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Arabian Nightmare By: Ralph Peters
The New York Post | Thursday, November 16, 2006


Yesterday, 80 terrorists in police uniforms raided an Iraqi research institute in Baghdad, rounded up 100-plus male students, loaded them into vehicles in broad daylight and drove away.

They couldn't have pulled it off without the complicity of key elements within the Iraqi security services and the government: "our guys."

The students probably will be executed and dumped somewhere. Partly for the crime of wanting to study and build a future, but primarily just to step up the level of terror yet again.

Apart from highlighting the type of regime of which both Shia and Sunni Arab extremists dream - a land of disciplined ignorance and slavish devotion - the mass kidnapping also highlights the feebleness of our attempts to overcome ruthless enemies with generosity and good manners.

With Iraqi society decomposing - or, at best, reverting to a medieval state with cell phones - the debate in Washington over whether to try to save the day by deploying more troops or withdrawing some is of secondary relevance.

What really matters is what our forces are ordered - and permitted - to do. With political correctness permeating our government and even the upper echelons of the military, we never tried the one technique that has a solid track record of defeating insurgents if applied consistently: the rigorous imposition of public order.

That means killing the bad guys. Not winning their hearts and minds, placating them or bringing them into the government. Killing them.

If you're not willing to lay down a rule that any Iraqi or foreign terrorist masquerading as a security official or military member will be shot, you can't win. And that's just one example of the type of sternness this sort of fight requires.

With the situation in Iraq deteriorating daily, sending more troops would simply offer our enemies more targets - unless we decided to use our soldiers and Marines for the primary purpose for which they exist: To fight.

Of course, we've made a decisive shift in our behavior difficult. After empowering a sectarian regime before imposing order in the streets, we would have to defy an elected government. Leading voices in the Baghdad regime - starting with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki - would demand that we halt any serious effort to defeat Shia militias and eliminate their death squads.

Killing Sunni Arabs would be fine, of course. The Maliki government's reason for being is to promote Shia power.

Reportedly, our CentCom commander, Gen. George Abizaid, just had a "come to Jesus meeting" (metaphor fully intended) with Maliki, warning him that our continued support is contingent on the government moving to impose public order and protect all of Iraq's people. The result is predictable: A few law-enforcement gestures by daylight, some reshuffled government appointments - and more sectarian killing.

From the Iraqi perspective, we're of less and less relevance. They're sure we'll leave. And every faction is determined to do as much damage as possible to the other before we go. Our troops have become human shields for our enemies.

To master Iraq now - if it could be done - we'd have to fight every faction except the Kurds. Are we willing to do that? Are we willing to kill mass murderers and cold-blooded executioners on the spot?

If not, we can't win, no matter what else we do.

Arrest them? We've tried that. Iraq's judges are so partisan or so terrified (or both) that they release the worst thugs within weeks - sometimes within days.

How would you like to be one of Iraq's handful of relatively honest cops knowing that any terrorist or sectarian butcher you bust is going to be back on the block before your next payday? And yeah, they know where you live.

Our "humanity" is cowardice masquerading as morality. We're protecting self-appointed religious executioners with our emphasis on a "universal code of behavior" that only exists in our fantasies. By letting the thugs run the streets, we've abandoned the millions of Iraqis who really would prefer peaceful lives and a modicum of progress.

We're blind to the fundamental moral travesty in Iraq (and elsewhere): Spare the killers in the name of human rights, and you deprive the overwhelming majority of the population of their human rights. Instead of being proud of ourselves for our "moral superiority," we should be ashamed to the depths of our souls.

We're not really the enemy of the terrorists, militiamen and insurgents. We're their enablers. In the end, the future of Iraq will be determined by its people. The question is, which people?

Our naive version of wartime morality handed Iraq to the murderers. Will our excuse for a sectarian bloodbath be that we "behaved with restraint?"

Any code of ethics that squanders the lives of tens of thousands and the future of millions so we can "claim the moral high ground" is hypocrisy worthy of the Europeans who made excuses for the Holocaust.

If we want to give Iraq's silent - and terrified - majority a last chance, we would have to accept the world's condemnation for killing the killers. If we are unwilling to do that, Iraq's finished.

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Ralph Peters is a New York Post Opinion columnist and the author of "Looking For Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World."


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