A vote for Bush or Kerry will be a vote for or against the war on terror. Kerry, of course, has said, “I think there has been an exaggeration” of the terror threat. Others complain that the word terrorism itself is being kept deliberately imprecise: “Few American politicians or commentators,” asserts John V. Whitbeck, an international lawyer based in Saudi Arabia, in Tuesday’s International Herald Tribune, “dare to question the conventional wisdom that ‘terrorism’ is the greatest threat facing America and the world. If so, the real threat lies not in the behavior to which this word is applied but in the word itself.”
The word, Whitbeck says, “is so subjective as to be devoid of any inherent meaning” –used by Bush and Co. to justify whatever geopolitical misadventures their masters at Halliburton order them to pursue next. Whitbeck suggests that “perhaps the only honest and globally workable definition of ‘terrorism’ is an explicitly subjective one — ‘violence that I don’t support.'” And, of course, the principal problem is that the U.S. is “relying on the word to assert, apparently, a right to attack any country it dislikes.”
Bush has made himself vulnerable to this criticism by speaking in vague terms of America’s foes as “evildoers” and a “network of haters.” Only in connection with foreign fighters in Iraq has he ever used the word “jihadists.”
If he began to use the word “jihad” the way those he identifies as terrorists and evildoers do, he could in one stroke remove charges of opportunism and lack of focus from the Democrats’ arsenal.
For this is the war we’re in. The evildoers themselves and their sympathizers have disdained the term “terrorism” for the same reasons Whitbeck does. As the Saudi Sheikh Wajdi Hamza Al-Ghazawi put it in a sermon: “The meaning of the term ‘terror’ used by the media . . . is Jihad for the sake of Allah.” Osama bin Laden and other radical Muslims around the world have unanimously stated that they are not indiscriminate purveyors of mayhem — terrorists — but mujahedin: jihad warriors. They have declared again and again that they are fighting to unify the Islamic people under a restored caliphate, and to establish the hegemony of Islamic law over the reunified umma, as well as over the non-Muslim world. In doing this, they say, they are acting in complete accord with the commandments of their religion, which mandates warfare against non-Muslims in order to establish Islamic rule. And they have declared that in this struggle, the United States is their principal foe.
Why not take them at their word? Why not acknowledge that the war on terror is a defensive action against global jihadists?
The obvious answer is that to do so would alienate moderate Muslim regimes, as well as the Muslim population in the United States. But there is no reason why this must be so. If they are genuine moderates, who truly regard jihad solely as a spiritual struggle, they should have no trouble with a conflict against these men who have “hijacked” their religion. For Bush to declare an anti-jihad, in other words, would not be to declare the much-touted “war against Islam.” It would simply be to acknowledge fully the challenge that has been made to America and the Western world.
This clarification would also apply to the war in Iraq, where Saddam Hussein, contrary to media claims, was up to his teeth in the global jihad. According to Deroy Murdock in American Outlook, Saddam operated training camps for jihadis from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf States at Salman Pak. Hamsiraji Sali of Abu Sayyaf, a radical Muslim group that has carried out bombings in the Philippines, says that he was offered Iraqi help by Hisham al Hussein, an Iraqi diplomat. Saddam also paid as much as $25,000 to the families of jihadist suicide bombers. And yes, there are numerous links between his regime and the 9/11 highjackers.
But these men didn’t operate within some fraternity of terror. They made common cause in a shared vision of jihad. By identifying jihadists as our enemy, as they themselves have done, the President would bring much-needed focus and clarity to the war on terror, disarm his opponents, and give America a way to understand the depth and gravity of the ideological struggle we are facing, which involves nothing less than two opposing visions of the most basic values for individuals and society.
Mr. Bush, end this war on terror. Let’s go after those mujahedin instead.