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John Lehman, 9/11 Commissioner and Former Navy Secretary, Calls this a Religious War Against "Violent, Islamic Fundamentalism"


Excerpts from the Chicago Tribune:

Reasons for U.S. to Stay in Iraq Keep Expanding

This is a religious war, and one that we have allowed to go on too long without response

by Dennis Byrne, a Chicago-area writer and public affairs consultant

May 24, 2004

The reasons for going into Iraq are more compelling now than even before the war. There's the obvious: the beheading of American Nicholas Berg as a reminder of what we're dealing with. Or the hint of the existence of weapons of mass destruction from the deadly nerve agent sarin that was found in an improvised roadside bomb, which leads to the question: Where did it come from? (Or maybe the bomb-makers just happened to stumble across the only shell left in all of Iraq that contained the poison.)

None of the administration's errors and omissions is evidence that we should go back to ignoring two decades of attacks on America by the enemy, Islamic fundamentalists. Let's be clear, this is a religious war, not of our making, and one that we have allowed to go on too long without response. It goes back at least to 1983, when the bombing of the U.S. barracks in Beirut killed 241 Marines and Navy corpsmen. Former Navy Secretary John Lehman said the National Security Agency had "smoking gun" evidence that the Iranian foreign ministry ordered the Marines' murder. Yet, no retaliation. Lehman also mentioned the kidnapping and torture death of a CIA station chief and the kidnapping and public hanging of Marine Colonel William Higgins. Again, nothing done. I'd add the taking of the U.S. embassy in Iran, the bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, African embassy bombings, the USS Cole, the humiliating killings of U.S. troops in Somalia and the first attack on the World Trade Center. Nothing was done, other than to ineffectively hurl a few missiles in the direction of our aggressors, or to treat our aggressors as criminals, not enemy combatants, even though they had literally and explicitly declared war on us.

Lehman, who also is a member of the Sept. 11 commission, said in a recent speech to the U.S. Naval Institute that the U.S. response in virtually every case was a withdrawal, exactly what our enemies wanted us to do. "Osama bin Laden has cited this as one of his dawning moments," Lehman said. "The vaunted United States is a paper tiger, Americans are afraid of casualties, they run like cowards when attacked and they don't even bother to take their dead with them."

The principal mistake of the critics of the Iraq war and Bush's "pre-emptive" doctrine is their compulsion to segment the larger war into supposedly discrete and unrelated pieces. As if Iraq, for instance, had little or nothing to do with other aspects of the larger war, commonly, if not mistakenly, called the war on terrorism. We ought to drop the term, Lehman said. This war, he said, is a religious one, in which the enemy is "violent, Islamic fundamentalism" of the type nurtured by the Wahhabi jihadism in Saudi Arabia. To hightail it out of Iraq and the Middle East, to abandon "pre-emptive" principles now, would be the same sort of withdrawal that led to Sept. 11.

By not telling our enemies, "we're coming to get you where you live," we're inviting them to "come and get us." Again. And again and again.


E-mail: dbyrne1942@earthlink.net.

Copyright 2004, Chicago Tribune



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