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An unceasing war

No. 4. Terror

By Times Staff
Published December 28, 2004

Americans could take comfort that 2004 brought no terrorist attacks on American soil. Or they could look around the world and shudder.

Islamic terrorists struck in the Philippines, Indonesia, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iraq, Egypt and, most effectively, in Spain.

For good measure, Osama bin Laden remained at large, vilifying the United States via video on the eve of our presidential election, while Iran and North Korea flirted with nuclear capabilities. So much for comfort.

The year began with canceled airline flights from Britain and Mexico. American fighter jets accompanied flights as they landed in the United States and officials began requiring that foreign airlines put armed marshals on some flights over the United States.

In Madrid, 10 bombs detonated minutes apart on four crowded commuter trains March 11, killing 191 people and wounding 2,000. Most of the 32 suspects are Moroccans, said to be involved in an Islamic holy war against the West.

The loss of life was bad enough, but in some ways, the fallout was worse: The terrorists won. In national elections three days after the bombings, Spain's ruling conservative party crashed to surprise defeat - the first government that backed the U.S.-led war in Iraq to be voted out of office.

At home, the Sept. 11 commission issued its public report in July. Among its recommendations: create the post of intelligence director to oversee the nation's 15 intelligence agencies. After much posturing and politicking, Congress did just that.

Even proponents of the change doubt the United States can do anything to prevent another terror attack on American soil.

Then there's outgoing Attorney General John Ashcroft, who declares that Americans can rest easy: "The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved."

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

[Last modified December 28, 2004, 08:14:10]

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