How to lose the war on terrorism |

How to lose the war on terrorism

It is clear to all of us that the war on terrorism is extremely complicated. It is very difficult to fight an enemy when that enemy is as widely dispersed and concealed as the worldwide al-Qaida network seems to be. In the countries in which al-Qaida hides, it is virtually impossible to distinguish between them and the general populace.

But President Bush has come up with a strategy which will virtually guarantee that we will not win that war. His plan is to expand the war on terrorism by attacking Iraq, justifying that action by what Saddam Hussein “might” be able to do, or that he “could” supply chemical or biological weapons to terrorists. By expanding the presence of U.S. armed forces into yet another Arab country (in addition to our strong Israeli bias), we will only reinforce the extremists’ message that the United States is the “Great Satan” in a war against all Islam, thereby justifying their call for a “Holy Jihad” against America and Americans.

Judging by their recent inflammatory outbursts against the Muslim faith, calling Muhammad a terrorist, there is nothing Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson would like better than to start a Holy War of their own to stamp out the “Infidels.” Such intemperate remarks serve only to alienate the United States throughout the Arab World. They are in effect treasonous, because they demean the image of the United States throughout the world, and increase the threat to our security. Of course if we succeed in riling up the whole Muslim world, we will have no trouble identifying our enemy, but we will then be outnumbered by more than a billion Muslims spread across north Africa and south Asia.

History should teach us that we should be doing everything in our power to avoid our war on terrorism from being cast as a religious conflict. Religious wars have a history of being unrelenting and going on seemingly forever. The Crusades of the 11th and 12th centuries lasted for 200 years. The 30-Years War between Protestants and Catholics, which involved most of western Europe and totally devastated Germany, followed nearly a century of bloodshed and persecution by both groups. Irish Protestants and Catholics have been at each other’s throats for 500 years, culminating in IRA terrorism and equally violent counterattacks since the 1920s. Old animosities between Muslims and Hindus, which plagued British India for over 100 years, live on in the border wars and internal strife which have characterized the relationship between India and Pakistan for the past 50 years.

The Bush Administration theorizes that because the United States led the war against Iraq in 1991, it is very likely that Saddam Hussein supports al-Qaida, giving them safe haven and possibly supplying them with financial support and weapons of terrorism. We have no proof of this allegation, only suspicions.

The opposite could be a more probable scenario. Rather than Saddam actively supplying weapons of terror to al-Qaida, it is highly likely that the Bush threat to attack Iraq is viewed as further proof that the United States is anti-Islam, which will give al-Qaida the incentive to rally to the cause of Iraq by stepping up its terrorist campaign against the United States and its allies around the world.

Maybe it’s time to call on a statesman like ex-president Jimmy Carter, who has a history of defusing international crises, to mediate a settlement of the issue of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. But President Bush probably wouldn’t want to run the risk of being upstaged by a former president, particularly one who is a Democrat. Better to go for war.

The recent disclosure that North Korea has been developing nuclear weapons in violation with its agreement with the United States and, unlike Iraq, already has the long-range rocket capability to deliver them onto U.S. territory further complicates the situation. President Bush’s declaration that we can resolve this deceit peacefully through diplomatic discussions but cannot do the same with Iraq merely confirms the suspicion within the Arab World that the United States is anti-Islam.

If we are ever to see an end to Islamic anti-U.S. terrorism, we have to convince Muslim people throughout the world by our actions that we have nothing against them or their religion. That means adopting a more even-handed policy toward the Palestinians and not taking positions which can be construed as evidence of an anti-Islam bias.

It may well be that there is no way of dealing rationally with Saddam Hussein, but we must do everything in our power to convince the Muslim world, as well as the rest of the world, that we are sincere and unbiased in our attempts to find a remedy short of war. Instead our Congress has passed a war resolution which Senator Tom Daschle has called a “statement of American values.” Is that what we want to tell the world that the United States stands for? In the past we have been known for more noble ideals.

Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday in the Post Independent.

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