'The Long, Hard Slog'

Posted: Oct 31, 2003 12:00 AM

MEMORANDUM FOR: Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense
RE: Your 16 October 2003 Memo, "Global War on Terrorism"

Mr. Secretary: Though your memo was widely misunderstood and misconstrued by my colleagues in the media, it asks all the right questions. Hopefully you've already received responses from intended recipients, Messer's Meyers, Wolfowitz, Pace and Feith. Since a copy found its way to my "inbox" as I prepare to return to Iraq, herewith, responses to some of the questions you posed.

You first asked, "Are we winning or losing the Global War on Terror?"

Short answer: Yes. The first standard for gauging success in the war on terrorism is the defense and security of Americans here at home. Since Sept. 11, 2001, when nearly 3,000 people died in the United States at the hands of Islamic Jihadists, we've not had a similar event on our shores.

Sun Tzu, the great Chinese strategist, once counseled, "Those skilled in war bring the enemy to the field of battle and are not brought there by him." The president's political opponents may decry the approach, but you have succeeded in shifting the battleground from U.S. territory to Afghanistan and Iraq.

While that makes Afghanistan and Iraq more dangerous in the short term, it can make the United States and the world safer in the long term, if we stay the course. Critics who complain that Iraq is now "the central front in the war on terror" miss the gruesome point that it is that much easier to kill and capture terrorists if there is a central front. In short, though you can't say it publicly, it's better to battle terrorists in Baghdad than in Boston.

You asked: Does CIA need a new finding?

Short answer: No. We need a CIA. Since the late 1970s, we haven't had an intelligence service worthy of the name. That's not to say we don't have some very smart, dedicated and courageous people working at collecting, analyzing and disseminating intelligence. We do. But for more than two decades, the CIA has been a political football in Washington.

As a consequence, our ability to collect human intelligence -- the only kind that matters in this war -- has been drastically curtailed. CIA Director Stan Turner gutted the Clandestine Service, apparently believing we didn't need spies because "satellites can read a license plate from a hundred miles in the sky." Great idea if we're being attacked by license plates -- but a lousy concept when small cells of Islamic Jihadists are plotting murder and mayhem.

All my media colleagues keep asking, "Why didn't we know about 9-11?" and, "What happened to the Iraqi WMD?" and, "Why can't we find Osama or Saddam?" You and I both know the answer: We don't know these things because we had -- and have -- lousy human intelligence (HUMINT). Admitting this to the American people won't give away any secrets to our adversaries -- they already know it.

If we're to win this war, somebody well up in the hierarchy of this administration must confront this issue head-on -- and soon. Start by thanking George Tenant, the current CIA DIRECTOR, give him a gold watch and get him a professorship at Georgetown. Then hire a CIA director who can attract, train and field more Clandestine Service officers who will serve without diplomatic passports to recruit locals in Iraq to spy for us in the souks, madrassas and Islamic centers of the Middle East.

Then, go to the Congress and tell them they will have to promise never again to threaten prosecution for CIA officers who collect information from bad people. We're not going to penetrate Al Qaeda or Ansar Al-Islam with graduates of Mother Theresa's Home for Unwed Mothers.

You also ask, "Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?"

Short answer: No. Herein lies the heart of the long-term problem -- and the key to the solution for the war in which we are now engaged. It's great that more people in Iraq have electricity today than before hostilities commenced on March 19. It's good that more shops, sewage treatment plants and water purification facilities are opening. But in the long term, it's even more important that schools are reopening. Schools that teach math and science and the abilities needed for modern life -- as alternatives to the madrassas -- are the long-term solution to the problems of Iraq, and the answer to terrorism.

Many, if not most, of the madrassas currently serving as recruiting stations and training centers for radical Islam are funded by the Saudis with our petro-dollars. Instead of teaching physics, math, biology, computer science or petro-chemical engineering, students in these "schools" are being taught little more than how to hate, kill themselves and kill infidels -- i.e., Americans, Christians or Jews.

Many of the "graduates" of these institutions have been thoroughly indoctrinated in the teachings of Sheik Hasan al-Bana, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. They then go on to join organizations like Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, Ansar Al-Islam, Islamic Jihad and a host of other like-organizations because they have been taught that they must die the right way -- wrapped in a bomb jacket, sitting in an explosive-laden car or flying an airplane into a building full of Americans. As long as they die killing an infidel -- or those who support the infidels -- they will reap spiritual rewards in the next life -- and their families will derive financial benefits from "charity" for being related to a "martyr."

Stopping the Saudi money that finances these schools of hatred and the blood money paid to "martyrs'" families is important. But even more so are real schools with real teachers who will instruct the next generation -- not in how to die the right way, but in the skills needed to live the right way.