Getting rid of terrorists will be dangerous fight

Posted: Wednesday, June 19, 2002

For reasons that still are not clear, some analysts expressed surprise and dismay when, in the aftermath of disclosures about the "dirty bomb" plot, it became apparent that al-Qaida had regrouped and was back in business.

No reasonable person ever suggested Osama bin Laden and his group would go away simply because they had been pushed out of Afghanistan. Al-Qaida is fanatical and well financed. It will cause problems indefinitely. Many Pakistani radicals are willing to hide terrorists and there are plenty of young recruits to replace the dead. Many Mideast schools teach young boys to hate Americans and Jews -- and to rejoice at terrorism.

Besides, even if al-Qaida somehow were eliminated, there would still be other Islamic terrorist groups -- Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, for example. The only difference is that they want to destroy Israel first, whereas al-Qaida hopes to lay the United States in ruins before dealing with Israel.

There have been innumerable signs of al-Qaida's return -- the shoe bomber, reporter Daniel Pearl's murder, and car bomb attacks in Tunisia and Pakistan, for example.

Apologists say al-Qaida simply wants to rid the Middle East of Western influences. That isn't true, however. In its own communique this week, the group said, "The entire Earth must be subjected to Islam."

The plan is to terrorize Americans into submission. The communique says al-Qaida is planning an attack that will make Sept. 11 pale in comparison and adds that it believes it has an Allah-given right to kill 4 million Americans -- half of them children -- with weapons of mass destruction.

The New York Times says al-Qaida is trying to enhance its chances of success by recruiting as many Americans as possible. They, it is assumed, could move more freely -- and with less suspicion -- in the United States.

This is going to be a long and dangerous struggle. There is bipartisan consensus on what must be done, but not always on how it should be done. Such differences aside, we should be wary of those who would unduly restrain the government's ability to defend the nation.

-- The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville

June 18

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