The war on terrorism

It has been two years since Islamist terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center and crashed a plane into the Pentagon. Since September 11, 2001, life in this country and in much of the Arab world has changed dramatically. A president who flirted with isolationism as a candidate and scorned “nation building” has conducted two wars in the Muslim world. The United States is now deeply, if uncertainly, implicated in the reconstruction of two distant and devastated nations. In both wars, the United States demonstrated its unrivaled military superiority. In Afghanistan, the United States enjoyed the support of the international community, both militarily and in the limited humanitarian work that has followed. Yet before Afghanistan could be stabilized or Osama bin Laden captured, President George W. Bush turned toward Iraq. He accused Saddam Hussein of possessing weapons of mass destruction (WMD), claiming the dictator was trying to put them into the hands of terrorists. Iraq was linked to Al Qaeda and accused of playing a role in the World Trade Center attack. According to the president, Iraq was a principal source of international terrorism, and Hussein’s removal was essential to winning the “war on terrorism.”

Hussein’s long history of hindering and deceiving UN weapons inspectors lent some credibility to these allegations. Still, links between Iraq and Al Qaeda were never established, and the international...

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