Was Iraq part of the Global War on Terror?
The World Trade Center. Bali. Madrid. Beslan. These names are synonymous with devastating attacks by terrorists targeting innocent civilians. There is little doubt we are engaged in a global war on terror. There are disagreements, however, with the methods used to defeat terrorists.
A major area of dispute lies with Iraq's role in the war on terror. General Tommy Franks, the former commander of the U.S. Military's Central Command, is on record as saying, "There is no question that Saddam Hussein had intent to do harm to the… United States of America... that a regime has intent to do harm to this country, and if we have something beyond a reasonable doubt that this particular regime may have the wherewithal with which to execute the intent, what are our actions and orders as leaders in this country?"
The 9/11 Commission couched its report delicately, perhaps due to political considerations, claiming that Al Qaeda and Iraq had no "operational" links. That statement, however, masks Iraq's involvement with not only Al Qaeda associates, but its longstanding support for extremists.
Terror heavyweights Abu Abbas, Abu Nidal, and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi were all present in Iraq prior to the war. A terrorist training center at Salman Pak featured a Boeing 707, which was used to train hijackers. The Al Qaeda affiliate Ansar al Islam operated in Iraq. And Hussein’s government provided official support and funds for numerous terror groups including Hamas and Hezbollah.
Furthermore, details of Iraq's nuclear weapons program are only now emerging thanks to Mahdi Obeidi, its former head of uranium enrichment. In the aftermath of the war, Obeidi disclosed to American officials that his backyard contained uranium-enriching gas centrifuges. He described the hide-and-seek games Iraq played with UN weapons inspectors. We now know that Iraq was fully prepared to resume its nuclear weapons program as sanctions eased.
In addition, recently disclosed Iraqi intelligence documents -- confiscated by U.S. forces -- confirm that Iraq possessed both anthrax and mustard gas prior to the war.
Iraq was, quite literally, a major terrorist way station in the Middle East. The current fight to bring Democracy to Iraq is an important step in combating global terrorism. If the end of Cold War is any indication, freedom will spread its wings. A Democratic Iraq will bring enlightenment, economic prosperity, tolerance and, hopefully, a repeatable formula to end state-sponsored terror throughout the world.