Lieberman is U.S. Senator from Connecticut [go
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War Against Jihadists
The Senator addresses a symposium on “Iraq's Future
and the War on Terrorism”...
[Senator Joe Lieberman] 6/21/04
to the Foundation
for the Defense of Democracy for sponsoring
this important symposium on the future of Iraq and
the war on terrorism. Through gatherings such as this one, the
Foundation is helping “lead the war of ideas in the battle
between freedom and totalitarianism.”
Today I want to discuss the war we are waging against Islamic
terrorists in Iraq and around the world, and to argue that it
is fundamentally a war of ideas and a war of values, a war of
conflicting visions of humans and history, of faith and country.
The war on terrorism we are fighting goes to the very heart of
America's national purpose and national security. Our core principles
of freedom and opportunity are at stake.
In the flurry of news
bombarding us each day of the ups and downs from all fronts
in the war on terrorism, it is easy to
forget the larger ideals that it is all about. Car bombings in
Baghdad… pipeline attacks in Riyadh… assassination
attempts in Islamabad… foiled terrorist plots in Thailand… victories
in Afghanistan… arrests in Columbus, Ohio… may cause
people to lose sight of the values we are fighting for in this
war – and the values we are fighting against.
We cannot let that happen. A democracy such as ours can only
go to war and win with the informed support of the people.
The terrorists can never defeat us militarily. But they can
divide us and defeat us politically if the American people become
disappointed and disengaged, because they don't appreciate and
support the overriding principles that require us to take military
action. The same, of course, is true for our allies in Europe,
Asia and throughout the Muslim world. They need to better understand
and embrace our purpose and what it means for them.
What we are fighting for in Iraq and around the world is freedom.
What we are fighting against is an Islamic terrorist totalitarian
movement which is as dire a threat to individual liberty as the
fascist and communist totalitarian threats we faced and defeated
were in the last century.
What we are fighting for is an expanding worldwide community
of democracies. What we are fighting against is the prospect
of a new evil empire, a radical Islamic caliphate which would
suppress the freedom of its people and threaten the security
of every other nation's citizens.
The Chinese strategist
Sun Tzu said that the keys to victory in any armed struggle
are to “know thyself” and to “know
thy enemy.” His ancient wisdom should guide our modern
To win the war on terrorism, we must better understand ourselves
and our enemies.
From the beginning,
we Americans defined our nation not by its borders, but by
its ideals. They are spelled out in our founding
documents. The Declaration of Independence says, “all men
are created equal” and “are endowed by their Creator
with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty
and the pursuit of happiness.” The Declaration also makes
clear that governments derive “their just powers from the
consent of the governed,” not from the power of those who
The Constitution explains
that “we the people” sought
to form “a more perfect union” to secure “the
blessings of liberty.”
Equality. Opportunity. Democracy. Unity. Liberty. Those are
the values America stands for, the ideals we are fighting for
in Iraq and around the world. Those are the bright stars we must
always chart our national course by.
As President Reagan
once said: “What kind of people do
we think we are? Free people, worthy of freedom and determined
not only to remain so but to help others gain their freedom as
In our time, that particularly means the hundreds and millions
of men and women who live in Arab and Islamic countries, largely
outside the realm of freedom which has otherwise expanded so
magnificently during the decade and a half since the Berlin Wall
was torn down.
American foreign policy has changed repeatedly over our 228
years of history to reflect changing realities. But remaining
constant throughout has been our belief that we must protect
and promote America's unique ideals throughout the world. And
more often than not, we have succeeded. Presidents of both political
parties have upheld this principled core of American foreign
So too in Iraq today. In Iraq, we are not fighting for territorial
conquest or economic plunder. We are fighting for freedom and
Next, we must know our enemy. The Islamist jihadist terrorists
who wage holy war against us in Iraq and elsewhere represent
a system of values exactly the opposite of America's.
There is no better
way to know this enemy than to read their words. The father
of the jihadist movement, Sayyed Qutb [KUH-tahb]
of Egypt, wrote in 1952, “The death of those who are killed
for the cause of God gives more impetus to the cause, which continues
to thrive on their blood.” The cause of which he speaks
is to “establish a [Muslim] state” that “sets
moral values,” “abolish[es] man-made laws” and
that would impose, by force if necessary, the Islamic system
on “all human beings, whether they be rulers or ruled,
black or white, poor or rich, ignorant or learned.”
This is a radicalized,
violent vision of Islam, as yet embraced by only a minority
of Muslims. Pluralism of any kind – a
diversity of views or faiths – affronts this radical minority's
absolutist vision. Their theological totalitarianism leaves no
room for individual freedom.
Restoring the caliphate – the seat of secular and ecclesiastical
power that existed for centuries across a wide territory – is
their goal. You can read it in their writings: They would create
a new evil empire, stretching from Istanbul to Islamabad, from
Khartoum to Kabul, from Kuala Lampur to Bangkok, and beyond.
Osama Bin Laden is the leading advocate of this jihadist view
in the world today, the current mastermind of this malevolent
movement. Every American should carefully read his clearly stated
words of intention to know why we must defeat him.
