The big news today would be Terror, with a capital T.
'They Are Going to Attack and Hit Us Hard'
Sources: Major terror attack possible this summer
Agents in Country Said To Be Planning Attack
Am I suprised? Not at all. Scared? You bet. Then again, I've been scared since September 11, 2001. However, two and half years have gone by and we have yet to be attacked again on American soil.
Today's frightening headlines are brought to in you part by an International Institute of Strategic Studies
report stating (pdf format)
that al Qaeda still has 18,000 members.
The spin that followed went in two different directions, depending on your outlook. What's not up for argument is that the Iraq war has strengthened the terrorist base in the Middle East. Where paths diverge is when you ask why
The left will maintain that our occupation of Iraq has so angered the Arab world that they signed up by the thousands to join the jihad against America.
I am going to beg to differ.
The people who joined the ranks of al Qaeda (and I will say that while the report states AQ has 18,000 members, it's a good bet that most of those members are recent inductees) and other terrorist organizations since March of 2003 were jihadists beforehand. They were in the death-to-America camp long before we landed in Iraq. But the gathering of forces in Fallujah, Pakistan and other hotspots gave these sideline terrorists strength by numbers. Muqtada al-Sadr and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi are no different that Jim Jones or David Koresh, in that they have cult-like followings, people following them blindly into battle. The battles themselves, even the enemies may be different, but in the end, the loyalists of both men will meet the same fate as the followers of Jones and Koresh. Who deals that fate out - their own leaders or their enemies - is all that remains to be seen.
While the war in Iraq has certainly been a catalyst for jihad recruitment, let's not delude ourselves (I'm looking at the left here) into thinking that the hatred and death wishes did not exist beforehand. Which makes the Iraq war less of a reason and more of an excuse. Some of these terrorists have been sharpening their knives for years, just waiting for that moment when they could rise up with thousands of others and whoop their war cries. Iraq is it. al-Sadr knows this. al-Zarqawi knows this. If bin Laden is still alive, he knows it. Every jihad leader worth their 72 virgins fully understands that the war in Iraq is the opportunity of a lifetime; it's like Bill Gates getting an invitation to the graduation ceremony of The School For Brilliant Computer Programmers. It's a grand buffet of potential employees. And that's what Iraq is to Arab terrorists; a buffet. The leaders are lining up and filling their plates, even coming back for seconds. Them's good eatings! I swear I overheard someone say that once at a buffet
So, while Iraq is not the reason for the upswing in threat theory, it is the central force at play here. I'm pretty sure that most of the recent al Qaeda recruits don't give a damn about what we are doing in Iraq. They just want to be where the action is; they just want to be part of the game. And the game is getting huge.
Their hatred for us - and thus, their death wishes upon us - did not begin with the start of the invasion of Iraq. I think that should be obvious to anyone who lives with their head above the sand. You can go back to February 1993
, but that's just a stopping point on the long, long timeline of the Arabs v. U.S. World Tour. We could take you back to 1983
if you'd like, too. How about 1979
? Different factions, you say? Different countries? Different terrorist groups? Yes, but no.
It's all related. It's all steeped in the history of radical Islam, in the history of militant Arabs - a history of a movement that demands a call to arms against the west and against Israel.
Iraq and Afghanistan are nothing more than giant gathering places for all these factions to come together and join up for the same cause. Think of it as a reverse Lord of the Rings, where a combination of races and tribes spend generations battling together against Sauron. Here, we have a combination of countries and terrorists groups battling together against America. Combine forces. Work together. You can strike the enemy harder and faster that way. So into battle they go, finally learning that singularly, they probably could not launch a great attack against their common enemy, but together they can finally conquer that bastard. Which would be us.
. That includes you with the anti-war sign. And you, with your conspiracy theories
. It includes whether you are voting for Bush or Kerry, whether you drive an SUV or a hybrid, whether you listen to Hannity or Franken. It includes those of you who don't care about politics, who don't watch the news. We
are their enemy. Do you think that Sauron would have taken the time to find out if anyone was sympathetic to him before he unleashed his evil army upon the tribes? Hardly. Which is why it really is an us v. them world.
Usama bin Laden's network appears to be operating in more than 60 nations, often in concert with local allies...
The U.S. occupation of Iraq brought Al Qaeda recruits from across Islamic nations, the study said. Up to 1,000 foreign Islamic fighters have infiltrated Iraqi territory, where they are cooperating with Iraqi insurgents, the survey said.
