Finally, We Take the Fight Beyond Iraq

The information this week that the U.S. military has finally taken action in a country that is not Iraq should be welcome news indeed for all those who know that the war against terror must be global in scope.

On Monday, U.S. war planes hit targets in southern Somalia where Islamic militants are believed to be sheltering suspects in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies. Helicopter gun ships then launched new attacks on Tuesday and Wednesday. Ethiopia also joined the battle in support of the Somalia government which has been fighting to drive the Islamic militia out of the capital and toward the Kenyan border.

So far, the U.S. has been fairly silent about our participation in the attacks but it has been confirmed that indeed there has been American involvement. The air strikes on Monday evening occurred after the suspects were seen hiding on a remote island near the southern tip of Somalia.

The American aircraft carrier, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, has been situated off the Somalia’s coast for a couple of weeks now and has been gathering intelligence about the terrorist locations and how to attack them within the country.

The U.S. has been quite anxious to take down Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, the alleged planner of the 1998 attacks on our embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, that killed at least 225 people. In this they had the full support of the legitimate Somalia government. Now it appears that they have indeed killed him.

If it is true, then the United States has finally prevailed after eight years of hunting for one of the FBI’s most-wanted terrorists. For years, Fazul had lived in seclusion despite the fact that the U.S. had put a $5 million bounty on his head.

The best news so far is a simple statement this week from a Somalia government spokesman:

“We don’t know how many people were killed in the attack(s), but we understand there were a lot of causalities. Most were Islamic fighters.”

Why, does it take so long for us to find one man? The world is indeed a large place in which to hide especially when one can count on local governments to look the other way. In Somalia, there have been at least thirteen attempts to install a government that can govern since 1992. Finally in 2004, with U.N. backing, a quasi stable authority is in place in the country.

In Mogadishu, President Abdullah Yassif said that the U.S. “has a right to bombard terrorist suspects who attacked its embassies.”

That statement certainly reflects a government with understanding that its future depends on cooperation with the more stable government of neighboring Ethiopia and with the leading countries of the world rather than with radical Muslim insurgents.

It is really more than time that the United States acted in a pre-emptive manner to root out known terrorists. Shortly after 9/11, now almost six years past, President Bush declared that we would “smoke ’em out,” that there was no rock however large or small under which these murdering jerks could hide. Unfortunately, for a long time, we have not smoked ‘em out and we have let the terrorists congregate and hide in selected lawless areas of the world.

Perhaps, finally, the tide is turning. Certainly, Bush has nothing to lose. He is unable to stand again for election and he has under two years left in office. Why not lash out hard and strong at known terrorist centers wherever they are discovered throughout the world? That is our mission in the war on terror and it is certainly at least as effective as strip searching obviously harmless octogenarian Americans trying to fly to, say, Baltimore from Boston and the like.

This current campaign in Somalia is directed primarily at capturing or killing al Qaeda members thought to be attempting to flee the country since the Islamic militia that sheltered them began losing ground to the legitimate Somalia government soldiers backed now by Ethiopian soldiers.

Not all agree that America should be fighting on Somalia’s soil, and many in the predominately Muslim Somalia resent the presence of Ethiopia’s troops being there as well. Ethiopia acted after it appeared that the Islamic militants might oust the internationally recognized, legitimate but weak government of Somalia.

However, we should not be put off because some in Mogadishu believe that the attacks will increase anti-American sentiment in the largely Muslim country. Terrorists are terrorists and they need to be forcefully and immediately taken down. We are not running a popularity contest. Frankly, I don’t care a bit if some in Somalia don’t like us. We have a duty to ourselves and to the free people throughout the world to destroy utterly and completely those who avow and actually do cause bodily harm to Americans and our allies.

Al Qaeda deputy chief Ayman al-Zawahiri has called on militant Islamics to launch an Iraq-style guerilla war in Somalia including suicide attacks on the Ethiopian troops. That should be more than enough reason for America to step up its operations inside of Somalia, not because that country is so desperately important to us, but because it is one more safe haven for the terrorists that we need to deny to them. When we do it enough, there will be much fewer rocks under which to hide and we shall indeed have smoked them into the open. By going on the offensive, finally, in a country other than Iraq, we are signaling to our Muslim extremist enemies that we really do mean business. We are saying that, wherever they are, we shall find them and that their days are most certainly numbered.