Timeline: Major Islamic Extremist Attacks
A former secretary of the Navy and member of the 9/11 Commission identifies the real enemy in the current war and assesses progress.
Are we winning the war? The first question to ask is what war? The administration of President George W. Bush continues to befuddle a national understanding of the war we are in by continuing to call it "the war on terror." This political correctness presumably seeks to avoid hurting the feelings of the Saudis and other Muslims, but it comes at a high cost. One reason the 9/11 Commission has had such an impact is that its language and logic are simple, clear and free of cant. The investigation established that we are at war with an ideologically extreme Islamist worldwide movement. Some have even called it World War III. The enemy has adopted terrorism as one of a number of weapons that have proved very effective against the United States. We are not at war against terror any more than World War II was a war against kamikazes.
We are at war with Islamic jihadists motivated by a violent ideology based on an extremist interpretation of the Muslim religion. This enemy is decentralized and geographically dispersed around the world. Its organizations range from a fully functioning state-Iran, for example-to small groups of individuals in U.S. cities.
By speaking in riddles, the administration has confused the American people, Congress, and apparently itself. The 9/11 Commission laid out thoroughly and indisputably what happened in the attacks on 11 September 2001, how they were organized and executed, and who was responsible. The answer established by the commission was that Islamic jihadists were responsible, as they had been for an increasing number of violent attacks against Americans and many other non-Islamists over the previous 30 years.
The commission report contained a concise historical tracing of the roots and rise of Islamic jihadism and identified this worldwide militant religious ideology as the core enemy the United States must defeat. With no interference from the United States over three decades, this violent movement has become global, well-funded, and technologically advanced. The investigation identified Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Iran as the principal sources of funding not only for the jihadists themselves, but for the schools, mosques, and madrassas throughout the Muslim world that are the proselytizers and recruiters of Islamic jihadists. To confront these realities, we must fight the war on three fronts.