Sunday, September 19, 2004

Persevering in Iraq

I do not belittle you. But I hold this view by looking at the geography and nature of American society into account. Yours is a society which cannot accept 10,000 dead in one battle.

Saddam Hussein, "Interview with US Ambassador April Glaspie", July 25, 1990.

We say to the Defence Secretary that his talk can induce a grieving mother to laughter! and shows the fears that had enshrined you all. Where was this false courage of yours when the explosion in Beirut took place on 1983 AD (1403 A.H). You were turned into scattered pits and pieces at that time; 241 mainly marines solders were killed. And where was this courage of yours when two explosions made you to leave Aden in lees than twenty four hours!

But your most disgraceful case was in Somalia; where- after vigorous propaganda about the power of the USA and its post cold war leadership of the new world order- you moved tens of thousands of international force, including twenty eight thousands American solders into Somalia. However, when tens of your solders were killed in minor battles and one American Pilot was dragged in the streets of Mogadishu you left the area carrying disappointment, humiliation, defeat and your dead with you. Clinton appeared in front of the whole world threatening and promising revenge , but these threats were merely a preparation for withdrawal. You have been disgraced by Allah and you withdrew; the extent of your impotence and weaknesses became very clear. It was a pleasure for the "heart" of every Muslim and a remedy to the "chests" of believing nations to see you defeated in the three Islamic cities of Beirut , Aden and Mogadishu.

Osama bin Laden, "Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places", August 1996. (The "Defence Secretary" bin Laden is addressing is William Perry)

We are in the midst of a difficult period in Iraq. The tragic and much publicized "milestone" of 1,000 US deaths was reached last week. The continuing terrorist and insurgent violence paints a portrait of a country in chaos. Things will almost certainly get worse before they get better. The terrorists in Iraq (and Afghanistan) believe that if they kill enough Americans they can persuade us to cut and run, abandoning Iraq just as we did Vietnam, Lebanon, and Somalia. Like Saddam and bin Laden, the jihadists see us as a corrupt, decadent society that is unwilling to pay the price in human lives necessary to defeat them.

Sadly, there is growing evidence that they may be right. After much back and forth, John Kerry seems to have settled, at least for now, on a defeatist, cut and run approach to Iraq. His top foreign policy advisor, Richard Holbrooke, declared last week that Iraq is "worse than Vietnam". In the most egregious example, the left of center political action group ran an ad declaring Iraq a "quagmire" and showing a defeated US soldier with his arms raised as if surrendering. "George Bush got us into this quagmire" the ad states. "It will take a new president to get us out." Not to win, or to achieve success, but to "get us out". Such sentiments are exactly what Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the rest of the jihadists in Iraq are hoping for.

Please note that I am not saying that Kerry, Holbrooke, or MoveOn are unpatriotic, sympathize with the terrorists in any way, or that they don't enjoy every right to express their views. They are sincerely advocating what they believe to be in the best interests of our country. It is easy to get the impression that all that is taking place in Iraq is purposeless death and destruction, with no end in sight. It is difficult indeed to see young American men and women killed or maimed in horrific fashion, as well as to see the same happen to Iraqi civilians and soldiers from our coalition allies. It is hard to see miltary families having to cope with their loved ones going overseas, where they face danger every day, and in some cases not coming back. It is natural and proper to want this to end, to not have any more young Americans die, lose limbs, or be horribly disfigured; to not have any more families lose children, spouses, siblings, or parents. If we leave, then no more Americans will have to die in places like Fallujah, Najaf, or Mosul.

Our goal in Iraq is an extraordinarily difficult one: to build the first liberal, representative, pluralist state in the Arab world. Make no mistake, there will be a substantial monetary, and far more importantly, human cost if we stay and see this project through. So why pay that price? There are two reasons. The first is that if we succeed, the benefits will be enormous. At long last, Arabs will have an alternative to corrupt dictatorships, pan-Arab fascism, and Islamist fanaticism. Freedom in Iraq poses a mortal threat to al-Qaeda and the rest of the jihadist movement, which is why they are making such a determined effort to defeat us there. The second reason for sticking it out in Iraq is even more important: Because the costs of cutting and running before we have achieved our objective are even greater than the costs of staying.

