The President had some remarks on the third anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the downfall of the Hussein regime. Meanwhile, Rep. Christopher Shays talks of the mistakes made and the future of Iraq.
Despite the constant torrent of negativity, I still believe that the removal of the Hussein regime was the right thing to do. The President, despite the historical revisionists, did make human rights one of the primary justifications for the removal of that tyrannical regime, and critics of the war cannot ignore the fact that if they had their way, Saddam Hussein would be murdering thousands of Iraqis each day. Even if Saddam fell organically, how many Iraqis would have died in the ensuing violence? The argument that it would have been a more moral action to leave the people of Iraq under the bootheel of oppression has never struck me as very convincing. The argument that we should have invaded Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, or some other state sponsor of terrorism is a red herring. The arguments that Bush just wanted oil, land, or vengeance are facile and ignorant. The arguments that this is somehow a “racist” war waged on the behalf of the Israelis is not only ignorant, but disgustingly so.
There is to be a case to be made that leaving Saddam Hussein in power would have been the best course of action. The problem is that it is neither a very moral one or a strategically sound one. The Duelfer Report makes it exceedingly clear that the sanctions regime was failing, and that once it did, Saddam Hussein would move to reconstitute his WMD programs. It is also clear that the UN was complicit in the largest financial scam in world history as Saddam Hussein bribed UN officials and stole billions in humanitarian aid. The nations most opposed to the war – France, China, and Russia, were complicit in illegal arms deals, violations of sanctions, and taking bribes from the Ba’athist regime.
At the end of the day, fewer US soldiers have died in three years of combat in Iraq than died in one month of combat in Vietnam. The Iraqis are slowly but surely building the basic foundations of a representative government – and despite the anarchy wrought by tens of thousands of criminals loosed by the Hussein regime and foreign terrorists bent on ripping Iraq apart, progress is being made.
At the same time, it seems that the critics of this war and their constant predictions of failure are repsentative of their desire for Iraq to fail. The true test for an honest critic of the war is the question of whether they would rather see Iraq succeed or George W. Bush fail. Based on the rhetoric of the war, it seems like the lives and freedom of millions of Iraqis is secondary to partisan politics. The shameless way in which Democratic politicians have played politics when our soldiers are in harm’s way has alienated many Americans from the Democratic Party. It used to be that politics stopped at the water’s edge and politicians were Americans first and partisans a distant second – that no longer appears to be the case. The question of the propriety of the war is now academic – we are in Iraq and we have the moral obligation to finish the job. Those Democrats, including Rep. John Murtha, that would counsel an immediate cut and run from Iraq would leave a shattered country and guarantee the deaths of tens of thousands. The Democrats may like to claim a façade of patriotism, but the reality of the situation is stark and simple: a withdrawal from Iraq would hand al-Qaeda the greatest victory they could ask for. It is exactly what Osama bin Laden wants. Bin Laden learned from Mogadishu that Americans could be cowed into surrender – do we truly want to prove him right again?
The reality is that after three years in Iraq, we’ve made many mistakes, but learned valuable lessons on fighting in the 21st Century environment. Our enemy is tenacious and ruthless, and we’re hampered by a media that has become virtual cheerleaders for defeat. At the same time, we are winning this war of attrition. The terrorists failed to push us out of Iraq. They failed to stop democratic elections. They’ve produced violence, but Iraq is not yet in a state of civil war, and for most of Iraq, life goes on as it always has. Iraqi Kurdistan is a hub of activity, and one of the sanest places in the Middle East where a long-oppressed people have found a home.
What truly disgusts me more than anything else is the less than subtle racism inherent on the part of the anti-war crowd. We’re told time and time again that Iraq is incapable of rational self-government – that the only way that Arabs can avoid slaughtering themselves is when they are under the bootheel of an autocratic strongman – that civil war in Iraq is inevitable and that Iraq’s many ethnic groups are damned to conflict. It used to be that liberalism stood for a universal doctrine of human rights, racial and religious tolerance, and a belief in democratic government. Today, the left has become virtually indistinguishable from the John Bircher paleocon right. One can oppose the means of Iraq’s liberation but still wish for Iraq to achieve victory – and be willing to do whatever it takes to see that end met.
The Bush Administration have let the critics of this war seize the initiative. President Bush began as an inspiring and sometimes courageous wartime leader – yet now he’s become altogether too insular and has been unwilling to truly defend our mission in Iraq. Part of it is undoubtedly due to the media’s relentless bias, but Bush needs to once again remind the American people why we’re fighting. If ever this country needed a Churchill, it’s now when this long war has drained even the most ardent supporters. The cause we’re fighting for is just – it would be nice if the President could give it the support it needs.
The story of Iraq is not, and never has been, solely a story of violence and civil strife. The argument that the Iraqi people are so radically different than us – that they would rather kill their neighbor then have a decent life for their children, is an argument that systematically dehumanizes the Iraqi people. The reality is that the people of Iraq are sick and tired of the violence, sick and tired of terrorism, and sick and tired of arrogant Westerners constantly telling them that their country is about to split down the seams.
For the past three years, for some every setback has been an unmitigated disaster, every battle a losing one, every protest a sign of imminent civil war, and every mistake made by the US a sign of our obvious corruption and evil. At the same time, the people of Iraq have bravely struggled to rebuild a country shattered by decades of autocracy and war – and when the history of this war is written, it will be written by the free people of Iraq, not the narrow-minded critics who would denigrate them every step of the way.