Editor's note: Frank Gaffney wrote this Sept. 11, 2001 analysis for Newsmax magazine's 10th anniversary commemorative edition. If you would like to subscribe to the magazine, click here.
I SUPPORTED U.S. MILITARY INTERVENTIONS to roust our enemies from Afghanistan and Iraq in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. I continue to believe that those were the right policies — although I have disagreed with some of the important particulars of how they were executed.
Sadly, thanks to past mistakes and others still being made a decade on, I fear we risk squandering what we have achieved at great sacrifice in both blood and treasure.
Whether history ultimately views those wars as necessary, prudent, and effective responses to the jihad unleashed against us may well hinge on what happens next.
Will the Taliban return to power in Afghanistan? Will Iran come to dominate Iraq, thereby hugely advancing Tehran’s ambitions for regional hegemony?
Can Iraq still evolve into a democratic, stable and pro-Western oasis in an Arab world increasingly under the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists?
No one can answer these and similarly momentous questions.
What is clear, however, is that the chances of good outcomes have been seriously diminished by a number of fateful choices that have been made in theater and in Washington.
For example, immediately after U.S. troops liberated Baghdad, there was a failure to halt, let alone penalize, those involved in rioting and mayhem. This was a terrible mistake. The perception of U.S. impotence in the face of the ensuing disorder unquestionably emboldened Baathists, Islamists, and Iranians to precipitate more of it.
Matters were, of course, made worse by the absence, in the days following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime, of Iraqi military and police units, many of whose personnel became part of the insurgency when they ceased to be employed and paid to keep order. There is no question that a contributing factor was the self-deactivation of such units that occurred in the face of overwhelming coalition power.
But surely, with different direction from us, they could have been reorganized and assigned constructive roles even as the Baathist cohort in their senior ranks were purged.
Today, the trajectory is not encouraging for an Iraq increasingly under Iran’s thumb. Assuming no reversal in the decision to terminate at year’s end the U.S.-Iraqi status of forces agreement that is the basis for a continued American presence there, it is predictable that the mullahs in Tehran are best positioned to fill the ensuing vacuum of power — at our expense, as well as that of the Iraqi people.
The prospects are not much better in Afghanistan. Despite the valiant efforts of our surge-enhanced forces there, the Taliban continues to use its safe havens in neighboring Pakistan to intimidate Afghans, run drug cultivation operations in much of Afghanistan, and kill coalition forces and our allies there. Those who have cooperated with the United States live in fear of reprisals as arbitrary deadlines compel the phased withdrawal of American forces.
To put it bluntly, in places like Iraq and Afghanistan especially, weakness invites bad behavior — on the part of our enemies and even on the part of our putative friends. When President Barack Obama announces a surge in one breath and sets a date for withdrawal in the next, it is inevitably perceived as evidence that America is not, to use Osama bin Laden’s phrase, “the strong horse.”
While the liquidation of al-Qaida’s leader was gratifying, against the backdrop of what is happening on the ground in these two theaters, such perceptions bode ill for our interests and security.
With the ominous path to complete withdrawal from Iraq seemingly set, the question still in play is, Will we allow a similar unraveling to proceed in Afghanistan? In my view, further disengagement there should be conditions-based. And, no less importantly, we need a revised concept for what we are doing, in favor of a strategy that unambiguously strives decisively to defeat the Taliban and their enablers, not to negotiate with them over what amount to the terms of our surrender.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Middle East, enemies of the United States are on the march. The principal beneficiary of the so-called “Arab Spring” is likely to be the Muslim Brotherhood. As is true in most revolutionary situations, the most disciplined, organized, and ruthless elements usually prevail. In Egypt, that distinction would go to the Brotherhood.
Unfortunately, this Salafist movement’s ascendancy is in the offing far beyond its original home nation of Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood may become a real force to reckon with in Syria, Yemen, Jordan, and throughout the Palestinian areas. In due course, the Brotherhood may even succeed in destabilizing the nation whose government, royal family, and business elites have done as much as any to promote the Brotherhood’s operations elsewhere around the world: Saudi Arabia.
We as a government have virtually missed altogether yet-another theater in which this life-and-death struggle is being fought. That is the piece of the war for the free world that the Muslim Brotherhood calls “civilization jihad.” To date, successive U.S. administrations have failed to recognize that the Brotherhood has operatives and front organizations in America that seek the same outcomes as al-Qaida and other so-called “violent extremists.” They are pursuing Shariah — Islam’s politico-military-legal doctrine, and its application worldwide under a Muslim ruler known as the caliph.
The difference is that the Brotherhood seeks these objectives through an array of stealthy techniques until the conditions are ripe for the effective use of terrifying jihadist practices. In other words, the Muslim Brotherhood is not engaged in non-violence but rather pre-violent practices.
Such a failure to understand our enemy and react appropriately may doom us to defeat.
Frankly, this willful blindness, as former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy calls it, worries me even more than what is going wrong in Iraq, Afghanistan and the “Muslim world” more broadly.
We have enemies who seek to insinuate a toxic, anti-constitutional Shariah program into our country and they are operating “inside the wire.” I am talking not only about home-grown jihadists, but also about those associated with the Muslim Brotherhood who, despite what we think is their professed commitment to non-violence, have as their mission in America “destroying Western civilization from within,” by our own hands.
They strive to achieve this alarming goal through the implementation of a phased plan and believe they are making steady progress towards its realization under our very noses and thanks to our witlessness about their true character and purposes: the triumph of Shariah, the establishment of a worldwide caliphate, and the destruction of everybody, including the United States and its Constitution, that stand in the way.
Don’t take my word for it. This is what the Brotherhood’s own documents say regarding its purpose and program inside America. And our government simply doesn’t get it.
It is nothing less than a scandal that we find ourselves at risk of losing ground to such enemies abroad and at home 10 long years after 9/11. We must take corrective actions in both spheres now, before we lose any more ground and lives.
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