They've practically put the double O's - Omar and Osama - and their acolytes out of commission. Afghan factions have agreed, sort of, to a six-month interim government. And on the Middle Eastern front, Boss Yasser may be getting the message - maybe. Things could be a lot worse.
From various sectors of the Terror War battlefield, these notes - with observations direct or implied....
Will Time name Osama its Man of the Year? Why not? Hitler got the coveted designation in 1938, Stalin in 1939 and 1942, and Khomeini in 1979.
The Bush administration has awarded contracts for 263 million doses of smallpox vaccine - the doses scheduled for delivery next fall. They will be held in reserve against bioterrorist use of the smallpox virus. Combined with existing supplies, there should be enough to vaccinate every American against a disease declared eradicated worldwide in 1980 (the United States halted routine immunization against smallpox in 1972).
Oddly, the American Medical Association has agitated against nationwide smallpox vaccinations prior to a terrorist smallpox attack. The AMA's opposition seemingly makes as much sense as the American Bar Association's opposition to military tribunals (etc.), right up there with the ACLU's, for non-citizen suspects in the War on Terror. Both oppositions are measures of perhaps nothing quite so much as the growing irrelevance of both the AMA and the ABA.
Despite the ululation of Patrick Leahy (the worst senator) and others, 60 percent of Americans agree that suspected terrorists should be tried in military tribunals and not in U.S. courts. That view has evident support from unlikely sectors such as Harvard's Larry Tribe, broadly loved by the left. Notes Tribe: "Civil liberties is not only about protecting us from our government. It is also about protecting our lives from terrorism. ... [Military tribunals may be tolerated, because] in time of war it is hard for us to be able to second-guess the president that information released in a trial might jeopardize sources by showing how we got the information, or give terrorists information about how we are tracking them. So, I'm not entirely comfortable with it, but I don't see any better way."
Somehow comforting, too, are these items: (1) The beloved tax benefactors at the IRS have decided to allow charities responding to the 9/11 attacks to distribute money and benefits without first eliciting proof that recipient families are in financial need. Ordinarily, charities failing to get that proof risk losing their tax-exempt status. (2) New York City's official estimate of the lives lost at the World Trade Center continues to decline from initial estimates of 6,000-plus. The latest: 3,100.
The Saudis continue to dismay. In the effort against Osama, an exiled Saudi national, they granted us bases only reluctantly and they have resisted American urgings that they seize the bank accounts of suspected Saudi terrorists and terror groups. They extensively fund Wahhabi Koranic schools that teach the young all over the Muslim world to hate America. What's more, their clerics continue to view the Terror War as a battle between Islam and the infidel (says revered Saudi cleric Sheik Hamoud al-Shuaibi: "It is the duty of every Muslim to stand up with the Afghan people and fight against America").
And the Saudi regime unrelentingly detests Israel; most recently it has blasted Bush for failing to broker a Mideast peace on behalf of the Palestinians. The Saudi regime shares its extremism with Egypt. There, boss Hosni Mubarak, whose predecessor Anwar Sadat was murdered by Islamist terrorists, terms Israel (the only democracy in the Middle East) a "dictatorship." Mubarak's newspapers are down-the-line hostile: (a) Al Akhbar, two weeks before 9/11: The Statue of Liberty "must be destroyed." (b) Al Gomburia: "The reality is that the policy of repression, tyranny, and humiliation practiced by [Israel's Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon and his associates is the reason for what's happening." This matches the English-language Saudi Gazette: "The United States refuses to acknowledge that the cause is Sharon's penchant for crimes against humanity. That is where the cycle of violence starts and ends."
Despite the hostility of Arabs, Islamists, and Palestinians to Israel and the United States, the United States continues to fund the Palestinians to the tune of about $75 million annually. The gifts may still make sense, but for how long?
What about Iraq? Some good minds are beginning to think of it in terms of ... Turkey. Hear Steve Forbes, in a Dec. 10 Forbes editorial: "After imposing a no-fly zone over all of Iraq, we should award northern Iraq to Turkey, under the condition that the Turks give the area home rule. The north holds most of Iraq's oil. The vast majority of people there are Kurds, an ethnic group distinct from the Arabs, who, though they have no love for the Turks, would much prefer them to the sadistic Saddam, who slaughtered and gassed them by the thousands. After WWI this territory was taken from Turkey and given to Baghdad by the British, with the understanding the Kurds would be granted substantial autonomy, a promise not kept, with murderous results." Not bad: Dismember Iraq and begin with Turkey - perhaps awarding parts of the rest to the Saudis, Kuwait, and Iran.