Last week's capture of al-Qaida bigwig Khalid Shaikh Mohammed suggests that the Democrats may have been overhasty in claiming the war with Iraq was distracting President Bush from the task of pursuing the "real terrorists." Mohammed is described as the CEO of al-Qaida, with Osama bin Laden as chairman of the board. Mohammed was the mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the bombings of American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, and the attack on the USS Cole.
If impeached former president Bill Clinton had ever caught a fish as big as Mohammed, he would still go down in history as America's worst president, but at least he would have a single foreign policy accomplishment. Last September, Clinton was among those braying that it was insanity to go to war with Iraq rather than concentrating on al-Qaida: "Saddam Hussein didn't kill 3,100 people on Sept. 11; Osama bin Laden did."
The Democrats love this argument. Their infantile obsession with Osama bin Laden to the exclusion of all other Arab terrorists allows them to sound like hawks while opposing all anti-terrorism initiatives. They angrily denounce war with Iraq as an unnecessary distraction from their single-minded focus on capturing Osama bin Laden.
In the week before Mohammed's capture, they were all reading from the same hymnal. Bernie Sanders, socialist congressman from Vermont said: "The man who killed 3,000 innocent Americans, his name is not Saddam Hussein. His name is Osama bin Laden." Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Democratic presidential candidate and strange-looking little man, said: "Iraq was not responsible for the attack on the World Trade Center or the Pentagon."
Also days before the Bush administration captured a major al-Qaida leader, an article in the New York Times referred to "the Bush administration's inability to achieve one of the main goals of its anti-terror effort, the capture of al-Qaida's leaders." Norman Mailer said the Bush administration turned to Iraq when – I quote – "the campaign in Afghanistan failed." He must still be reading the New York Times from October 2001, when the Times was predicting America's defeat in Afghanistan. Unable to capture the top al-Qaida leaders, Mailer said, Bush "decided the real pea was under another shell. Not al-Qaida, but Iraq."
Whoops. It turns out that, unlike the Democrats, a Republican administration can walk and chew gum at the same time.
After an arrest like that, Clinton would have held 17 press conferences to praise himself and attack Republicans. Bush has held no press conferences on the capture of this major al-Qaida leader. And yet the Times has repeatedly characterized the administration's bland, straightforward statements about the arrest as "triumphal." "Triumphal" is apparently New York Times code for: "Bush was right and we were wrong."
Not only has the Bush administration figured out how the world's only superpower can fight more than 12 guys at once, but the Democrats' premise is absurd: Terrorism would not instantly vanish if Osama bin Laden were eliminated. Mohammed's career in terrorism is a good example of the far-flung networking among Arab terrorists. According to the New York Times, Mohammed was a free-lance terrorist until around 1998 when, down on his luck, he joined up with al-Qaida. Since Sept. 11, he has helped al-Qaida reinvent itself by "solidifying alliances with other terror groups and permitting midlevel agents to plan and execute attacks."
This leads to a perilous question: What excuse will Democrats use to oppose the war on terrorism after Osama bin Laden is captured? We may soon find out. This week, Time magazine is reporting that for the first time since the bombardment of Osama's cave in December 2001, U.S. officials have been able to determine that Osama bin Laden is alive. Mohammed is considered a key to bringing bin Laden to justice.
Human rights groups have responded to the capture of this major al-Qaida figure with the plea: DON'T HURT HIM! They are hysterical at the possibility that the government is torturing Mohammed for information. There are dark rumors that terrorists are being stripped, humiliated, strapped down and subjected to total sleep deprivation with lights and noise. Then it turned out the hapless victims of such brutal tactics weren't terrorists, but airline passengers since Sept. 11.
No one even knows where Mohammed is being held, much less how he is being treated. It's a tricky business interrogating terrorists. When questioning people who live in caves, government officials have to go pretty far just to deprive them of the comforts of home.
Soon liberals will be asking why we're even questioning Mohammed. As Bill Clinton would say: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed didn't kill 3,100 people on Sept. 11; Osama bin Laden did.