In case anyone is interested in knowing how the war on terror is really going I came up with a few people you can ask. You could ask Mohammed Atef or Abu Zabaida, al Qaeda's senior field commanders. You could ask Khalid Sheikh Mohammad or Ramzi Binalshibh, who masterminded the Sept. 11 attacks. You could even go as far as to ask the Hussein brothers, Uday and Kusay or their charming father Saddam. That is of course if all of these men were not dead or imprisoned.
Yep that's right, according to the Department of Defense and White House press releases these men, along with approximately three quarters of al Qaeda's leaders and associates, have been either killed or captured since the beginning of the war on terror. Terrorist cells in Europe, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Southeast Asia have also been shut down and over $140 million of terrorist assets have been frozen.
If you are more interested in a single case study of the war on terrorism, then look no further than Afghanistan. The country that was once a breeding ground for the violent radicals that wage war on women and children has now elected their own president and established a new constitution; a constitution, mind you, that does not allow for the public whippings of women.
The Taliban, which previously kept the country suppressed and feverishly supported al Qaeda has been totally dismantled. One hundred forty-five health care facilities and 200 schools have also been built. Even the 9/11 Commission Report concluded that "A central government has been established in Kabul, with a democratic constitution, new currency, and a new army. Most Afghans enjoy greater freedom, women and girls are emerging from subjugation, and 3 million children have returned to school. For the first time in many years, Afghans have reason to hope."
Now, I must admit that one of the major goals in the American invasion of Afghanistan was to capture Osama Bin Laden, which has yet to happen. I will say however, Bin Laden is a coward who sends others to do his dirty work so without any gullible idiots left alive to do this he is going to have a hard time destroying the "great Satan" (his pet name for the good ol' USA.)
Other fronts in the war on terror include the ever-controversial Operation Iraqi Freedom. Whether or not they were linked to 9/11, Iraq had been involved with terrorist organizations and the creation of weapons of mass destruction for decades. If you don't believe me, I have some more people you can ask, like the 5,000 or so Kurds and countless Kuwaitis who were killed by Saddam using poison gas in 1988. According to MSNBC.com Saddam showed great remorse when he referred to these Kuwaitis as "dogs" just last week in court. Oh, and if poisonous gas does not count as a weapon of mass destruction, then I don't know what does.
Outside of the removal of an evil dictator from power, Operation Iraqi Freedom has also seen the vast improvement of Iraq's infrastructure including water and electrical systems, roads, and schools. The health care budget has been increased from $16 million in 2002 under Saddam to $950 million today. Another change that has been made in Iraq, that I'm sure is dear to the heart of every employee here at the Collegian, is the establishment of free press, which had been banned for decades.
Just two weeks ago, Iraqis also voted on a new constitution, proving to the world yet again that a peaceful democratic Iraq is not too lofty of a goal. Iraq, along with Afghanistan will set an example for the rest of the tumultuous Middle East in the years to come.
Other successes in the war on terror have come not from military actions but from mere diplomatic relations. Pakistan, for instance, was once a supporter of the Taliban and home to many of al-Qaeda's leading members but is now working diligently with the United States to fight these organizations and remove them from within their borders. The story has been the same in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Indonesia, and the Phillippines. We have also convinced Libya to halt their nuclear weapons program, and are in talks with North Korea to do the same, all without firing a shot.
When it comes down to dealing with terrorism, America has always had two options: a passive defensive option and an aggressive offensive option. We spent the '90s following a passive campaign of sending strongly worded letters to those trying to destroy us. This policy resulted in not only more attacks (on the World Trade Center, USS Cole, U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and many others) but also helped improve the coordination, planning, and capabilities of terrorist organizations who were never held accountable for their actions. I hate to place blame here but Bill Clinton took time out of his busy schedule of womanizing to fight terrorism only when it would distract from his impeachment hearings. Clinton took no decisive actions in the early stages of the war we are forced to fight today. He simply lobbed a few missiles into the desert and called it good.
The option, which America is now forced to take in fighting terrorism, is the "best defense is a good offense" approach. Like it or not, the majority of Americans, including President George W. Bush, believes fighting terrorists in their home countries is a better idea than fighting them here in New York City or Washington D.C. So, for those of you who don't buy into this kind of aggressive policy, remember just one thing: we did it your way for eight years and all we succeeded in doing was getting thousands of innocent Americans killed.
Ryan Chapman is a senior marketing major. His column runs every Wednesday in the Collegian.