Pro Deo Et Patria- An Army Chaplain

I am a chaplain in the US Army, serving in Iraq. I'm keeping a blog to share my thoughts and experiences while deployed. They are my thoughts and they don't necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Army! :)

Saturday, April 22, 2006

A distraction?

As I mentioned in my last post, there are some people who make the argument that Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) is a distraction from the overall war on terror. They argue that if we had maintained the focus, and not gotten distracted in Iraq, we might be doing a better job of hunting down Al Qaeda and Bin Laden. The problem with this argument, however, if three fold: first, we have done an excellent job, since 9/11, of preventing terror attacks, second, we are fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq, and, third, Saddam Hussein and his administration were strong sponsors of terrorism.

First, the idea that we have gotten distracted. While it is true that we have not found Bin Laden, it should be noted that there has not been a single Al Qaeda terrorist attack on US soil since 9/11. I don't think we can underestimate the importance of this. We have NOT been attacked! We need to give credit where credit is due: to the military, the CIA and FBI, local law enforcement, and others involved in the fight on terror.

After noting that we have not been attacked in almost five years, we need to look at the people we are fighting in Iraq: Al Qaeda and remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime. Granted, this is an oversimplification. Some of the insurgents are Shia Muslims, some are opportunistic thugs, and others have various motives. But the main group with whom we are grappling is called: Al Qaeda in Iraq. Al Zarqawi, leading Al Qaeda in Iraq, is working with and under Bin Laden and has publicly tied himself to Al Qaeda. I simply do not understand how this can be a distraction from the war on terror.

Finally, some argue that Saddam Hussein was a distraction from the war on terror, but fail to note his own strong and public ties to terror. While it is true that Saddam did not organize 9/11, it is more than fair to point out his own terrorist connections. For example, under Hussein, Iraq would give large sums of money (I believe around $25,000) to the families of suicide bombers in Israel. The conflict between Israel and Palestine has been one of the biggest issues between Muslim extremists and the West, and I can't understand how one of the biggest instigators of that conflict, Saddam Hussein, can be seen as a distraction from the overall war on terror. In the minds of the Muslim extremists, Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait are all conflicts that are seen as tied together and part of a greater struggle. If we fail to understand this, we will lose on every count.

If Iraq and Afghanistan can establish stable democracies under the protection and encouragement of the US military, then we will be taking a large step in bringing peace and order to the Middle East.


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