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Homeland Security

Washington File

20 May 2003

Byliner: "The Blame Game," by Benjamin Collins

(The Washington Times 05/20/03 op-ed) (630)
(This column by Benjamin Collins, who is an Army officer, a graduate
of George Washington University and currently deployed in Afghanistan,
was first published May 20 in The Washington Times. The column is in
the public domain. No republication restrictions.)
(begin byliner)
The Blame Game
By Benjamin Collins
In the wake of September 11, and more recently, the attacks in Riyadh,
as soon as it was considered politically survivable, a flurry of
accusations of blame emerged in the classic style of the party
politics of Capitol Hill. It has served only to remind me of how far
our political system has degenerated. In a time where we need
aggressive action and aggressive legislature, debating where the fault
lies is a waste of taxpayer trust and time.
It is no wonder that an increasing number of citizens are becoming
disenchanted with a political system that seems to expend more energy
on lambasting the other party than figuring out where to take the
country in an increasingly unstable global environment.
It infuriates me to read comments such as Sen. Bob Graham's mere hours
after eight Americans were killed in yet another terrorist attack. "It
could have been avoided if you had actually crushed the basic
infrastructure of al Qaeda," said Mr. Graham, "they would not have had
the capability to launch such a sophisticated attack."
A sophisticated attack?
I fail to see the sophistication in driving a vehicle packed with
explosives into the relatively "soft" target of a housing compound.
It is unconscionable to make such an outlandish public accusation that
can be seen only as political grandstanding for personal gain.
The attack in Riyadh is indicative of the dilemma faced by the present
administration, intelligence community and military leaders in charge
of the global war on terrorism. How do you identify and defeat an
enemy that hides within the local populace and has a support network
that has been in place for a thousand years?
Mr. Graham goes on to say, "I think from the beginning of the war in
Afghanistan ... we were making good progress in dismantling the basic
structure of al Qaeda. Then we started to redirect our attention to
Iraq, and al Qaeda has regenerated."
I hope I am not the first to tell Mr. Graham that al Qaeda has not
regenerated, it has simply adapted to the current battlefield
conditions. We have successfully managed to disrupt al Qaeda's
operations in Afghanistan and they no longer have the ability to
operate with the impunity that they once could. However, in doing so,
we have managed to almost make our job more difficult in that the
enemy has now truly gone to ground and immersed itself within their
tribal communities.
This has absolutely nothing to do with the war in Iraq ... it is the
natural evolvement of a fight against a terrorist network, and
furthermore, it is representative of the character of our nation that
our soldiers work tirelessly in order to reduce the amount of
collateral damage in finding such an enemy, and this takes time.
I invite Mr. Graham to come to Afghanistan and visit the soldiers who
sift through mountains of intelligence and to listen to the Special
Forces teams who spend months building rapport with the local
communities in the hope of garnering information that may lead to
identifying terrorists and reducing their ability to find a safe
haven. At the very least, he would leave with a greater understanding
of the time and commitment it will take in truly defeating
organizations such as al Qaeda.
(Benjamin Collins is an Army officer and graduate of the George
Washington University. He is currently deployed in Afghanistan.)
(end byliner)
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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