OP-EDS

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February 17, 2004

America is winning the war on terror

This past week, the New York Times reported its account of a 17-page memo sent by terrorist mastermind Musab al-Zaqwari to other Al Qaeda operatives. If genuine, the memo is the most comprehensive and instructive look into the world of anti-Western Islamic terrorism to date, and removes much of the uncertainty surrounding terrorist activity and American progress in post-Saddam Iraq.

After looking over the important excerpts from the memo, which reads much like a status report of Al Qaeda's current operations in Iraq, one thing should be absolutely clear: America is winning the war on terror. Zaqwari confesses to his colleagues that American forces in Iraq are getting better at gaining and acting on intelligence. He complains of his recent difficulties in recruiting soldiers for Al Qaeda's holy war, and clearly spells out what he thinks will be a very realistic end to Al Qaeda's presence in Iraq. Each of these statements deserves deep analysis, and the findings of this analysis are both groundbreaking and uplifting.

To begin, Zaqwari clearly admits that U.S. forces in Iraq are doing a better job than the insurgents. The fact that Zaqwari points to the increasing quality of U.S. intelligence shows that our forces, once predicted by skeptics to be at a disadvantage in a foreign environment, are quickly learning how things work in Iraq and are successfully putting new tactics to work. For each of the many bombings that occur every week in Iraq, dozens more are stopped.

Immediately after the fall of the Baathist regime, Islamist volunteers poured in through Iraq's borders and rose up from Iraqi villages and cities to fight the Western occupiers. According to Zaqwari, these rivers of volunteers are, without a doubt, drying up. He complains to his colleagues that he is disappointed with the progress of energetic recruiting campaigns in Iraq and elsewhere in the Muslim world. This drought is not a coincidence, but rather, can be directly attributed to the growing success of America's anti-terrorism efforts and, in addition, to another transition taking place in the reconstruction. After initially disbanding the Iraqi army after the fall of Saddam, America has started to train and use Iraqis in their efforts.

Americans fighting terrorists works, but Iraqis fighting terrorists works better. When the Arab, Muslim, and Kurdish population of Iraq sees its own patrolling the streets and being blown up diffusing bombs, they are less likely to volunteer to oppose them, and less likely to give refuge to those who are.

Most Iraqis do not support Al Qaeda actively, but had been giving them indirect support simply by letting them function in their cities, towns, and villages. If the greatest fear of Iraqis—that their own country will once again not be theirs—dissipates, as will happen when they see more and more Iraqis running the show, the indirect support for Al Qaeda will disappear.

The final and most important revelation that Zaqwari provides in his memo, is best demonstrated in his own words: "This is the democracy; we will have no pretext…If, God forbid, the government is successful and takes control of the country, we just have to pack up and go somewhere else again." The end of Al Qaeda operations in Iraq will be the day that Iraq becomes a democracy. Al Qaeda sees this, America now sees this, and the Iraqi people are beginning to see this.

Zaqwari's memo provides America with the perfect guidebook for the rest of the Iraqi reconstruction project. In the end, the single tactic and goal is democracy. To accomplish this, the U.S. occupation forces need to involve as many Iraqis as possible in the daily business of running and reconstructing the country, and they need to push for direct elections and a handover of power as soon as is safely possible. The more the Iraqi people see Iraqis running the country, the less support Al Qaeda will receive.

Zaqwari has given America and progressive Iraqis a clear plan through reconstruction. Iraq can be a democracy, and it can be the example of freedom and tolerance in the Middle East that I, and other war supporters, talked about before Saddam fell. Al Qaeda's days in Iraq are numbered.