten that soon after the United States removed Saddam, a Boeing 707 was found at a deserted terrorist training camp in Salman Pak, Iraq, miles from any airport, where terrorists practiced hijackings. In addition, Saddam routinely feted terrorists and openly rewarded families of suicide bombers that killed Jews in Israel.

World War III Has Begun

World War III has started. If you haven't noticed, you're not paying attention. Islamic radical extremists are seeking greater control throughout the world. Iraq and Afghanistan are just tips of an iceberg of the major problem America and the world must face: the scourge of widening extremist Islamic radicalism.

Look at reality. Radical Islamists who foment strife and teach hatred are not just anti-West; they are simultaneously anti-democracy. They are also anti-Christian, anti-Jewish, anti-Buddhist and anti-Hindu. The sooner the West opens its eyes and stops blaming the victims, like the United States and Israel, the sooner we get on with dealing with the world's most pressing problems.

Radical Muslims are involved in all 26 of the military conflicts going on in the world today: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Bosnia, Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Cyprus, East Timor, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel/occupied territories, Kashmir, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kurdistan (including parts of several countries), Macedonia, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sudan, Russia/Chechnya, Tajikistan, Thailand, Uganda and Uzbekistan.

Connect the dots. World War III has begun. What will you do about it? Read the sports page?

Approximately 1 million non-Muslim black Sudanese have been slaughtered by the Arab Islamic regime in Sudan alone. The world is still sitting idly by. The United Nations is really too busy to swing into action. It has apparently been more concerned about collecting millions in bribes and payoffs from Saddam's regime in the corrupt, kickback-ridden, U.N.-sponsored Oil for Food program than about confronting a growing worldwide scourge involving millions of deaths in armed conflicts worldwide.

Kerry Doesn't Get It

When Democrats start voting for Bush, it's time to see whether the temperature is falling in Hell. Some Democrats get it. John Kerry, unfortunately, is not one of them, but former New York City Mayor Ed Koch is. The die-hard lifelong Democrat is voting for Bush this November because he believes the president understands the gravity of the terror situation. Koch's office is near Ground Zero, and he understands that Bush has been responding correctly to the worldwide terrorist threat. Koch opined that the president's clarity on this issue trumps his views on gay rights or abortion rights, with which Koch disagrees.

Conversely, Arab Americans, who had overwhelmingly voted for Bush over Al Gore in 2000, are now shifting to Kerry in droves. They see the Democratic presidential candidate as more Arab friendly. Not surprisingly, many Arab Americans get their news from satellite dishes that carry the al-Jazeera news network, which many Western observers have called the mouthpiece for al Qaeda and radical Islamists.

Ironically, in spite of all Bush had done for Israel -- and that is much -- the American Jewish community here, overwhelmingly in agreement with the Arab community, is similarly supporting Kerry. According to a recent poll, Bush is trailing Kerry in the Jewish community by 53 points! What are they thinking?

You'd think the Jewish community would be delighted we took Saddam out. The dictator had not only been rewarding suicide bombers who killed Jews in Israel; he gave safe harbor to Abu Abbas, the mastermind terrorist who killed a wheelchair-using Jewish American on the Achille Lauro, a hijacked ocean liner, in 1985. Saddam also rained Scud missiles into Israel during Desert Storm, although that nation was not even a combatant in that war.

Israeli Jews Prefer Bush

Israeli Jews, on the other hand, understand Islamic terror. They also comprehend the dynamics of the Middle East. This is no salon chatter to them: It's a matter of life or death. They live and breathe politics from morning to evening. They live with the daily terror threat, and a recently released Israeli poll shows that Israelis support Bush by 49 percent to just 18 percent for Kerry. They have their lives on the line every day, not only at border checkpoints but also as they board buses, visit hotels or drink espressos in their cafés.

The huge disparity of opinion between American Jews and Israeli Jews in the upcoming election is puzzling. An observer can draw one of two conclusions: Either American Jews are so liberal, secularized and assimilated that Jewish interests, particularly those concerning Israeli security, are of little concern to them -- they simply want to vote for the more liberal candidate, the one who supports abortion on demand -- or they simply think that the Orthodox Jews in Israel are just as bad as Yasser Arafat and that there should be a pox on both their houses. No other answer satisfies. Why else would New York Jews overwhelmingly vote for Sen. Hillary Clinton, despite her public fawning over Arafat and his wife? Hillary and her husband unreasonably pressured Israel to give away much to an unstable Palestinian Liberation Organization. Israel reluctantly yielded, and the result was more bloodshed.

Bush gets it. He voices clear opposition to Palestinian terrorism. He has made a public declaration that some areas of Jerusalem and the West Bank must remain under Israeli control. The president has also made clear that he rejects so-called right-of-return claims for Palestinians. Bush rightfully deserves the support of the Jewish community.

Yet the continuing American Jewish preference for Kerry is a puzzle. It's time for Jews to do some soul searching and reconnect with their Jewish roots and their fellow Jews in a troubled Israel. Israel is not, as the angry Left would have us believe, the victimizer; it is the victim. American Jews must first understand that. If they would only do so, they'd come to the same conclusion that Ed Koch has: Terrorism cannot be placated through appeasement or capitulation. This course breeds only more terrorism.

Terrorism must be confronted, whether economically (by either economic development or boycott), diplomatically, politically, through espionage or, occasionally, militarily. Bush is not a dummy. He's applying all these resources to bear in the war on terror. He's a Harvard MBA with a higher-level education than John Kerry's, but, more important, when it comes to the scourge of worldwide terrorism, Bush gets it. Now that we, including some American Jews, have arrived in the 21st century, post 9/11, it's time the rest of them did, too.

Adam Sparks is a Bay Area writer. He can be reached at

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