Thursday, August 10, 2006

An Opportunity

British authorities said today that they thwarted a terrorist plot to simultaneously blow up several aircraft heading to the United States using explosives smuggled in carry-on luggage. Security was raised to its highest level in Britain, and carry-on bags were banned on all flights. Washington raised its threat alert to its highest level for commercial flights from Britain to the United States amid fears the plot had not been completely crushed. The alert for all flights coming or going from the United States was also raised. British police arrested 21 people; supposedly capturing the main suspects in what U.S. officials said are the earmarks of an al-Qaida plot.

Though this is a major inconvenience for travelers and the news focus has shifted once again, at least for a day, away from the Middle East it is important to remember that al-Qaida are the terrorists we (US military and government) should go after. The homegrown terrorism daily endured in Iraq is largely of the occupation’s making and subsequent sectarian violence a branch of this terrorist tree.

Since 2003 most American’s have been side tracked in body and in mind. Iraq and all that has unfolded since the initial military operations has consumed media attention as well as public opinion and Congressional action. With this said, diplomatic relations, congressional appropriation bills, and fact-finding trips have taken place to Afghanistan, and sadly violence has continued between Afghan rebels and coalition forces.

But, al-Qaida has largely been forgotten.

The terrorist plot uncovered today is scary because there is no doubt about its circumstances or implications. However, it is also a VERY big opportunity for the Bush Administration and Democrats.

Al-Qaida has provided a clean slate for President Bush to go after Osama bin-Laden, again. Yes, since 2001, military operations have continued with the aim to hunt bin-Laden down, but todays plot unveiling offers the Bush Administration a chance to refocus. Define the mission to a public growing skeptical of Bush’s leadership in the War on Terror. It is likely that pressure has been placed on Pakistani President Musharraf to help ferret bin-Laden and his fighters out of the Pakistani mountains that border Afghanistan where bin-Laden is said to be hiding since 2002. The uncovering of this recent terrorist plot and spotlight on al-Qaida might now provide the additional weight that Musharraf and Bush need to conduct new operations against bin-Laden.

Democrats also have an opportunity with this terrorist plot discovery. A ground swell of grassroots activism (a large part of Party politics) has begun and top-Democrats who have been seen as centrist or supportive of President Bush’s policies in Iraq, namely Senator Joseph Lieberman face primary challengers and defeat. This internal re-organization and battle of ideas within the Democratic Party has been effectively exposed by Republican strategists and used to Republican advantage over the past few years. This does not have to continue.

Democrats have the opening they have sought for many months in order to change the debate, define the mission—military as well as diplomatic—and put aside potentially debilitating in-fighting over the Iraq war. This is the time to seize the initiative from the Republican spin machine.

The War on Terrorism has always had one main objective: al-Qaida. It is time to fight our prime enemy with renewed determination, clarity of direction and focus. This can and must be achieved. It does not require internal Party debate or polls. The only question is what Party will act first?

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