I recently returned from Baghdad, Iraq, where I served as an infantry platoon leader of 26 men during nearly 6 months of combat operations. We were part of the 3rd Infantry Division, the unit that led the invasion into Iraq and captured Baghdad. Our political and military leaders told us before the invasion that we were key players in the War on Terrorism. However, as a Jew and an American having fought the war, I came to realize that we are not just fighting terrorism. Rather, we are engaged in a war against something much more fundamental.
Shortly after we breached the city limits of Baghdad on that fateful day of April 9th, it was obvious that the Iraqi Army was not going to fight us in the city. The U.S. Military was caught by surprise at the lack of opposition and was rather unprepared to transition to nation-building so rapidly. Thus, Military commanders hastily assigned each Platoon Leader, including myself, a section of Baghdad to oversee. The neighborhood under my control was roughly 3 square miles in northwest Baghdad with approximately three thousand Iraqi citizens, most of whom were Shia Muslims. My initial responsibility was to find heavy conventional weapons and ammunition, arrest looters, identify destroyed power lines and restore order in the neighborhood by conducting day and night street patrols. This was a very difficult task but it gave me the opportunity to interact with many Iraqis during these unstable times.
While patrolling the streets of Baghdad, I often got involved in political conversations with secular, educated, and "moderate" Iraqis about the war against Iraq, Israel, the Jews, and America. To my surprise, most of them held wildly irrational beliefs about the world. For example, most of them would swear that Ariel Sharon pressured a reluctant President Bush to go to war against Iraq [or] that the CIA put Saddam Hussein, a CIA agent, in power to allow U.S. forces to take Iraqi oil and impoverish Iraq. Finally, they were convinced that the CIA is an organization controlled by the Mossad and that powerful Zionists dominate Washington, D.C.! In fact, most Arabs in the world believe these absurdities. These beliefs are the product of years of intense brainwashing by their education[al] system, mass media and political and religious leaders. These beliefs turn educated, intelligent Arab family men into hijackers that slam passenger planes into buildings and homicide bombers that murder as may Jews as possible on Israeli buses.
We are not at war against terrorism; we are at war against an ideology. I consider this ideology to be the product of a dangerous mental disease. It is a disease that has infected millions of Arabs into believing that by destroying the enemy -- the Jew, the State of Israel, and the "Great Satan" America -- past Arab pride and glory [will] be restored. This mental illness is slowly but deliberately plunging the world into World War III.
In the 1930s, a similar disease threw the world into World War II. It was a disease that infected millions of Germans into believing that by obliterating the Jews and conquering non- Aryan nations, Germany would attain unsurpassed glory and freedom. Fortunately, America and its allies mustered all their efforts, resources and determination to crush and eradicate the German disease.
Unlike the Germans during WWII, the Arab world is fighting a multidimensional war against America and Israel. First, Arab nations are using the United Nations as a powerful tool to discredit Israel and the United States. Second, oil-producing Arab nations use oil as a means to pressure the United States and Europe to adopt biased foreign policies against Israel. In addition, oil is used to deter many nations from trading with Israel. Third, Arab governments ensure that Arab children are fed anti-Semitic and anti-American material in their schools, thereby assuring a constant supply of future terrorists. Fourth, Arab public relation spreads lies and twisted facts to Western media, thereby fueling anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli sentiment in the West. Finally, Arab nations promote, finance or condone terrorist activity and organizations.
Unfortunately, most of us in America and Israel believe that we are at war with terrorism. We therefore concentrate all our attention and effort against terrorism only. To do so is to wear blinders and not grasp the big picture. To worsen matters, we commit troops and equipment to fight the enemy precisely where he wants to fight--that is, in his backyard using guerrilla tactics. We fail to understand that terrorism is only one of the many weapons used by our enemies. Every American and every Jew is under attack in some shape or form.
It does not take a gun or a bomb to be under attack. A negative and biased article about Israel in the New York Times is a bomb directed against the Jewish community. We must fight back! Every one of us has the ability and the weaponry to contribute to the war effort. One does not need to join the U.S. Army and patrol downtown Baghdad in 120-degree weather. We can fight with our computers, our telephone, our money, our time, and our voice. Inaction is not an alternative. Should we decide not to fight, our enemies will bring the battle to us, as they have done on September 11th and as they do daily in Israel. We have paid too often with our blood the price of passiveness and nonresistance.
It is time to stand up, fight and shout, "Never Again!" May God help us.
The writer is a 1st Lieutenant in the U.S. Army.