The Bush administration's frustration with the elusiveness of Osama bin Laden and other top officials of the Al-Qaida terrorist network is understandable, but President George Bush must know that his global war on terrorism will have failed if bin Laden and his lieutenants escape punishment.
Last month, after he was shown a videotape of bin Laden reveling in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. that claimed more than 3,000 lives, Bush left no doubt about the goal of America's campaign.
"The president's reaction was this shows everything that we've always known -- that Osama bin Laden was behind the attacks against our country, and what an evil man anybody could be to be satisfied and find joy in the killing of thousands of innocents," said Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary.
And as Bush has said many, many times, such evil must be destroyed.
We strongly support that position, which is why we were taken aback this week when various news organizations reported that U.S. forces in Afghanistan now have less interest in finding Osama bin Laden and members of his inner circle than in destroying the remaining pockets of Taliban and Al-Qaida resistance.
Shackles: While it is important to free Afghanistan from the shackles of terrorist organizations, it is just as important to show the world that bin Laden is not superhuman. The longer he remains free, the greater the possibility of another attack like the one on Sept. 11 that destroyed the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and left a gaping hole in the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. There is now no doubt that he orchestrated the suicide hijackings of four fuel-laden jet planes. Two were flown into the twin towers, one slammed into the Pentagon and one crashed in Pennsylvania.
Bin Laden's followers, who are scattered around the world, view his survival thus far as a sign of his invincibility. His capture or death would do much to disillusion them.
That is why President Bush must not waiver from the promise he made to the American people when he said that he wanted bin Laden "dead or alive."
There are credible reports that bin Laden has fled Afghanistan and his now holed up in neighboring Pakistan, which has been an important participant in America's war on global terrorism.
Warning: Pakistan, long a haven for extremist Muslim organizations, should be put on notice by the Bush administration: If Pakistan can't track him down, American forces will be dispatched to search for him. That same warning should go out to other countries, such as Somalia and Yemen, that have previously played host to the "evil one," as Bush has described him.
Osama bin Laden, the master terrorist of his time, must be brought to justice -- dead or alive.