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Editorial’s ideology ‘poorly reasoned’

In the April 12 edition of The Corydon Democrat, Charles Ewry cited ‘eight ways our president furthered the cause of al-Qaeda.’ Supposedly al-Qaeda has benefited from the Bush Administration’s ‘incompetence’ and Ewry describes specific instances of this. I would like to examine more closely his accusations:
Mr. Ewry claims that because of the war in the Middle East, al-Qaeda ‘[h]ad a record membership drive.’ I don’t doubt that our military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan have caused rioting, bombings, protests and murder from a resentful and angry populace, and even caused some Islamic jihadists to join al-Qaeda who may not have otherwise. But the same can be said of something as simple as Mohammed cartoons published in a European newspaper. It is difficult to predetermine what action (or inaction) of the West will ever set off unrest in the Middle East. We cannot know what might have happened if we had not gone to war. So how can we blame ourselves or our President for the maniacal and unpredictable behavior of Middle Eastern fanatics? Shouldn’t we do something to counteract a cultural mindset that produces such uncontrolled rage?
Ewry also points out that our military presence in the Middle East has offered al-Qaeda ‘valuable combat experience.’ But this works both ways. Before we invaded Iraq or Afghanistan we had limited knowledge of al-Qaeda’s methods, their command structure or their future plans. And we had no base of operations from which to gather such information. It was all educated guesswork that often fell short (as it did on 9/11). But by taking the fight to them, we too gained ‘valuable combat experience,’ learning their methods, watching how they adapt and how they communicate. And that’s something we could not do prior to Afghanistan and Iraq. That is a point the President has made repeatedly, and it is a point in his favor.
Mr. Ewry claims that our removal of Saddam Hussein benefited al-Qaeda because ‘bin Laden had long-plotted to use his Mujahideen to end the oppressive and secular rule of Saddam.’ In effect, according to Ewry, we did the job for him. But I fail to see how this benefits bin Laden. We were faced with two scenarios before the Iraq war: (1) allow al-Qaeda to topple Saddam as planned and establish yet another Taliban-style government in the Middle East, thus furthering the spread of Islamic jihad, or (2) take out Saddam ourselves, before bin Laden has a chance, and while al-Qaeda is still on the run from Afghanistan; set up a democratic government to instill freedom in the Middle East and give the people an alternative to fanatic Islamo-facism. Clearly entering Iraq and toppling Saddam was the most logical next move against al-Qaeda ‘ quite the opposite of Ewry’s conclusion.
According to Ewry, the President ‘[g]ave us a human rights black eye,’ specifically in the cases of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuses and secret CIA prisons. To the contrary, the Bush Administration, including the President himself, condemned the abuses at Abu Ghraib and sought punishment for those guilty of the crimes. The President did not issue orders to abuse Iraqi prisoners and cannot be blamed for the immoral actions of every man and woman in uniform. And the CIA secret prisons are an important component in combating al-Qaeda. If captured al-Qaeda operatives were held in publicly known sites, these prisons would be sitting targets for terrorists hoping to free their captured comrades or disrupt our counterterrorism efforts. There is also a broader objective in keeping these foreign prisons under wraps. The nations hosting these prisons often walk a fine line with their own populace when they aide the U.S. against Islamic extremists. Countries that have agreed to help us with these covert operations face internal pressures when that cover is blown. When secrets are revealed, our partner nations lose their resolve and their confidence in us, and we lose vital assistance in the war on terror.
Global politics is more complex than Mr. Ewry seems to understand. Yet, he seems convinced that the U.S. must defer to foreign powers instead of acting in our own self interest. He laments that going to war has ‘(t)urned off our allies ‘ France, Germany and Belgium among them.’ But wars are fought to defend principles, not to make friends or win popularity contests. Global consensus can change under different circumstances; alliances shift. The United States goes to war when it is in the best interest of the United States to go to war, not because we got our permission slip signed by the UN or NATO or Jacque Chirac. It seems rather small minded to think that every action of the United States must fit some artificial notion of global approval when global opinion changes so frequently over time. Let’s not forget the very real possibility that the ‘war on terror’ has ushered in a radically new stage in global politics (just as did both World Wars and the Cold War). Mr. Ewry’s desire for world politics to no longer be in flux is well intentioned, I’m sure, but not particularly realistic. Europe decided to reject an active role in fighting Islamo-facism. President Bush cannot be blamed for Europe’s mistake.
Mr. Ewry asserts that the war on terror has made Uncle Sam ‘uninspiring ‘ [and] will make recruitment increasingly difficult and reenlistment less common.’ I suspect that the war has affected some people’s willingness to join the military. Yet according to the Dept. of Defense Web site, new recruitments in all branches of the military have regularly exceeded 100 percent of their monthly goal for the past year, sometimes reaching as high as 109 percent of the projected numbers. And contrary to Mr. Ewry’s belief, reenlistments have actually risen. Surprisingly the military units that show the largest reenlistment numbers are those that have seen the most action in Iraq.
Mr. Ewry claims that the president has lessened our freedom specifically through the Patriot Act, yet he also admits that ‘[m]ost of us probably don’t feel any less free ” Well, that’s probably because we aren’t any less free. The Patriot Act does what similar legislation did decades ago to help fight organized crime in America. It allows for greater surveillance capabilities, better sharing of information between departments, and it updates the law to include advances in technology such as the Internet and cell phones. Despite court challenges, not one single case involving the Patriot Act has been shown to have violated anyone’s civil liberties. And the newly updated Patriot Act of 2005 has incorporated even more civil liberty safeguards, including greater oversight from all branches of the government and public disclosure in certain situations.
An individual’s ‘interests, habits, professions or academic work’ may indeed label someone ‘a potential enemy of the state,’ as well it should. If 19 young, Middle Eastern men walk into a flight school wanting to learn how to fly a passenger plane, but don’t want to learn how to land it, then I should hope the government would have the means to identify and track such individuals. Doing so does not ‘further the cause of al-Qaeda.’ It obviously works to their disadvantage.
Mr. Ewry questions much of what the President has accomplished in the war on terror. And I do not disparage his right to speak out in descent. I do not view his criticism of President Bush as ‘unpatriotic.’ But I do find his ideology poorly reasoned and not supported by the facts.

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