Gary Harmon Column October 16, 2008

Two terrorists’ demise vindication for Bush — or Jefferson?

In times of unrest, instability and a constant sense of foreboding, there are certain events that nonetheless bring a smile to the lips and put a song in the heart.

One of those things is hearing about the violent departure from this earth of people such as Abu Qaswarah or Abu Sara.

Let’s just call him Abu Sara for ease of reference.

Abu Sara actually has been one with the organic compost since Oct. 5, when he was the guest of honor at a raid in Iraq, the full guest list of which has yet to be released.

Abu Sara’s death came two days after U.S. officials said they had escorted another senior military commander of al-Qaida in Iraq, one Mahir al-Zubaydi, also known as Abu Assad or Abu Rami, to his infernal rest.

Call him Mahir, call him Abu, he is considered to have been a key planner in a slew of atrocities in Iraq in recent years.

Abu Sara, meanwhile, held his job for little more than a year and is believed to have risen to the top of the pile as a result of his ties to what the intelligence types refer to as senior al-Qaida leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

One of those inexplicable things about these strange days is why senior al-Qaida leaders in Pakistan and Afghanistan (could they mean some dude who supposedly answers mail addressed to Osama?) would have any interest in the leadership in Iraq, which as we all know had absolutely no connection to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and which demonstrably had no nefarious contacts with anyone bent on any kind of destruction.
It’s just one of those modern conundrums.

Actually, though, it’s not entirely modern.

Back in 1803, the United States got itself wrapped up in another quagmire in the same vicinity of the Middle East, a place known as the Barbary Coast.

The president dispatched the contemporary equivalent of shock and awe — the USS Constitution, or “Old Ironsides” — to deal with a band of terrorists.

The terrorists, it should be noted, never actually attacked the United States, although they did harass people in the shipping trade and took American sailors into slavery.

The Constitution turned its guns on Tripoli and leveled the pirates’ fortifications, driving them out of the Mediterranean for a century or so.

The pirates of that day aren’t to be confused with the likes of Jack Sparrow.

They were animated by a brand of Islam that looks very much like the one that animated Abu Sara and his buddies, and which has changed little over the centuries.

In the days to come, you’ll probably hear much about the wisdom of the president who projected the full force of American firepower far across the ocean.

The same president was rumored to have decided to make war on the pirates of the day even before he assumed office and that he was looking for a pretext to commence hostilities. Critics said he was less than forthcoming with Congress.

Whatever the case, you can be assured that Thomas Jefferson would be thoroughly pleased to hear of the passing of Abu Sara and his pals.

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