TCS Daily

Your Money or Your Life?

By Gil Weinreich - October 27, 2004 12:00 AM

Four years ago, I wrote an article on the 2000 presidential election from an economic point of view. The key issues discussed were the estate tax and Social Security reform. So what are the key issues this time -- lifetime savings accounts; whether dividend tax cuts will be made permanent; the return of inflation? In my opinion, there is only one issue in this election -- from an economic or any other point of view: who is most capable of winning the war on terror.

Some people believe that Republicans are the pro-business party, pointing to the GOP's philosophy of lower taxes and its relationships with big backers on Wall Street. Democrats might cite the mythic performance of the stock market of the '90s as a reason their party is better. This is an interesting debate -- one that should be saved for times of peace, when the optimal fiscal policy matters. But a sensible fiscal policy presupposes a functioning economy and, as the memory of 9/11 should make clear, the ability to shut down our economy is within the grasp of our enemies.

As I write, Maryland police have arrested a man, Ismail Elbarasse, whose wife was videotaping the cables and supports of the Chesapeake Bay bridge as he drove along the 4.3-mile span. Police found family scenes and then detailed footage of structural features of the bridge. Sure enough, the driver of the vehicle is connected to the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. Our next president should know that:

All of these terrorist groups are working together. Al Qaeda is not our only enemy.

This summer, police in Charlotte, N.C., arrested a Pakistani man who filmed a dam, banks and public-transport systems in half a dozen U.S. cities. Few people know that Charlotte is the second biggest banking center in the nation, with more than $1 trillion in assets, more than twice that of the next biggest banking center, Chicago. Not many people know this fact, but the terrorists know it. Our next president should know that:

The terrorists do not rest. They are feverishly preparing for the next attack on the U.S., which could occur anywhere.

As the Maryland and North Carolina episodes illustrate, the terrorists are everywhere -- not just big cities and certainly not just in the Middle East. And while most terrorists are young men of Middle Eastern origin, al Qaeda is actively recruiting women and Europeans -- converts to Islam -- to join their jihad. Visa Express -- the now shuttered State Department program that allowed Saudi applicants, including 9/11 mastermind Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, entry visas without even an interview -- may help explain why 15 of the 19 9/11 terrorists were Saudi nationals. Because West European passport holders can enter the United States without a visa, expect more terrorists to come from England, France and Germany. Our next president should know that:

We must take aggressive measures to secure our land, air and sea ports of entry and coordinate law enforcement and counterintelligence efforts.

The purpose of the terrorists' surveillance activity is to maximize the damage they could do to U.S. targets using weapons of mass destruction. The terrorists have the will and unemployed and impoverished former Soviet scientists have the ability to procure or develop such weapons -- if they can evade detection from U.S. authorities. Our next president should know that:

We must prepare defenses against and responses to any public safety emergency anywhere in the U.S.

Besides vigilance at home, we must engage the fight abroad. Iraq and Afghanistan are merely regional battlefields in this war. With Saddam gone, we must address the other axis of evil powers, Iran and North Korea. U.S. Northern Command General Ed Eberhard says the greatest threat to U.S. security emanates from a seaborne nuclear attack from North Korea. Other analysts, including terrorism expert Michael Ledeen, argue the gravest threat comes from Iran, which recently purchased two nuclear submarines from Russia and may be able to enrich enough uranium for a nuclear weapon within a year, according to U.S. officials.

Imagine an Iranian nuclear sub surfacing off the coast of Florida in a surprise attack. This is not far fetched. General Eberhard has warned that while we have attained nearly complete mastery of the air in response to 9/11, particularly through the implementation of new missile defense technology, we remain vulnerable to maritime attack. As for the Iranians, they have made their intentions completely clear -- they want to attack us, as the Japanese did in 1941, fearing we will attack first and degrade their offensive fighting capability.

In an interview in August with Al Jazeera, Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said, "We won't sit with our hands tied and wait until someone does something to us."

"Some military leaders in Iran are convinced that the pre-emptive measures that America is talking about are not their right alone," he added.

Our next president should know that:

The Iranian mullahcracy fired the first shot in the Islamist war against the "Great Satan" a quarter-century ago when they held 52 Americans captive for 444 days. They remain our most implacable enemy.

Our next president, be it Bush or Kerry, will have no choice but to focus on Iran. This will gain us as much popularity in the world as has our war in Iraq. Indeed, the U.K., France and Germany have led the diplomatic charge to halt Iran's uranium enrichment program in favor of a more peaceful nuclear "energy" program. As if a nation with vast reserves of oil and gas needs to commit a major portion of its GDP to alternative energy sources. Or maybe the mullahs are just dedicated environmentalists seeking cleaner fuels.

Of course, the time it will take to perfect this agreement is longer than the time it will take for Iran to get the bomb. Maybe the British and Germans are just naive, but the ever cynical French are coldly looking at the trade benefits to them of enabling Iran's entry into the nuclear club. Our next president should know that:

The bombs are meant for us. We don't need anybody's approval to defend ourselves.

The 9/11 Commission, in assessing responsibility for the surprise attack that took 3,000 American lives, cited our collective "failure of imagination." This is true as far as it goes. But there is an even more basic failure simply to take our enemies at their word. Hitler made his intentions clear in "Mein Kampf." And today's Islamist enemies declare their goals daily.

Consider a statement documented by The SITE Institute, a terrorism research organization, simply because it is today's installment, and a very telling one. A new Saudi-based web magazine for women, Al-Khansa, is apparently aimed at teaching wives of Islamists how to harmonize domestic life with jihad:

"The blood of our husbands and the body parts of our children are our sacrificial offering."

That about says it all. Our enemies openly declare their faith in human sacrifice -- even of their own children if that advances their jihadist quest to murder American "infidels." Recall the slaughter of Nick Berg and Paul Johnson, whose heads were sawed off by al Qaeda terrorists in Iraq. They were noncombatants. Their only crime was being American. And that is why -- for all Americans -- the focus of this election must be about the war between those who love life and those who love death.

Gil Weinreich is the editor of Research magazine and can be reached through his website,


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