Winning one war, wrapping up another

Aside from the political implications, it no longer matters whether there were strong ties between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq.

The United States is at war with terrorism. The United States has won a war in Iraq. The war on terrorism will continue indefinitely. The war in Iraq should not.

The commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks issued a report on Wednesday saying there were no significant links between Osama bin Laden's terrorist organization and the Iraqi regime in plotting the attacks.

The pronouncement drew wide attention because President Bush had said - and was still insisting after the report was issued - there was evidence of a connection. The issue is important politically because critics say Bush used the inflamed emotions of Americans over the World Trade Center and Pentagon deaths to invade Iraq. This being an election year, it's a question of leadership and judgment.

But the far more terrifying aspects of the Sept. 11 commission's report were the details of just how far Osama bin Laden and his henchmen were willing to go.

The possibility of 10 jetliners crashing into targets? A goal of crippling the U.S. economy? A second wave of attacks in the days after Sept. 11?

As horrified as Americans were by the attacks, and as dire were the comparisons with the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor, the details of the commission's report indicate we were perhaps still underestimating the enemy. This truly is warfare on a global scale.

Supporters of the war in Iraq aren't dissuaded by the absence of weapons of mass destruction, and they won't be dissuaded by a report disavowing direct links with al Qaida. They believe Saddam Hussein needed to be taken down regardless.

The point now must be how much in military and intelligence resources will continue to be used in Iraq, when the enemy in the other war - terrorism - is the greater threat to Americans.

We hope President Bush, when he speaks in Reno today, spends less time defending past decisions and much more time outlining his strategy for winning one war and wrapping up the other.


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