Attack Q&A

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1.Why do the terrorists hate us?
2. Will there be a draft?
3. Are we at war?
4. What is being done about an anti-Arab backlash in the United States?
5. What is Congress doing to respond to the attacks?

Why do the terrorists hate us?

Osama Bin Laden achieves his terrorist objectives partly by exploiting the widespread anti-American feeling in the Arab and Muslim world today. It hasn't always been this way. The 1991 Gulf War was fought on the basis of a wide-ranging consensus between Western and Arab regimes. Soldiers from Arab armies fought side-by-side with the U.S. to expel Saddam Hussein's forces from Kuwait. And it was that consensus that also laid the basis for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. But the ongoing U.S.-led sanctions and periodic bombing of Iraq, and the breakdown of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, has frayed the Gulf War consensus.

On the Arab streets, the U.S. is blamed for the wretched suffering of millions of Iraqis under a sanctions regime that has done little to weaken Saddam — and Washington's response, that Saddam is causing their suffering by refusing to buy the provide them the full quotas of food and medicine he's allowed under sanctions regime, has made little impression on the resultant popular anger. That puts tremendous pressure on the governments of even the most pro-Western Arab regimes to distance themselves from Washington. So, while the U.S. is committed to overthrowing Saddam, most of his Arab neighbors don't share that goal and are more inclined to normalize relations with Baghdad.

Anti-American sentiment has peaked over the past year because of the Palestinian uprising. A primary theme in the current intifada is control over the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, an issue that stirs powerful emotions across the Arab world. Strong U.S. political support for Israel and the fact that Israel has used U.S.-supplied F-16s and Apache helicopters against Palestinians has fanned the anti-American flames.

Radical groups in the Arab world have traditionally opposed the U.S. because it has been an ally of the moderate Arab regimes the extremists are trying to overthrow. And, of course, American values and culture are anathema to Islamic fundamentalists. But such anti-American sentiment has grown more popular over the last decade, fueled by anger over Iraq and Israel and the perception that the U.S. is hostile to Arab interests. So, while a radical fundamentalist such as Bin Laden may hate everything that America is, the anti-American feeling on the Arab streets may be based more on Arab perceptions of what America does in their part of the world.

Will there be a draft?

Not before an escalation in conflict that is barely imaginable at this point. Eight days after the terrorist attacks, President Bush told reporters he does not want Congress to reinstate the draft in order to staff the war on terrorism. That same day, the Pentagon dispatched scores of advanced aircraft to the Persian Gulf.

The Army alone has over 1 million professional soldiers, and the U.S. Armed Forces already have the capability to fight a major war with an enemy the size of China or Russia. The enemy in this case is a small band of terrorists and possibly nations that support them; air strikes and small Special-Ops-type operations are the most likely options at this point.

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A full-scale invasion and occupation of a country such as Afghanistan would likely result in the activation or reserves, certainly. But remember —drafted soldiers take 6 months to train properly, and at this point no one is imagining a protracted large-scale conflict on the order of WWII or even Vietnam. Its just not that kind of enemy. But as weve learned this week, the unimaginable is always possible.

Are we at war?

No — not in the legal sense of the word, because war has not been declared. And not in the strict political-military sense of the word, because our "enemy" in this instance is not necessarily a rival state. Friday morning, however, President Bush received authorization from the U.S. Senate to use military force in the fight against terrorism. The President plans to call up as many as 50,000 members of the National Guard and Reserves to help in the rescue and relief efforts.

If the latest outrage was perpetrated by Osama Bin Laden, then it is part of an ongoing low-intensity war. Bin Laden is waging a 'jihad' or 'holy war' whose aim is to terrorize the U.S. into withdrawing entirely from the Middle East and Gulf region. U.S. personnel have traditionally worked with allied intelligence agencies for years to thwart the Bin Laden threat and take down his networks. Now the U.S. will escalate its campaign, and punish any states that may have assisted Bin Laden. But this "war" is a complex combination of intelligence, security, diplomatic and military maneuvers that is unlikely to involve large-scale troop commitments or traditional military deployments.

What is being done about an anti-Arab backlash in the United States?

President Bush and local leaders around the country have appealed to Americans to refrain from directing their understandable outrage at their fellow countrymen and women who happen to be of Arab origin or of the Muslim faith. The leaders of America's Arab and Muslim communities have strongly and repeatedly condemned terrorism, and most Muslim clerics denounce such actions as an unforgivable distortion of Islam. The Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee on Wednesday stated: "Arab Americans, in addition to feeling the intense depths of pain and anger at this attack we share with all our fellow citizens, are feeling deep anxiety about becoming the targets of anger from other Americans. We appeal to all Americans to bear in mind that crimes are the responsibility of the individuals who committed them, not ethnic or religious groups." The ADC advised people to report any harassment or suspicious activities to local police.

What is Congress doing to respond to the attacks?

The Friday morning after the attacks, congressional leaders had drafted a bipartisan "resolution of resolve" expressing support for any anti-terrorist military strike ordered by President Bush. The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate also approved a $40 billion relief package last week, doubling the amount President Bush intially asked for. Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense, told reporters he did not know exactly how the money would be distributed, but that military readiness and national security were top priorities. The administration has also pledged to provide assistance to the families of firefighters, police officers and other government workers killed in Tuesday's terrorist attacks.