December 16, 2003 | Op-ed

Iraqi terrorism exposed

Authored by Austen Givens

An article released yesterday by United Press International and published by The Washington Times online provides firsthand insight into what has been largely speculation and conjecture about terrorism in Iraq to date – terrorists are entering Iraq from neighboring countries, and are enjoying a wide network of support, from state sponsors of terrorism (Iran, Syria) to international terrorist networks such as Al-Qaeda. These terrorists are operating in conjunction with leftover Ba'athist hardliners from Saddam Hussein's regime. These terrorists are not interested in a bright future of freedom in Iraq.

Despite these groups' best efforts to thwart the Coalition's efforts, however, it is we – not they – who are winning.

The article is based upon a series of interviews with a militant who assumed the false name Abu Mujahid. Mujahid's observations about his terrorism campaign give keen insight into the mind of a jihad terrorist:

“I had always looked at the American government as respectable, until now,” he said. “They are educated. They know how to build things, how to think and how to work hard. They promised to liberate us from occupation. They promised us rights and liberty, and my colleagues and I waited to make our decision on whether to fight until we saw how they would act.”[1]

 Mujahid and his thug companions' observations about the United States government are largely true – most government officials, and particularly those conducting reconstruction efforts in Iraq, are very well educated, highly motivated people, interested in creating and promoting a free and independent Iraq side-by-side with fellow Iraqis. In spite of this and clear evidence of progress in Iraqi reconstruction[2], Mujahid and his group continue to conduct attacks against Coalition forces in Iraq.

It's difficult to understand Muhjahid's reasoning here – the United States has repeatedly stated and maintained in its actions that it is not in Iraq as a permanent occupying force. Indeed, plans to hand over rule to the Iraqi people are tentatively slated for June of 2004.

Mujahid's twisted reasoning echoes that of most jihad terrorists on the world stage today – most notably among them, Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden's 1998 fatwa against the United States lists a series of grievances against us – among them, occupation of the Arabian Peninsula by military forces.[3] This, it should be noted, has been slated to be terminated by the end of the year.[4]

Similar tired complaints about the west's “raping” of the Middle East are common in jihad terrorist lexicon, but when examined against contemporary reality – and this is in no way to discount western colonial history in the Middle East – they are flimsy, empty excuses to continue to target and murder civilians.

They are based on upon empty reasoning that twists and warps the fundamental tenants of great and peaceful religion into one of death and destruction.

Like bin Laden's fatwas, they are largely baseless allegations that at the same time ignore the unspeakable injustices that occur in the Middle East today – Iran under Khamenei, Afghanistan under the former Taliban, Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Syria under Assad – each of these regimes is renowned for the tight lid kept upon freedom of expression in any form in their respective nations.

 Others, like in the Afghan and Iraqi case, were known further still for their brutalizing of civilians – including arbitrary imprisonment, rape, murder, and chemical weapon attacks against their own people.

Mujahid's words also betray terrorist strategy in Iraq today – that is, shifting away from targeting Coalition forces to largely Iraqi targets, such as police stations. For Mujahid to claim that “I don't like Osama bin Laden and don't want to fight jihad against America. The Iraqi people just want the Americans to leave our country,”[5] and in the same breath murder fellow Iraqis under the guise of “freedom fighting” reveals another key pillar in the mind of the jihad terrorist – that is, terrorism is not murder. Terrorism is fighting for freedom.

No one who randomly targets and kills innocent civilians is fighting for freedom. They are terrorists. They are murderers interested in death, destruction, and bringing a free society to its knees. They do not care about the great strides Iraq has made following the fall of the Hussein dictatorship. They are not interested in freedom.

Thankfully, with the cooperation of Iraqis interested in promoting a state free from hard-line Islamic rule, free from oppression, free from fear, the Coalition is slowly but surely building its way to an open, liberated, thriving society. Schools are open. Electricity is back at or above pre-war levels in most of the country. Children are playing in the streets. Buildings left to rot under Hussein's regime are being rebuilt. Police and soldiers are being recruited and trained in enforcing the law and keeping the peace, but this time with a twist – a healthy does of human rights training.

The terrorists are losing. As Mujahid points out, “It has been very bad. We have lost more men to these strikes and in arrests. One of our men was waiting to ambush a U.S. Humvee when he was arrested.”[6]

President Bush has done an incredible thing in Iraq. With the help of Coalition partners, he has torn down an oppressive, brutal regime and broken up its corrupt institutions. He has begun rebuilding these institutions from the ground up with the interests of the Iraqi people – not the Iraqi regime – in mind.

The Coalition campaign in Iraq – as in Afghanistan – has been about bringing freedom to a long-oppressed people, defending the world's democracies, and defeating terrorism. This is something which, as Americans, we should never apologize for.

Austen Givens is a fourth-year Foreign Affairs major at the University of Virginia and an Undergraduate Fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a non-profit, non-partisan anti-terrorism research institute based in Washington, D.C.