Al Qaeda terrorists do what they say, unfortunately. When they say they’re going to attack us, they do it or die trying. And when they say they’re at war with America, they mean that, as we saw on 9/11. Their bloody record says there is no hidden meaning, no veiled backdoor diplomacy on the terrorist agenda. For America’s sake, we shouldn’t forget that.
That’s why I support quickly passing the defense authorization bill currently before the Senate. We can debate the Iraq strategy, but we should not forget that the defense bill debate should be about providing our military with the tools and time they need to protect our national security and to defeat the terrorists. If we continue to engage in time-consuming political grandstanding when debating basic defense funding bills like this, we not only put our troops in even more peril, we further endanger all Americans.
I’m not satisfied with the political progress in Iraq. I continue to be disappointed in the Iraqi government’s inability or unwillingness to secure Iraq. But we shouldn’t forget that our own government took almost a decade to form, going from the failed Articles of Confederation to finally adopting our Constitution. We need to give our new commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, what he needs to carry out the new security strategy in Iraq, and to create an environment in which the Iraqi government has a chance to succeed. Regardless of whether we withdraw from Iraq or whether the Iraqi government succeeds, the war with Al Qaeda will continue. The question is do we want to face an emboldened Al Qaeda or a beaten Al Qaeda?
The U.S. should commit to defeating Al Qaeda terrorists in Iraq, and I’m supporting an amendment to the defense bill that makes Al Qaeda terrorists our primary target.
These multi-national murderers have been drawn into Iraq. In fact, General Petraeus has called Al Qaeda, Iraq’s “public enemy number one.” They’re trying to kill American soldiers with the ultimate goal of forcing a politically-motivated American withdrawal, and hijacking Iraq for use as a terrorist staging ground from which to launch attacks much larger than 9/11.
For the government in Iraq to succeed and for Iraq to become a viable, free nation, Al Qaeda and the terrorists must be beaten in Iraq. For America to be safe from more 9/11s or worse, Al Qaeda must be defeated, and the U.S. military is the only force that can carry out both missions. In denying the terrorists a monopoly in Iraq, we can help prevent Iran from spreading its sinister influence throughout the region, and ultimately protect our own soil from conventional terrorist attacks and attacks using weapons of mass destruction.
America’s troop surge in Iraq reached full strength only two and a half weeks ago. Until we enacted the troop surge this year, American strategy in Iraq had been concentrated on fighting with the smallest commitment possible – less than half the troop strength we committed to the 1991 Gulf War. I questioned former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s leadership over this strategy. That effort to be the “rapid reaction force” would fail, and that’s why the new surge strategy is taking shape.
Two weeks of surge activity is not enough time to judge the surge’s success or failure, as some in Washington are doing. It likely will be late summer and early fall before we can determine whether the surge is successful, and whether the Iraqi government will succeed.
Make no mistake. Al Qaeda is at war with us. It may not be a war against nations like we’ve seen in the past, but it’s still a war. No matter how Washington’s mixed and ever-changing rhetoric may define it, this conflict – like all wars – either will be lost or won. Let’s make sure we win it. Let’s not embolden terrorists, but give our troops the tools and time they need to beat Al Qaeda decisively in Iraq and around the globe.
Senator Lott welcomes any questions or comments about this column.
Write to: U.S. Senator Trent Lott, 487 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (Attn: Press Office) or Email