The September 11 attacks were so important and so horrific that they never should be mentioned again. That at least seems to be the position of the Left and establishment media. Images of the planes hitting the towers on that day have been all but banned from the public airwaves. And the president of the United States cannot mention 9/11 when explaining the stakes in a fight against jihadists supported by Osama bin Laden in Iraq without prompting howls of outrage. Bush was absolutely justified in invoking repeatedly Sept. 11 and the fight against terrorism in his speech from Fort Bragg Tuesday night. Let’s count the ways.
There never would have been an Iraq war without 9/11, which drastically reduced the country’s tolerance for a hostile Arab who had sought weapons of mass destruction before and was likely to do so again.
Saddam’s regime had a web of connections to Islamic extremists and terrorists, as explained by Andy McCarthy elsewhere on NRO.
Foreign jihadists are now pouring into Iraq to fight on behalf of Abu Zarqawi, who has explicitly allied himself with Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks. The case for a connection between the Iraq war and the sort of terrorists who perpetrated 9/11 is–sadly–stronger than ever.
Bin Laden himself has, as Bush noted Tuesday night, called the Iraq war a crucial front in the war on terror. He has said that the war will end in “victory and glory or misery and humiliation.”
If we lose in Iraq, a Sunni rump state could emerge that would provide a haven for terrorists, the same way Afghanistan provided a haven for the 9/11 terrorists.
If we fail in Iraq, it will be a blow to America’s prestige. One reason the terrorists struck on 9/11 is that they thought America was weak and making it bleed would prompt it to abandon its allies in the Middle East. The signal of weakness sent by a loss in Iraq wouldn’t placate our enemies, but invite more attacks.“The war on terror began
in earnest on 9/11.”
Supporters of a radical Islamic ideology struck American on 9/11. The war on terror is not a fight against a tactic (as the name falsely suggests), but against that ideology. The appeal of an ideology ebbs and flows with perceptions of its success. Communism advanced in the third world after its victory in Vietnam. The Islamists would get a similar boost if they were to prevail in Iraq.
Competing interpretations of Islam are at war in Iraq–that of Aytollah Sistani, who says Islam is compatible with democracy, and that of Zarqawi, who believes like bin Laden and the 9/11 hijackers that Islam is a religion of violence. It is imperative that Sistani win out.
Islamic extremists justifiably fear a Middle East that turns away from radicalism and anti-Americanism. Victory in Iraq will be a step toward that goal.
In short, not only was it defensible for Bush to talk of 9/11 Tuesday night, it would be impossible for him to make the case for the Iraq war without reference to it. The war on terror began in earnest on that day, and Iraq is properly understood as a front in that larger, necessary war.–The Editors