The reverberations of the Iraqi guerrillas’ attack on the United Nations leadership in Iraq continue to shake Capitol Hill. More than one Democratic presidential candidate has blamed the President for the 20 lives claimed by the bombing. Yet the partisan attack on the President predates this week’s carnage. Leftists in the Democratic Party have questioned the legitimacy of America’s presence in Iraq since before the war began, and now threaten to sabotage our efforts to create a democratic Iraq.
Flanked by his able advisors, President Bush reminded the American people two weeks ago that only 100 days have passed since the cessation of major military operations in Iraq. And during those 100 days, he remarked, “We've made a lot of progress…[but] we've got a lot more work to do.”
Major news outlets and indefatigable partisans are unhappy with this response. The President has been dogged unceasingly for answers to a number of imponderables: How much will the reconstruction of Iraq cost? How many more soldiers will die during this period (an actual question)? Was the basis for Operation Iraqi Freedom based on politicized intelligence? How long will the “occupation” of Iraq last? Will the U.S. cede authority to the United Nations? Will democracy take hold? Not only are such questions incognizable (who knows how many soldiers will be killed?), but the aggressive tone the President's Democratic opponents take threatens to undermine the American presence in Iraq and add to the number of U.S. casualties.
Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy recently took this line. In July, he carped, “The American people want to know how long their sons and daughters are going to be shot at in Iraq. How long? And what's the policy? And why?”
If it were possible to know precisely how many soldiers will be shot at or killed in Iraq and when, their deaths would be prevented. As the recent attack on the UN’s Iraqi presence has shown, Iraqi guerrillas are unpredictable, and the United States must not succumb to their sabotage nor the defeatist rhetoric of the Left: Vigilance and firepower are our soldiers’ only source of protection.
It is a tragedy that any of these people were murdered by the pro-Saddam radicals that American leftists protested to keep in power, but the number of casualties in Iraq is not at quagmire proportions. We must bear in mind that during the previous 100 days, approximately 60 brave Americans have been killed by terrorists in Iraq. To contrast – though certainly not to trivialize the fact – 72 people have been murdered, 14 people have died accidentally, and 5 persons have died from undetermined causes in Washington, D.C., over the same time frame. Nonetheless, these killings, including this week’s bombing of the UN contingent, are being used politically by the President’s opponents to undermine his leadership and raise doubts that the mission is worthwhile or in America’s best strategic interest. This is a shameful tactic and if it is sustained successfully it could lead to the sort of equivocation, hesitation, and miscalculation that will put in danger the lives of countless more American soldiers.
This brings us to the egregious, malicious, and wholly self-serving charge that President Bush misled the American people about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Presidential candidate John Kerry announced back in June that President Bush “misled every one of us” about Iraq and “That's one reason why I'm running to be president of the United States.” It seems a bit strange that a senator is basing his voter appeal on his ability to be easily duped. Regardless, the argument that intelligence was somehow manipulated is a serious indictment that arises from a win-at-all-costs ethos that defines the Left. The argument put forward by George W. Bush and his competent team, however, was never about one single piece of intelligence. First and foremost, Operation Iraqi Freedom was a battle in the War on Terror and an exercise in counter-proliferation.
It is worth examining each of these points in brief.
Charges that Saddam Hussein supported terrorism, specifically al-Qaeda, have been criticized endlessly by the Left. There is enough evidence now to illustrate that the Left’s skepticism is highly disjointed. Moreover, this argument is designed to limit the War on Terror to a struggle with Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network. It is an attempt to discredit the policy adopted by President Bush to combat terrorist organizations with a global reach.
