Almost two years ago, on September 11th, 2001, al-Qaida terrorists carried out murderous attacks on targets in the United States. Since then, a U.S.-led coalition has been waging a global war against terrorism. The first battle was fought in Afghanistan, where the extremist Muslim Taleban regime had given sanctuary to al-Qaida. The Taleban have been removed from power in Afghanistan and nearly two-thirds of al-Qaida’s senior leaders have either been captured or killed.
The war on terror is also being pursued in Iraq. As President George W. Bush said, the coalition has removed a regime that sponsored terrorism, possessed and used weapons of mass destruction, and oppressed the Iraqi people:
“Iraq will no longer be a source of funding for suicide bombers in the Middle East.... [T]orture chambers in Iraq are closed, the prison cells for children are empty, and the people who speak their minds need not fear execution.”
But terrorist acts are still being committed in Iraq. Millions of Iraqis are mourning the murder of Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Bakir al-Hakim. As Ahmad Chalabi, chairman of the Iraqi Governing Council, put it, “Saddam Hussein has been removed from power, yet he continues to inflict terror on the Iraqi people.”
But terrorist attacks cannot derail Iraq’s movement toward democracy. On September 3rd, the Iraqi Governing Council swore in ministers who are responsible for the day-to-day business of governing the Iraqi people. The new officials will be involved in preparing a national budget. Soon Iraqis will draft a constitution. Iraq, said President Bush, “is now a point of testing in the war on terror”:
“Al-Qaida and the other global terror networks recognize that the defeat of Saddam Hussein’s regime is a defeat for them. They know that a democratic Iraq in the heart of the Middle East would be a further defeat for their ideology of terror. They know that the spread of peace and hope in the Middle East would undermine the appeal of bitterness, resentment, and violence. And the more progress we make in Iraq, the more desperate the terrorists will become. Freedom is a threat to their way of life.”
The U.S. remains committed to building a free and peaceful Iraq. The Iraqi people can be certain, said President Bush, that “the regime of Saddam Hussein is gone, and it is never coming back.”