In his “Declaration of the World Islamic Front for Jihad,” issued
in February 1998, Bin Laden says that “to kill Americans
and their allies, both civil and military, is an individual duty
of every Muslim… every Muslim who believes in God and hopes
for reward [must] obey God's command to kill the Americans and
plunder their possessions wherever he finds them and whenever
In his November 1998 “Letter to America,” Bin Laden
condemned the United States because, he said, like all democracies,
it is a “nation who, rather than ruling by the Sharia of
Allah in its Constitution and Laws, chooses to invent your own
laws as you will and desire.” After September 11th attacks,
he gloated triumphantly that “the values of Western civilization… of
liberty, human rights, and humanity, have been destroyed.”
In this war of ideas and values, Bin Laden is the quintessential
The values and ideas
which we cherish and which Osama Bin Laden denounces are on
the line in the Iraq war. To call the war in
Iraq separate and distinct from the larger war on terrorism is
inaccurate. Iraq today is a battle – a crucial battle – in
the global war on terrorism.
It was the mortal
and moral threats posed by Saddam Hussein that moved me to
support his overthrow in 1991. And although
many in my own party have disagreed, I am confident that support
for the use of force to remove Saddam Hussein's regime of terror
from Iraq and now to defeat the terrorists who are fighting us
there is true to a long and proud tradition within the Democratic
Party. The ideals for which we fight in Iraq today are “Wilsonian.” And
they were upheld and advanced by other Democratic leaders against
freedom's foes in their time, leaders like Franklin Roosevelt… Harry
Truman… John F. Kennedy… Henry M. Jackson… Bill
Democrats with a capital “D” have long been ready
to stand up and fight for democracy with a small “d.” We
must and will stand up and fight for democracy in Iraq today.
The connection between
the Iraqi insurgency we are fighting today and Al Qaeda's worldwide
campaign of anti-democratic terror
is now clear. Bin Laden's henchmen are fighting side-by-side
with Saddam loyalists on the streets of Baghdad, Fallujah, Najaf
and across Iraq – killing Americans and killing Iraqis,
striving to stop the onward march of Iraqi self-government, of
This should come as
no surprise. Six years ago, in his 1998 Declaration, bin Laden
made common cause with Iraq against the
United States. Decrying the “American aggression against
the Iraqi people,” bin Laden said that “in spite
of the appalling number of dead, exceeding a million, the Americans
nevertheless… are trying once more to repeat this dreadful
slaughter…So they come again to destroy what remains of
this people and to humiliate their Muslim neighbors.”
President Bush and Senator Kerry have repeatedly declared their
support for the war in Iraq and the principles at stake there.
But nonetheless, today in America support for the war is in jeopardy.
The continuing anti-American violence has turned off many who
forget all that is on the line for us and the world in Iraq today.
The prison abuse scandal has caused many to question our moral
standing in Iraq and to use it as an excuse to pull our troops
out. That is thoroughly unjustified and profoundly dangerous.
As I said earlier, the terrorists will never defeat us militarily.
We cannot let them defeat us politically.
That is where you in the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies
and all who share your values have a critical role to play in
the days ahead.
At the outset of the Cold War, President Truman made clear that
might of arms alone would not be enough to win that war. He stressed
the need to bolster the world's economy so prosperity would replace
despair, and to share America's industrial and technical knowledge
with the world's people so they could lift themselves out of
poverty, and into freedom.
We must do the same.
We must show the Iraqi people, and people throughout the Islamic
world, that democracy can deliver, that
opportunity can replace despair, that hope can conquer hatred.
We must accelerate the distribution of U.S. reconstruction assistance
to Iraq, and we must widen our focus to include not only infrastructure
repair, but jobs. Unemployment in Iraq is sky high – and
every pair of idle hands there is the terrorists' workshop. To
win the war for democracy in Iraq, we must put Iraq back to work.
We must also persistently pursue our allies in Europe, the Middle
East and Asia to invest generously in Iraq and thereby enhance
their own future security and freedom. They deceive themselves
if they believe they can remain non-combatants in the global
war against jihadism and for freedom.
A generous Marshall Plan to vitalize and democratize the Middle
East and Central Asia, like the one called for in legislation
I recently cosponsored with Senator Chuck Hagel is urgently needed.
In the end, the war on terrorism will be won not just with swords,
but with ploughshares as well, in the form of economic opportunity
and political freedom.
The outcome of the
battle in Iraq will have ramifications that extend far beyond
that country's borders. If democracy does not
prevail in Iraq, it would embolden the terrorists and vindicate
Osama bin Laden's offensive allegation that “we have seen
in the last decade the decline of the American government and
the weakness of the American soldier…”
Instability would spread throughout the Middle East. Iraq would
become a new base of operations for Al Qaeda and new impetus
for Osama bin Laden's drive to replace the Saudi royal family
and build a larger Islamic empire around it.
In his message to
Congress in 1917 asking for a declaration of war against imperial
Germany, President Woodrow Wilson said: “The
world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted
upon the tested foundations of political liberty. We have no
selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We
seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for
the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are but one of the champions
of the rights of mankind. We shall be satisfied when those rights
have been made as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations
can make them.”
We are fighting today in Iraq alongside Iraqis and throughout
the world alongside freedom-loving Muslims against the jihadists
for the same values President Wilson articulated nearly one hundred
years ago. If we can hold the American people together again
around our noble cause, we are destined to prevail and secure
our liberties, and the people of Iraq and the Muslim world are
destined to prosper in freedom and opportunity. CRO
for the Defense of Democracy's Symposium on “Iraq's
Future and the War on Terrorism” June 16, 2004