An Open Letter to Secretary of State Powell

Dear Secretary Powell:

The friends of our enemies are not our friends.

I am fully aware of the philosophy that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” but I must admit that I am totally unfamiliar with any political philosophy that is based on the premise that “the friends of my enemies are my friends.”

Recent directives from the State Department lead me to believe that our current policy on terrorism is ambiguous, contradictory, and in the end will cause serious and irreparable harm to American interest and credibility, here and abroad, over the long term.

I question the wisdom of forming an antiterrorist coalition that includes Arab countries such as Syria and Iran that are known to provide shelter, offices and financial support to the very same terrorist organizations against whom this country has just declared war.


I question an ambiguous foreign policy that targets only one (possibly two, if you include Iraq) country for sheltering terrorists, while implicitly condoning others that provide them with training camps (such as Pakistan, Sudan, Somalia and Kenya) and indirect funding (Saudi Arabia). Unless these states act to eradicate terrorist organizations operating within and from their countries, we will be involved in a perpetual terrorist gopher hunt – and time is running out. Take away their state support and the entire scaffolding of international terrorism will collapse.

Furthermore, I am at a total loss to understand the basis of a foreign policy that instructs the Government of Israel to negotiate a peace settlement with and to show restraint for acts of terrorism against its civilian population by the very same terrorist organizations against whom this country has now declared war, and with whom this country has absolutely no intention or desire to negotiate.

I am concerned that your Department does not fully comprehend either the nature of the enemy against whom we are dealing, or the long-term implications of how our selective policy on terrorism is being perceived by our erstwhile Arab coalition partners. Exactly what part of the phrases “Islamic Holy War” and “Western infidels” do you not understand? Do you not realize that these organizations are seeking the violent transformation of Western Society that they perceive to be irreparably sinful and inherently unjust? Are you unaware that this Holy War is aimed at America as “the Great Satan” of Western civilization (according to the Islamic fundamentalists in the countries of our coalition partners), and would have to be fought even if Israel did not exist?

Can you not see that Israel is just Bin Laden’s sideshow (“Little Satan”)? The humiliation and destruction of America is his real target. As Bin Laden stated on October 7th on the al-Jazeera Cable TV News Network (Qatar), “America is the pagan of the modern era.” His followers do not hate the West because of Israel; they hate Israel because of the West – because they see it as an island of Western democratic values in a Moslem-Arab sea of despotism.

American support of Israel was never a major factor in Bin Laden’s decision to strike at America. The September 11th attacks were planned at the time when former President Clinton was proposing to Arafat a Palestinian state on roughly 95% of the West Bank and East Jerusalem – with the Israeli settlers uprooted from all but 5%. The Palestinians don’t need a War of Liberation, they were already offered Liberation without a War…and they rejected it. Bin Laden isn’t seeking a new kind of co-existence with Israel, nor is he seeking an accommodation with America. He is seeking the non-existence of both, so America’s effort to build Israel-Palestinian co-existence is exactly what Bin Laden does not want!

America (indeed, the entire Free World) is hated by these religious zealots not because of what it has done wrong, but because of what it has done right – freedom of speech, freedom of religion, democracy, economic prosperity, social equality, and religious and cultural tolerance and diversity – all of which are abhorrent to Islamic fundamentalists who believe that they are the sole interpreters of the will of Allah, and that we are the “evil blasphemers.”

So, Mr. Secretary, if America’s war on terrorism is to be taken seriously, then I suggest that you go after those countries that harbor them. If we begin to distinguish between acts of terror, some of which we condemn, and some of which we implicitly condone, by virtue of a contradictory and ambiguous foreign policy, then we will lose the moral clarity that is essential for victory.

Terrorism must be fought whenever and wherever it appears, and all states must be made to play by the same rules or face harsh and sustained political, economic and military sanctions.

Instead of debating “root causes,” declare terrorism as a crime against humanity, declare terrorists as enemies of humanity, set guidelines for our coalition partners that are consistent with our mission to eradicate terrorism, and give terrorists no quarter and no consideration for their purported grievances. Nothing justifies terrorism or countries that shelter them – NOTHING.

War is serious business, and if Americans are to die in this struggle, (and we know this to be so) then we have the right to expect our State Department to go after all those countries that harbor terrorists, and to have a realistic long range plan to win this war so that our sacrifices will not be in vain.

Our mission must not be watered down to allow certain states that shelter terrorists the right to participate in this coalition. On the contrary, the coalition must be built around the mission.

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