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Ralph Peters is a regular columnist with the New York Post. Register here for access to the Post's Online Edition.



PETERS 9/11: Five Years On
by Ralph Peters [author, novelist] 9/12/06

The biggest story since 9/11 is that there hasn't been an other 9/11. According to our hysterical media culture, everything's always going wrong. The truth is that we've gotten the big things right.

On this fifth anniversary of the cold-blooded murder of thousands of Americans by Islamist fanatics, it's tempting to settle for grand rhetoric honoring our dead and damning our enemies. But the greatest tribute to those lost on that September morning is what we've since achieved.

In this vile political season, with those on the left suggesting that our president's a worse threat to civilization than Islamist terror, the rest of us should just review what's happened - and what hasn't:
Ralph Peters - Contributor
Ralph Peters is a retired Army officer and the author of 19 books, as well as of hundreds of essays and articles, written both under his own name and as Owen Parry. He is a frequent columnist for the New York Post and other publications. [go to Peters Index]

Islamist fanatics have not been able to stage a single additional attack on our homeland. For all its growing pains, our homeland-security effort worked. In this long war with religion-poisoned madmen, the most important proof of success is what doesn't happen - and we haven't been struck again. Wail as loudly as they can, the president's critics can't change that self-evident truth.

Eventually, some terrorists will get through. That's just the law of averages. But we've enjoyed five golden years of safety and prosperity, thanks to our men and women in uniform and those who serve at all levels of government.

Al Qaeda is badly crippled. While the terror organization and its affiliates remain a deadly threat, al Qaeda is no longer the powerful, unchallenged outfit it was in the years of Clinton-era cowardice. Instead of holding court, Osama bin Laden's a fugitive. Almost all of his deputies are dead or imprisoned. The rest are hunted men.

And yes, we'll get Osama. Those who whine that we haven't offer no specific solutions themselves - and they'd like us to forget how long it took to apprehend criminals such as the Unabomber here at home. Al Qaeda can still kill, but its power has been reduced by an order of magnitude.

Terrorists no longer operate in freedom. Even Europeans have begun to awaken to the nature of Islamist fanaticism. One terror plot after another has been foiled. Those that succeeded proved counterproductive, mobilizing anti-terrorist sentiment. The world hasn't fully come to grips with the threat, but the progress has been remarkable. The terrorists are now on the defensive.

Our enemies fear our military again. Despite tragic mistakes in Iraq, we've already accomplished one crucial mission neglected for a generation: We've resurrected the reputation of the American soldier.

After our maddening retreats from Beirut and Mogadishu, and the Clinton administration's unwillingness to retaliate meaningfully after terrorist attacks, Islamist extremists concluded - and bragged - that Americans were cowards who wouldn't fight and hid behind technology. Well, Iraq proved that our troops don't run, but fight more fiercely than any other soldiers on earth. Now it's the terrorists who rely on stand-off weapons - roadside bombs. They're terrified of taking on our forces in combat. The importance of regaining our street cred can't be stressed enough.

Iraq has become al Qaeda's Vietnam. No end of lies have been broadcast about our liberation of Iraq and Afghanistan "creating more terrorists." The terrorists were already there, recruited during the decades we looked away. Our arrival on their turf just brought them out of the woodwork.

As for Iraq, Osama & Co. realized full well how high we'd raised the stakes. They had to fight to prevent the emergence of a Middle Eastern democracy. As a result, they've thrown in their reserves - who've been slaughtered by our soldiers and Marines.

The media obsesses on the price of this fight for us, but the terrorists have been forced to pay a terrible cost in trained fighters - while alienating fellow Muslims with their tactics. Pundits will argue forever over whether deposing Saddam was a diversion from the War on Terror, but the proof of its relevance - even if unexpected - is the unaffordable cost we've forced on al Qaeda.

We've achieved new levels of domestic security without compromising civil liberties. Frisking granny at the airport may be silly, but (despite the lies of the Left) Americans continue to live in unprecedented freedom. The Patriot Act and other measures worked - without harming the rights of a single law-abiding citizen. The only people who lost out were the terrorists and their supporters. We should be applauding the feds, not running them down.

America is much stronger today than we were five years ago. We have new homeland-security structures up and running, improved intelligence agencies - and the most experienced military in the world.

The dishonest nature of domestic politics and the media's irresponsibility obscure the fact that no one - not even the terrorists - now believes that our enemies can win a global victory. The terrorists are no longer fighting for conquest - they're running a salvage operation.

Does that mean everything's perfect? Of course not. As noted above, some terrorists will manage to hit us again. But if attempt No. 500 succeeds, it doesn't mean it wasn't worth stopping the other 499. Yet, after the next attack, we'll hear no end of trash-talk about how the War on Terror "failed."

The truth is that we're winning. Hands down. We just can't afford to revert to yesteryear's weakness and indecision.

WHAT should we worry about? Plenty. First, the unscrupulous nature of those in the media who always discover a dark cloud in the brightest silver lining. They're terror's cheerleaders. Second, the rabid partisanship infecting our political system - when "getting Bush" is more important than protecting our country, something's wrong.

A third concern is the Internet's empowerment of fanatics, conspiracy-theorists and all of the really good haters - on both extremes of the political spectrum. If there's one thing all responsible citizens, conservative, centrist or liberal, should agree on, it's that all extremism is un-American.

On this September morning, let us dedicate ourselves to living for the values the hijackers feared: freedom, tolerance, human dignity - and the invincible strength of our democratic society. The greatest tribute we can pay to the dead of 9/11 is to be good Americans. CRO

Ralph Peters' latest book is Never Quit The Fight.

This piece first appeared in the New York Post
copyright 2006 - NY Post

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