With two major War On Terror military operations recently declared complete and the nation unsure where it will next focus its pitifully short attention, this is a great time to pause and reflect on the war.
So far, there are more failures to point out than successes. Even though we've captured half of al-Qaeda's top leadership, on May 20 (for the fourth time) the Department of Homeland Security raised the terrorism Threat Advisory level from yellow (meaning that Homeland Secretary Tom Ridge thinks we should piss ourselves from fear) to orange (meaning we should vomit from fear). In the past few weeks, terrorists (probably al-Qaeda) attacked a residential complex in Saudi Arabia, killing 34 people, mostly foreigners. An attack in Morocco (not necessarily by al-Qaeda) killed an additional 41.
The day after we raised our threat alert to code orange, al-Qaeda bigwig and former eye doctor Ayman al-Zawahri called for new attacks against us, the U.K, Australia, and for some reason, Norway. The same day, Saudi cops busted three men in the Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, airport thinking they were about to hijack a jet and crash it into Jeddah's National Commercial Bank building. (If this column had an information crawl, like cable news networks do, right now it would say, "The Saudi Bin Laden Group, Saudi Arabia's largest construction firm, banks at National Commerce Bank," "National Commerce Bank has an ATM on Jeddah's Bin Laden Street," and "After seven seasons, 'Buffy' slays vampires, viewers for last time." By the way, the ATM thing is true. Google it if you don't believe me.)
In other words, despite our military victories in Afghanistan and Iraq, al-Qaeda, the reason we started this war in the first place, is still a serious threat to us. That's because the stew of Islamic radicalism, poverty and political oppression that bred terrorism still exists.
We haven't remade our relationship with the Muslim world for the better. We still support oppressive regimes in Muslim countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. We did overthrow Saddam Hussein and will hopefully nurse a democracy in Iraq, but by and large Arabs don't look at our invasion and say, "Gosh, that was nice of them." The reaction is closer to "See, I told you the Americans are trying to destroy us." More hatred of us equals more danger to us.
Also, we have failed thus far to meaningfully address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We just put forward the so-called Roadmap, but the Israelis have rejected it. Like it or not, Arabs look at the Palestinians and perceive that we are complicit in their occupation and oppression.
The biggest victory so far has been the overthrow of the Taliban government in Afghanistan. With Cyclops Omar and his Talibanditos in charge, Afghanistan was evil's loving home -- allowing al-Qaeda to operate freely. Since the Taliban's collapse, al-Qaeda hasn't executed any attacks near the size of his two biggest, the 1998 African embassy attacks and the 9-11 attacks. In addition, bin Laden's terrorist summer camps are defunct and, judging from the fact that we only ever hear from him via fax or audio tape, his camcorder is probably broken too.
Here at homeland, the War On Terror has also forced us to think seriously about domestic security for the first time. Stupid Patriot Acts aside (and for that matter, stupid people thinking they're patriots), we're more prepared to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks than we've ever been. That's not to say that we can't do a lot better (see below), but at least security is now a priority.
Oh, how could I forget this one -- if not for the War On Terror, I wouldn't have this column. Like defense contractors, oil companies and Toby Keith, I'm profiting from bloodshed.