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US 'Cold War' Group Returns to Battle Terrorism - 2004-07-20

Citing what they call the need for a more aggressive war of information against, and education about, Islamic extremism, two U.S. lawmakers appeared Tuesday at a news conference formally announcing the latest reincarnation of a group that had its beginnings during the Cold War.

In 1950, in the earliest years of the "Cold War" with the former Soviet Union, the Committee on the Present Danger was formed to serve as a way of building support among Americans for a strong national defense and opposition to Moscow's expansionist aims.

Described in history texts as a conservative, although bi-partisan group, the committee counted among its members numerous people who went on to work in several presidential administrations. It also included, at one point in 1979, a politically ambitious Ronald Reagan who would go on to win the presidency.

In the 1960s, the group became less visible with the growth of public opposition to the war in Vietnam, only to re-emerge in the mid-1970's amid a debate about the direction of U.S. security policies regarding the Soviet Union, and the efficiency of the intelligence community.

Now, the group has appeared again, this time with the objective of educating Americans and the world about what its members call the threat from radical Islamist, as opposed to Islamic, terrorism.

James Woolsey, a former CIA director, is chairman of the group, which he says in its third incarnation aims to combat what he calls "a totalitarian movement masquerading as a religion". "We understand very well that this time, the danger that we must address is a danger to the United States but also a danger to democracy and civil society throughout the world, and it is very much our hope to be of support and assistance to those who seek to bring democracy and civil society to the part of the world, the Middle East extended, to which this Islamist terror is now resonant in and generated from," he said.

Descriptions of the origins of the committee recall that its birth in 1950 paved the way for substantial defense spending increases and established the foundation of the policy, lasting through several presidential administrations, of "containing" Communism, and was skeptical of, if not opposed to, arms control.

Those appearing at the Capitol Hill news conference formally announcing the committee's return stressed its bipartisan nature.

Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman, counted among "conservative Democrats" in the U.S. Senate, explained what he sees as its objective. "We fear that many Americans may not fully understand the long-term goals of the enemy we face, and those are deadly totalitarian goals. Anyone who reads the twisted propaganda and hateful "fatwas" (Islamic calls to battle) of Osama bin-Laden will get a strikingly clear picture of the present danger," he said.

The Committee on the President Danger describes organized terrorism as a long-term struggle requiring, what it calls, vigorous policies to contain and defeat it, similar to measures needed to win the Cold War.

Senator John Kyl, a Republican from the state of Arizona, said "the implicit assumption here is that it will take a long time to win this war, just as it did the Cold War. And I think anyone would be deluding themselves, frankly, to think otherwise."

Among the more than 40 people listed as members of the new Committee on the Present Danger are foreign policy experts, former government officials and ambassadors, and former members of Congress, as well as members of prominent "think-tanks [research organizations] and foundations.