While Americans contemplate “fights to the finish” and “tense battles” between Democratic and Republican candidates in Tuesday’s midterm elections, let’s be sure to remember the real wars being waged against America and its allies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Yemen.
The latest news provides a searing reminder of the nature of our enemy. In Baghdad on Sunday, terrorists affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq—a militant group connected with al-Qaida in Mesopotamia—took nearly 100 hostages in a church filled for Sunday services. Iraqi security forces stormed the building to free them. Hussain Nahidh, a police officer on the scene at the Sayidat al-Nejat church, located in the heavily guarded Karada neighborhood, told the New York Times that the terrorists’ two suicide vests had been filled with ball bearings “to kill as many people as possible”—and they did. The latest figures from the Iraqi Interior Ministry show 58 dead and 75 wounded. “You can see human flesh everywhere,” said the deeply distraught officer. “Flesh was stuck to the top roof of the hall. Many people went to the hospitals without legs and hands.”
Earlier in the day in neighboring Turkey, a suicide bomber killed himself and wounded 32 people as he boarded a bus in the busiest square in the heart of Istanbul, Turkey’s commercial capital. No one immediately claimed credit for the attack, which occurred on the last day of a unilateral, two-month ceasefire declared by the Kurdish Workers Party, known as the PKK, a rebel group that has been battling the Ankara-based government since the early 1980s. While the PKK has previously conducted suicide attacks, there is no shortage of militant groups, Islamic and secular alike, that might have carried out the attack, even in Islamist-leaning Turkey.
Then consider the latest developments in the foiled, or failed, package-bombing plots attempted by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP. The result of a merger in 2009 of the main al-Qaida branches in Saudi Arabia and Yemen—among the wealthiest and poorest Arab countries respectively—AQAP is now heavily influenced by Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who is reportedly responsible for its newfound deadly creativity.
Federal officials believe that the bomb maker is Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, a Saudi-born terrorist long known to counterterrorism experts. Al-Asiri sewed the same explosive, PETN, into the underwear of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian citizen accused of the failed plot to blow up a Northwest Airlines jet over Detroit last Christmas. Consider this about Asiri: he stuffed the same explosive last year into the rectum of the suicide bomber he dispatched to kill Saudi Arabia’s counterterrorism chief, Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef, a Saudi royal. Slightly wounding the Saudi prince in the attack, the bomber himself—al-Asiri’s younger brother, Abdullah—was blown to shreds.
In its statements, AQAP called the mission a “resounding success,” reports the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, an Israeli-based think tank, in a new report about al-Qaida and the global jihad in Yemen. The attack on Bin Nayef marked the first time that AQAP had “penetrated the Saudi ruling family” and evaded the elaborate security measures designed to protect the kingdom’s leaders, the report concludes.
Bombers who send their own brothers to their deaths, terrorists who attack Christians in churches and Jews in synagogues, people eager to kill in the name of a perverted interpretation of their faith—this is the face of civilization’s enemy. Make no mistake: they intend to kill as many “infidels” as possible. Their clerics have already sanctioned the use of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction in their barbaric campaign. Their leaders have made their intentions clear. Defeating them will require imagination, creativity, and above all, staying power—from Republican and Democratic legislatures alike. As Americans vote tomorrow, we should take note of where candidates stand not just on economic issues, but also on national security. Our enemies won’t let up; neither can we.