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Thursday, September 18, 2003
The West is winning the war on terror

AS NEWS OF CASUALTIES IN IRAQ comes through every so often, I was for a long time angered. We had removed Saddam and taught the next Saddam wannabe an important lesson. What more did we have to do? Why not just leave the country as we did Afghanistan? If it didn't look as though democracy would work, why not just get a pro-Western dictator in? Caring about what happens to Iraqis is one thing: losing soldiers just for their sake is quite another.

Suffice it to say Mark Steyn's Spectator column has shown what role the West still has in Iraq. We are hanging up flypaper to attract the Islamoloons to come and fight us and meet their doom. And it is working. We are winning this war.

By 11 o'clock on that Tuesday morning, with the second tower collapsed and the Pentagon on fire and rumours of more missing planes and the White House evacuated, none of us knew how much more was to come. I don't think you could find many Americans who went to bed that night expecting to get through the next two years without another major terrorist attack on US soil.

Yet here we are.

That in itself is remarkable. Even more remarkable is the lack of credit that the Bush administration gets for it.

... The story of the summer is that the American people refused to be panicked by the media, the Democrats and the Europeans. Indeed, the awesome divide between the postmodern sophists and everybody else is the real legacy of 11 September. As the day itself recedes into the past, the splinter it opened up in the settled international order gets wider and wider to the point where 9/11 is a fault line through reality itself. Depending on which side you stand, success is failure, victory is disaster. The other day Caroline Hawley, the BBC's gal in Baghdad, declared, "Saddam must be gloating in his hiding place over the irony that the United States, which toppled him in the name of fighting terror, has now had to concede that Iraq has become a 'battlefield' in the war on terror - a magnet for Muslim militants who want to wage war on America."

America has "now had to concede"? Where's she been the last three months? As Bush himself said, apropos Saudi and Syrian terrorists minded to take a vacation in the Sunni Triangle, "Bring 'em on." I mentioned some weeks back my compatriot David Warren's assertion that in Iraq Washington had carefully hung up its 'flypaper', an image that has since caught on and is rather more accurate than Miss Hawley's. But hers will do: would you rather 'Muslim militants' attempted to blow up civilians in Boston and Dallas or instead tried to take on the world's best-armed soldiers in Tikrit and Ramadi? It's not a tough call.

And does Miss Hawley really think Saddam is 'gloating' right now? His dynastic ambitions died with his sons, he's kipping at the back of his second cousin's donkey stall, and he'd kill for a new box of Quality Street but George Galloway's nowhere in sight.

Miss Hawley has mistakenly assumed that Saddam thinks as she and Harold Pinter and Jacques Chirac do: that it's all about America. When something blows up in Iraq and it can be passed off as a 'setback' for Bush, Miss Hawley has a good gloat. But it's not much consolation to Saddam: he's thinking of his gold toilet, and no matter how furiously Miss Hawley spins things he's not going to be sitting on that ever again. They've sounded the last flush at the Presidential Palace. Likewise, for Mullah Omar.

Speaking of whom, now there was a magnet for Muslim militants. He sublet his entire country as a terrorist training camp. Where does the aspiring jihadi go now? But, as we all know, Afghanistan is another Bush flopperoo. According to Newsweek, it's 'sinking deeper into poverty'. Meanwhile, preliminary IMF estimates indicate the Afghan economy grew 28 per cent last year.

... I think we should look at the late bin Laden in his own terms. In the last decade, he and al-Qa'eda have bombed American interests a little over every two years:

February 1993: the first attack on the World Trade Center; November 1995: the car bomb at a building where US military advisors work in Riyadh; June 1996: the explosion at the Khobar military base; August 1998: the African embassy attacks; October 2000: the suicide bombing of the USS Cole; September 2001: the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Don't ask me what the long-term strategy behind these biennial attacks is supposed to be. But, from oh, say, November, it becomes harder with each passing week for the doom-mongers to argue that the lack of activity is consistent with bin Laden's modus operandi. To be sure, I still read the in-depth reports by experts who say he's alive and well and living on the Northwest Frontier. But, if he doesn't show himself, then inevitably those 'experts' begin to sound like the fellows who claim to know the whereabouts of Lord Lucan or the truth about the Loch Ness Monster. It's all very scientific, I'm sure, but sooner or later Lucan and Nessie have to do a bit of work and put in an appearance themselves.

Instead, Osama makes audio cassettes, and he licenses his subordinates to make audio cassettes, and they issue bloodcurdling threats against everyone from the Great Satan to hapless bystanders like Ireland and Canada, and none of those threats comes to pass. They're all turban and no jihad. They were at it again the other day: 'We announce there will be new attacks inside and outside [the US] which would make America forget the attacks of 11 September,' said an al-Qa'eda spokesman.

Maybe he's right, and by the time you read this Chicago and Atlanta will be ablaze. Or maybe it will be like all the other empty threats. Even in the Hindu Kush at the all-U-can-eat scorpion buffet, you can't dine out on 9/11 for ever. This is a long war - but for America, with victories at home, in Afghanistan, in Iraq and elsewhere, it's been a pretty good start.
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