Run from Iraq, and we hand the jihadist movement a victory that will sustain it for decades. With Iraq as a base from which to spread, the Islamist terror movement will grow to new heights. Any hope of reform or democratization in the Arab world will be gone. The forces of barbarism, fanaticism, and xenophopia that produced 9/11 will run rampant in the Middle East, and the human toll, both in the region and around the world, will be immeasurable. Instead of Zarqawi sending suicide bombers to Baghdad and Mosul, he will be able to send them to London and Rome, Paris and Madrid, New York and Washington.

Run from Iraq, and we condemn the country to a return to totalitarian barbarism, though probably not till after a bloody civil war. The era of mass graves and torture chambers will return, under either a renewed Baathist tyranny or an Islamist theocracy. We will betray the millions of Iraqis who put their hopes for a better future in us; who have risked their lives, and the lives of their families, to work with us in building a better Iraq.

Run from Iraq, and we throw away everything that our men and women in uniform have fought, bled, and sacrificed to achieve in that country.

Run from Iraq, and we confirm forever the belief that America is a decadent society unable to take casualties. How many Americans and others have had to die over the last 30 years because our enemies believed that we lacked the stomach to oppose them. Not only Saddam and bin Laden, but the Iranian mullahs, Serbs, and North Koreans among others have all been emboldened by our perceived aversion to casualties. Confirm to our enemies once and for all that they can defeat America by killing enough of its citizens, and we condemn ourselves to pay a human toll far higher than what we have tragically suffered in Iraq. America has endured thousands of combat deaths in a single day. We are the nation of Shiloh and Gettysburg, Omaha Beach and Bastogne, Tarawa and Okinawa. If the tragic toll of 43 combat fatalities a month we are suffering in Iraq is too much for us to endure, then we have no hope of defeating the jihadists, in Iraq or anywhere else.

War is above all a test of wills. To assume that because the enemy is capable of causing us problems that we are therefore losing is to make a disastrous miscalculation. In Vietnam, the 1968 Tet Offensive was an absolute disaster for the Communists. The Viet Cong were so decimated as a fighting force that they never recovered. Yet, the educated elites in the US were so panicked by what had happened that Tet became a Communist victory.

Iraq is not Vietnam. We are making progress. Here is a lengthy excerpt from e-mail home by a Marine officer currently in Baghdad, as published by Captain's Quarters:

So, you may hear analysts and prognosticators on CNN, ABC and the like in the next few days talking about how bleak the situation is here in Iraq, but from where I sit, it’s looking significantly better now than when I got here. The momentum is moving in our favor, and all Americans need to know that, so please, please, pass this on to those who care and will pass it on to others. It is very demoralizing for us here in uniform to read & hear such negativity in our press. It is fodder for our enemies to use against us and against the vast majority of Iraqis who want their new government to succeed. It causes the American public to start thinking about the acceptability of “cutting our losses” and pulling out, which would be devastating for Iraq for generations to come, and Muslim militants would claim a huge victory, causing us to have to continue to fight them elsewhere (remember, in war “Away” games are always preferable to “Home” games). Reports like that also cause Iraqis begin to fear that we will pull out before we finish the job, and thus less willing to openly support their interim government and US/Coalition activities. We are realizing significant progress here – not propaganda progress, but real strides are being made. It’s terrible to see our national morale, and support for what we’re doing here, jeopardized by sensationalized stories hyped by media giants whose #1 priority is advertising income followed closely by their political agenda; getting the story straight falls much further down on their priority scale, as Dan Rather and CBS News have so aptly demonstrated in the last week.

Either we stick it out and pay the price in Iraq, or we will pay a far higher price in lives elsewhere, possibly even here at home.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A thoughtful and persuasive article. Far more fair-minded than some of the partisan tripe this blog has drifted towards the past month.

11:05 PM  

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