Even presidential candidate Bob Graham, who now hypocritically calls for the impeachment of President Bush, voted against the use of force authorization vis-à-vis Iraq because it was “too timid…too limited…too weak.” The alternative he proffered called for an assault on the leadership of the Abu Nidal Organization, Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Palestine Liberation Front – all of whom have “a history of killing Americans.” Graham failed to recognize at the time that Saddam Hussein’s departure would eliminate the tyrannical regime that sponsored the Abu Nidal Organization and the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF’s leader Muhammad Abbas, a.k.a. Abu Abbas, was captured in Iraq after the fall of Baghdad). His strategy ignored the essential life-giving role played by Saddam Hussein vis-à-vis these two Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
The removal of Saddam Hussein from power also put on display a new doctrine that elevates pre-emptive counter-proliferation strategies to their rightful place. Many people do not accept this new strategy for they feel that it runs counter to the accepted norms relating to imminent threats and the resort to war. For example, when did 9/11 become an imminent, actionable event? When the hijackers purchased their airline tickets? When they stood up and approached the cockpits? When they turned the planes around? Or was it when they first conceived of the idea? A lot of lives would have been saved on that fateful day if the hijackers had been nabbed before they got on those planes. The criteria that are employed to discern imminence are even more critical – and exponentially more significant – in a nuclear, chemical, and biological epoch.
President Bush recognizes this fact. He has reiterated on numerous occasions the following: “We learned a lesson on September the 11th, and that is, our nation is vulnerable to attack…But the best way to secure America is to get the enemy before they get us.” Hence, the doctrine of pre-emption and its first manifestation – Operation Iraqi Freedom.
As for the “occupation” of Iraq, (an epithet used by many to de-legitimize America’s involvement in Iraq and to appeal to the anti-American Left around the globe) it will last as long as necessary. Should the U.S. withdraw now, Saddam or his loyalists will seize power, and then exact gruesome revenge on every Iraqi who has cooperated with the United States. Withdrawing from Iraq under politically expedient circumstances would sign thousands of death warrants.
Therefore, to minimize the “occupation” stigma – which has inflicted upon America’s men in uniform by the Left – Bush’s critics insist that only the United Nations should be in charge of rebuilding Iraq. The left-wing magazine The Nation captured this sentiment in a August 4, 2003, editorial entitled “End the U.S. Occupation.” It claimed that: “the United States and its small band of allies do not have the resources, expertise or legitimacy to stabilize Iraq, let alone establish the conditions for an Iraqi democracy. It is also time for the White House to request that the United Nations take over primary responsibility in Iraq as the only way of accomplishing this goal.”
Frank Gaffney, President of the Center for Security Policy, believes that “the Iraqis are more likely to be put in charge of their country and its future sooner, rather than later” if the United States is in charge of the rebuilding process. “By contrast,” he argues, “if the UN does it, heaven only knows how long it will take to get that done – and what kind of Iraqis will be entrusted with such responsibilities, and toward what end, whenever it does happen.” This point is well-grounded in light of the U.N.’s historical tolerance for Saddam Hussein and his brutish regime. It is one thing to help the Iraqi Governing Council seek recognition in the United Nations, an imprimatur it desires, but it is quite another point to argue that America’s presence in Iraq needs the cover of UN “legitimacy” to be more effective.
This week’s attacks laid this canard to rest. It should have been transparently farcical to believe that the daily attacks on American soldiers in Iraq will end if the United Nations gets involved. Remember Somalia? Yet the violent deaths of the UN’s party in Iraq shows that terrorists are not “reacting” to an American “occupation”; they are acting to re-establish a murderous tyranny.
The only thing that will end the attacks on U.S. soldiers is the elimination of Saddam Hussein and his loyal minions, followed by the complete disestablishment of the Ba’ath Party in Iraq. In addition, indigenous as well as exogenous terrorist elements in Iraq must be terminated along with the support they receive from neighboring states.
This brings us to the ultimate destiny of the Iraqi people: Will a representative democracy flourish in Iraq? The short answer: It is not an impossible task. Naturally, there are no guarantees for such an outcome. However, democracy is more likely to take hold in Iraq if the American people do not become impatient as a result of the Left’s incessant fearmongering. In its relentless assault on President Bush’s leadership and credibility the Left is placing at risk the future of a stable, democratic Iraq (an entity it never wanted in the first place); and increasing – albeit slowly – the likelihood that a hastily conceived, politically motivated withdrawal from Iraq could take place in the near future and render meaningless the sacrifices that America’s Armed Forces have endured already.