Hmm. Do you still want us to leave Iraq? Still want us to pack up our troops and go home? I'd venture to say that most of those Islamic fighters are hanging out in Fallujah and Najaf, using mosques, shrines and holy cemeteries as their base. Should we attack any of those places, we're the bad guys. Never mind that the people who want to burn down America are hiding in those holy sites. We can't go after them, lest we be labeled the aggressors.
Meanwhile, they are making plans, signing up new recruits, combining forces, sharing weapons and plans and generally becoming the lone horseman of our apocalypse. All right under our nose, in the countries that we our currently occupying. Yet so many want us to leave those countries. So many think we are wrong for being there, that Iraq has nothing to do with the war on terror, that Afghanistan is a waste of our time. A little wake up call might be in order, but I do not wish for your wake-up call to come in the form of an explosion.
I do not want to leave the investigation and rooting out of terrorists and discovery of potential terrorists plots to the FBI or CIA. Sure, they've been doing a pretty good job (when they haven't been arresting the wrong people). All those flights that were grounded back in the winter showed me that our intelligence is working, but I think this war on terror has been stripped down to the most primitive level. It's not intelligence alone that will save us. It's the war that will, in the end, save us from doom. While all these forces are gathered in Iraq and Afghanistan and probably Pakistan, we need to let our troops loose to do the right thing. The right thing is? Protecting us from the what ifs
that rattle inside our heads every time we watch the news or read a paper.
"There is clearly a steady drumbeat of information that they are going to attack and hit us hard," said another senior federal counterterrorism official, who described the intelligence as highly credible.
The summer of 2002 was what I called the Summer of Fear:
Summer of Fear. That's what this is. No matter how much you say you do not fear them, you don't believe the hype, you don't watch the news, I am willing to bet that the drone of a crop duster flying over your house will send you running for a gas mask. I'm willing to bet that you feel it. You feel the blanket of unease that our own security agencies have covered us with.
I'm waiting for the comic book ending. For the superheroes to band together and form an alliance and kick the shit out their enemies. Or at least foil their evil plans and put us all back into our safe, comfortable place, where panic doesn't spark the air, where our lives don't exist in a constant state of electricity, like we just collectively stepped on a third rail.
That was when the terror alert changed nearly every day, where every morning brought another new warning, another shout to be vigilant, be alert. Hell, I couldn't be more alert if stuck toothpicks in my eyes.
Two years later, I still believe in superheroes. I still believe we will win the war on terror. But you have to let
us win it. You cannot stand between our troops and a holy shrine if that shrine is crawling with people plotting terror attacks. It doesn't even matter if the plans they are drawing out are against us, or Israel or the citizens of Baghdad who are just trying to find some kind of good life. Because we are all part of the same coalition, the same combined force of tribes and nations that are gunning for the bad guys.
So, what to do with these headlines today? Do I cower? Do I end up the way I did in 2002, with a case of agoraphobia? Or do I trust that we will prevail?
Choosing trust is much more relaxing, I'll tell you that. It's better than fearing planes and avoiding trains and dreaming of underground bunkers and rockets red glare landing at my feet.
Yes, they are coming for us. Well, they are going to try their damndest. And we cannot, and should not ever think of standing in the way of those who are going to protect us from them. We know where they are. They are in Afghanistan and they are in Iraq and, brace yourself, they are right here on our soil. Those who are already here are just waiting for instructions. It is our job to cut down those who are supposed to give those instructions out. It is our job to cut the ties between here and there and that means mainly striking them over there.
To cut and run from Iraq now would be to lose the war on terror. I don't think that's what you want, is it? Ridicule all you want. Choose your theories. Ignore at will. Laugh, point finger and call it all a lie. What does it take to make some people see that the war on terror is real, that our enemies are not a result of the Iraq war, but the result of a culture war.
I suppose that if 3,000 dead in one day didn't convince them, nothing will. But you can bet that if a bomb ever dropped on their neighborhood, they would be the first ones crying that we didn't take the war on terror seriously enough.
I hope it never comes to that. I hope we never have to say we were right about the terrorists coming for us. And if they never come, to the left it will all have been a bold lie, rather than a good job done by those fighting the terror war.
I am not going to spend my summer hiding under the bed again. I am going to trust that we will get this war won, despite those who want to stand in our way. That's not to say I'm not scared because I still shake in my boots some days, especially when I think about the Olympics. But I am not as convinced of the coming Armageddon of America as I used to be. A lot has changed in the two years since the Summer of Fear. Main thing is, I figured out who the real enemy is, and it's not us. Those guys coming toward us with swords raised and torches blazing? splinter cells and offshoots make for one pretty big army of darkness coming at us. I hope that we have the strength to take them down.