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Public Statements

Terrorism

By:
Date:
Location: Washington DC

TERRORISM

Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, there is no question the terrorists are at war with us. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly apparent in Washington we are at war with each other.

The September 11 Commission is holding hearings right now. It has an admirable goal of investigating the reasons that our immigration, intelligence, law enforcement, military, and legal systems failed to prevent 19 Islamic radicals from hijacking planes and using them as weapons of terror so we can prevent such lapses in the future.

Already the Bush administration and Congress have acted to reform numerous agencies and procedures to deter and to prevent future terrorist attacks on our country. What have we done? We have responded to terrorism vigorously by attacking the terrorists where they live and confronting the regimes that support them, rather than by lobbing a few cruise missiles at an empty desert tent.

We created the Department of Homeland Security to put all domestic security agencies under one roof. We overwhelmingly passed the USA PATRIOT Act which provides law enforcement agencies the tools they need to monitor, apprehend, and convict terrorists. We have cracked down on terrorists' financing at home and abroad by shuttering sham charities that fund terror and by freezing terrorists' assets. We have streamlined and reformed the intelligence agencies and are working to improve coordination among the many agencies responsible for protecting America.

Hopefully, the Commission will identify additional methods to improve U.S. security, but forgive me for not being terribly optimistic. I fear the Commission has lost sight of its goal and has become a political casualty of the electoral hunting season.

Sadly, the Commission's public hearings have allowed those with political axes to grind, such as Richard Clarke, to play shamelessly to the partisan gallery of liberal special interests seeking to bring down the President. These special interest groups have undeniably exploited the Commission for political gain. Moveon.org, for example, the ultra liberal organization that opposed America's liberation of both Iraq and Afghanistan-Moveon.org opposed the liberation of Afghanistan as well as Iraq-is funding TV ads that use Clarke's voice to accuse President Bush of not doing enough to stop terrorism. Moveon.org will launch a $200,000 ad campaign that restates this claim during CNN's coverage of Dr. Rice's testimony before the Commission this morning.

Clarke himself, publicly and under oath, has said he believes that even had the President implemented every single one of the suggestions he made to the President when he came into office, we would still not have been able to prevent the September 11 attacks. Let's take a look at that again. Mr. Clarke himself has said that even if President Bush had done everything he recommended to the President, we could not have prevented the September 11 attacks.

Before deciding to profit from his revisionist history, Clarke argues persuasively that President Bush's policy to combat terrorism was more aggressive than that of his predecessor. Clarke noted that President Bush expressed frustration with the previous policy of "swatting at flies" and that the President authorized a fivefold increase for covert operations against terrorists in Afghanistan.

The Washington blame game has distracted us from the important task at hand: Winning the war against the terrorists. The only entity responsible for September 11 was al-Qaida. We need a real debate in America about how to prosecute the war against terrorism because there are two fundamentally different schools of thought about how to win this war, two fundamentally different philosophies about how to win this war.

On the one hand, there are the President's critics who define terrorism so narrowly as to include only the terrorists directly responsible for September 11, and not the many other terrorist groups currently plotting attacks against America and her allies. They believe this war can be fought under the auspices of the U.N., if only America would yield to the French or the Russians or the Chinese. They are unwilling to act alone when others refuse to confront by force those who choose death over life and violence over peace.

On the other hand, there are those who believe that al-Qaida is merely one head of the hydra and that to kill the beast of terrorism you must drain the swamp in which the beast lives and the terrorists thrive. We have done that in Afghanistan, we are doing that in Iraq, and we must do it everywhere terrorism thrives.

Some critics, such as the junior Senator from Massachusetts, have argued that the war in Iraq is a distraction and that the global war on terrorism has actually been set back as a result of draining the swamp in Iraq. Senator Kerry's reversal on Iraq was wrong and his refusal to support $87 billion for U.S. troops for reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan stands as a stark rebuttal to President John F. Kennedy's call to "pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and success of liberty."

This war is not an isolated fight against al-Qaida but a global competition with a shadowy evil that lurks on every continent. It is a fight against the very enemies of freedom. We must never ever shrink from that fight. Terrorists do not reside in Afghanistan alone. It would be dangerously irresponsible to focus single-mindedly on al-Qaida while neglecting the other real threats facing our Nation. There is no doubt that terrorists reside in Iraq. We see evidence of this fact every single day on television.

Those who claim that Iraq is a distraction in the war against terrorism have very short memories, conveniently short memories. They have already forgotten that the Clinton administration State Department listed Iraq as a state sponsor of terrorism-that is the Clinton administration: Iraq as a state sponsor of terrorism-and that Saddam Hussein provided safe haven to international terrorists. We all know he made cash payments to families of suicide bombers among Palestinians.

Now the terrorists are currently making a desperate stand to prevent the establishment of an oasis of freedom in the heart of the Middle East. If we fail to eradicate the terrorists in Iraq, we will fail to defeat terrorism anywhere.

Waffling on our commitment to Iraq would convince the terrorists that America is little more than a paper tiger, and it would undermine our global efforts to deter other rogue states, such as Iraq and North Korea, from supporting terrorism.

We must not allow Iraq to become another Somalia. Going home early is the surest way to embolden the terrorists and to ensure the failure of our efforts to bring peace and security to the Middle East.

It was said the other day that Iraq is Bush's Vietnam. Nothing could be further from the truth. It may be Japan or Germany or Korea, but it is not Vietnam. We face lingering threats and challenges in those conflicts, but by staying the course we heralded in decades of freedom and prosperity in places such as Japan, Germany, and Korea. That is what will be done in Iraq.

Victory in Iraq is now central to our war against terrorism, and not only because it is preferable to fighting terrorists in Iraq rather than in New York. A free Iraq represents a mortal blow to the terrorists' goal of a radicalized Middle East.

Until you change the politics of the Middle East, Islamic fundamentalists are going to keep trying to kill Americans, and not even the best defenses will be able to prevent every conceivable attack against us here at home.

Establishing a democratic and economic beachhead in the backyard of radical Islam is itself a major success in the war against terrorism. Indeed, that is precisely why foreign terrorists are so committed to preventing the Iraqis from building a democracy in the heart of the Middle East.

The war against terrorism must be fought outside of Afghanistan, and it must continue after bin Laden is dead or behind bars; otherwise, we will find ourselves as vulnerable as we were on September 10. We cannot keep America safe by distinguishing between terrorists who have attacked us and terrorists who want to attack us.

In conclusion, I close with a quote from Michael Kelly, who died a year ago in Iraq while covering the war from the tip of the spear as an embedded journalist with the Third Infantry Division. He wrote in February before our liberation of Iraq about our cause in Iraq and the challenges we would face. Here is what Michael Kelly had to say:

There is risk; and if things go terribly wrong it is a risk that could result in terrible suffering. But that is an equation that is present in any just war, and in this case any rational expectation has to consider the probable cost to humanity to be low and the probable benefit to be tremendous. To choose perpetuation of tyranny over rescue from tyranny, where rescue may be achieved, is immoral.

Madam President, I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator's time has expired.
The Senator from Nevada.

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