The Victory We're Not Hearing About
The media is still fighting Vietnam. Opposing that war was their last original idea, so they can't wait for the new Pentagon Papers, and they drool for the new Watergate. In the meantime, we are treated to characters and incidents from 30 years ago: quagmire; the ugly American abroad; the evil CIA; the secretive, faith-addled president; his repressive team; the ham-fisted military. To the press corps, it's eternally 1973.
George W. Bush has only himself to blame. His administration has not retailed its success in the war on terror. What we have instead is an eerie silence, the context of no context, the sense of hanging time and impending danger. Arrests are announced now and then, sure - - but without the big picture, there's a sense of meaninglessness about them. What's happening? Why can't we know? Is it really even happening?
Without a master narrative on the War on Terror, John Kerry's alternative wins. But what is Kerry's alternative? Seriously, now, what is it? Well, it's ramped-up police action, and alliances with every country, big and small, but especially France and Germany. It's like the War on Drugs (because that's working so well) or the War on Poverty (because that was so successful).
The truth is that the Bush strategy has worked. More than US$136- million of terror money has been seized, and 315 mostly bogus charities have been shut down. U.S. troops are engaged all over the world -- in practically every corner but Antarctica. Intelligence co- operation between America, Australia and Britain has become so close that Australian and British officials wander around the State and Defence Departments, and are considered "virtual Americans." (Note the absence of Canada in this list.) Intelligence is shared between countries as disparate as Norway, Israel and Uzbekistan within hours, not days. Russia is an ally. Saudi Arabia has killed and captured hundreds of al-Qaeda members. Libya, Syria, Sudan and Yemen -- the only Arab country to oppose the first Gulf War -- have covertly come to the aid of the United States, and arrested hundreds of terrorists. As veteran investigative reporter Richard Miniter reports in Shadow War, the Untold Story of How Bush Is Winning the War on Terror: "President Bush has built a global alliance as unconventional as the enemy arrayed against us."
Could it be that the Bush administration has saved us from another 9/11? Where is the pre-election attack that al-Qaeda threatened? What about the July 4th attack? What happened to the attack expected around the Republican Convention? What didn't happen at the Olympics?
The great criticism levelled against the Americans pre-9/11 was that they were uninvolved in the world. Has that ever changed. American soldiers are working all over the world, spending American money on people who supposedly hate Americans. Millions were spent to build Yemen's coast guard, and another hundred million to fight terrorism in the Horn of Africa so that al-Qaeda didn't dig in there. The terror war on the seas, once truly worrying, was sunk with the arrest of al-Qaeda admiral Al Nashiri. The fight against terrorism in Southeast Asia, where the group once had an extensive network of camps and safe houses, has been virtually won, the top operatives arrested.
Those operatives were subsequently denied sanctuary in Central Asia, and have settled in the failed states of North Africa. Sudan, Chad, Mali, Niger -- these countries are al-Qaeda's new Afghanistan. In thousands of uncharted settlements, amongst brutal sand pirates and war lords, they have been marrying into local tribes and making alliances with the Janjaweed, those brigands most responsible for the barbarity in the Sudan.
The Americans are right behind them. U.S. special forces are on the ground, new CIA posts are being founded and wide-ranging diplomatic initiatives are taking place. The "Pan-Sahel Initiative," a U.S. military program to develop and train local units in basic infantry skills, has started the process of rebuilding civil society in the region. Seventy al-Qaeda operatives have been arrested and 400 handed to the Jordanians and Egyptians.
The people doing this are our new heroes. Who are they, and why are they doing this insanely dangerous work? Why don't we celebrate them? Because our storytellers are intellectually disarmed, stuck in the fog of 1973.