June 4, 2003 | Scripps Howard News Service

The Anti-anti-terrorism Campaign

The Battle of Iraq may be over, but the Battle over Iraq has just begun.

An odd assortment of Blame-America-Firsters, Bush-bashers, Saddam apologists and Appeasement Activists have launched a campaign designed to tarnish the liberation of Iraq and weaken America's response to the continuing threat of Jihadist terrorism.

Amnesty International kicked off the new anti-anti-terrorism campaign with a recently released report featuring this non sequitur: “Governments have spent billions to strengthen national security and the ‘war on terrorism.' Yet for millions of people, the real sources of insecurity are corruption, repression, discrimination, extreme poverty and preventable diseases.”

Well, actually the intervention in Iraq struck a fatal blow against Saddam Hussein's corruption, repression and discrimination. But it's true that the funds Americans are now devoting to security can not be spent to for economic development and health care in Congo and Bangladesh. Surely, the blame for that lies with the terrorists and those who support them and not, as implied, with Americans for wanting to defend themselves and their children from mass murderers.

Opponents of the Iraq war also have been having a field day making slanderous charges against the US based on the fact that Saddam's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) have not yet been located. Since no WMD have been found, they suggest, it follows that no WMD ever existed. That's as logical as saying that since Saddam has not been found, it follows that he never existed.

Scott Ritter, the former weapons inspector who has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Saddam supporter in the US (ostensibly for making a documentary film), recently charged that the Bush administration “fabricated a case against Iraq” and that Congress was “deceived by the President.” Similar charges are being made in the European press, in such left-wing publications as The Nation – and even by columnists in The New York Times and the Washington Post.

There is no doubt that Saddam not only had WMD, he also used WMD – against Kurds and Iranians, for example. He never accounted for the laundry list of WMD compiled by the UN inspectors who were forced to leave Iraq in 1998. We know he had mobile bio factories – two have been found so far. There are Iraqi scientists who acknowledge having worked on WMD programs, and who say flat out they lied about it while Saddam was still in power.  UN Resolution 1441, signed by every Security Council member, agrees that Saddam was in “material breach” of his obligation to surrender his WMD.

But a mystery remains: Where are Saddam's WMD? Did he ship them to Syria and/or Lebanon in the weeks leading up to the war — as some intelligence sources believe? Did he destroy them secretly (which also would have been a violation of UN resolutions) with the intent to recreate them once the heat was off? Surely, the least likely theory is that Saddam got rid of his WMD years ago but refused to allow his scientists to be interviewed, assigned thousands of goons to frustrate inspectors, endured years of economic sanctions and ended up losing his throne just for sport.

The most recent wave in the anti-anti-terrorism campaign is the American Civil Liberties Union's distortion of a report from the Justice Department's Inspector General on the roundup of illegal aliens immediately following 9/11. Anthony Romero, the ACLU's executive director, claims the report proves that “civil liberties and the rights of immigrants were trampled in the aftermath of 9/11.”

A total of 762 people were detained in the three months after 9/11 — not many considering that there are millions of foreigners living in the US. Every individual detained was in this country illegally – not one was a legal immigrant. All were subsequently charged with criminal or civil violations; 505 have since been deported. How many terrorists may have been among that group, we'll never know. We do know that those detained included Zacarias Moussaoui, since indicted for “conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism”

The IG's report does not allege that the Justice Department violated federal laws or detainees' civil rights. It did find “a pattern of physical and verbal abuse” at two detention facilities, both in New York, where the World Trade Center had been turned into an inferno by suicide terrorists. “Verbal abuse” means some detainees were yelled at and called names. “Physical abuse” means long “lockdowns,” using handcuffs, leg irons and chains when transporting detainees, and making some detainees sleep with the lights on.

Such treatment is reprehensible, even when dealing with illegal aliens. But let's understand that in the emotionally intense days following 9/11, those guarding the detainees still had in their minds vivid images of friends and neighbors being incinerated and buried alive. Under these circumstances, their actions — if not defensible — were at least understandable. The IG is to be commended for raising these issues, and the Justice Department for considering his criticisms and recommendations. But it is playing crass politics for the ACLU to now use the IG's report to accuse Justice of “trampling immigrant rights.”

It shouldn't be hard to see what's really going on here. We've been through it before. During the Cold War, similar types successfully launched an anti-anti-Communism campaign. To those on the Left and their many friends in the Chattering Classes, it was daring and chic to be pro-Communist. But to be an anti-Communist, to be a Cold Warrior – that was beyond the pale. The same kind of negative brand must not be allowed to attach to those who understand that defending the Free World from Jihadist terrorism is a matter of life and death.

Clifford D. May, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, is the president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a think tank on terrorism.