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A Veto for Victory By: Ben Johnson
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, May 02, 2007

LET IT NEVER AGAIN BE SAID THAT the Democratic Party’s Left believes in fighting al-Qaeda.

The president courageously issued his second veto in office yesterday afternoon, striking down a plan to begin withdrawing from Iraq in two-to-five months. “Setting a deadline for withdrawal is setting a date for failure, and that would be irresponsible,” he said in a nationally televised statement from the White House. “This is a prescription for chaos and confusion, and we must not impose it on our troops.”


President Bush peppered his speech with good and valid reasons for rejecting the hyper-Murtha plan. He rightly observed “America's commanders in the middle of a combat zone” should not “have to take fighting directions from politicians 6,000 miles away.” (Although, his detractors will retort, they must respond to “The Decider.”) He mentioned Congress unanimously confirmed General David Petraeus; that his surge has not yet been fully implemented, and “Congress ought to give General Petraeus’s plan a chance to work.” And he added the hopeful fact that “since January, the number of sectarian murders has dropped substantially” (actually, to “about one-third” their pre-surge levels, according to Petraeus).


While Bush successfully communicated that that Democrats’ plan would mean an American battlefield defeat, he failed to articulate a loss against whom. The closest he came was in this passage:


In Washington last week, General Petraeus explained it this way, “Iraq is, in fact, the central front of all al-Qaeda's global campaign.” Al-Qaeda’s role makes the conflict in Iraq far more complex than a simple fight between Iraqis…Even as sectarian attacks have declined, we continue to see spectacular suicide attacks that have caused great suffering. These attacks are largely the work of al-Qaeda – the enemy that everyone agrees we should be fighting… Many also belong to the same terrorist network that attacked us on September 11th, 2001 — and wants to attack us here at home again. We saw the death and destruction al Qaeda inflicted on our people when they were permitted a safe haven in Afghanistan. For the security of the American people, we must not allow al Qaeda to establish a new safe haven in Iraq.


As usual, the president buried the lead. John McCain spoke more succinctly: “Today, with his veto, President Bush sent a clear message to our enemies: America will not surrender to al-Qaeda in Iraq.”


However, as General Petraeus stated last Thursday, ““Iraq is, in fact, the central front” of the War on Terror not merely for al-Qaeda-in-Iraq:


we do definitely see links [from al-Qaeda in Iraq] to the greater al-Qaeda network. I think you know that we have at various times intercepted messages to and from [Afghanistan]. There is no question but that there is a network that supports the movement of foreign fighters through Syria into Iraq.


He later deemed the threat of the international al-Qaeda organization in Iraq “probably public enemy number one.” Even the New York Times has conceded that al-Qaeda’s “leadership sees ‘the sectarian war for Baghdad as the necessary main focus of its operations.’


Thus, the war on the ground in Iraq is the war against bin Laden and al-Zawahiri. (And, no doubt coincidentally, against Iranian terrorists). Congressional Democrats are well aware of this, having been briefed by General Petraeus in the days leading up to the vote – except Speaker Pelosi, who skipped the meeting.


The Left’s persistent decoupling of the two fronts has allowed its representatives to irresponsibly advocate our unilateral surrender. However, a victory for al-Qaeda in Iraq rewards the strategies hatched in Kandahar.


More troubling and less discussed is the fact that the jihadists view victory as an eschatological sign of divine intervention. In 1997, Osama bin Laden discussed “the collapse of the Soviet Union, in which the U.S. has no mentionable role – but rather the credit goes to Allah, praise and glory be to him, and the mujahadeen in Afghanistan.” He added:


I have benefited so greatly from the jihad in Afghanistan that it would have been impossible for me to gain such a benefit from any other chance…the myth of the superpower was destroyed not only in my mind but also in the minds of all Muslims.


He expounded in 1998:


We have seen in the last decade the decline of the American government and the weakness of the American soldier, who is ready to wage Cold Wars and unprepared to fight long wars. This was proven in Beirut, when the Marines fled after two explosions. It also proves they can run in less than 24 hours, and this was also repeated in Somalia. We are ready for all occasions [to attack]. We rely on Allah.


Elsewhere, he mentioned the pivotal role of Vietnam in his motivation. If American reversals around the world, sometimes against secular enemies, inspired jihad, how much more will a Congressionally mandated surrender in an open war against al-Qaeda itself?


Bush speaks clearly, however, when he discusses what needs to be done – and acts boldly in its pursuit. Just before the veto, he told a military gathering “there is only one effective response” against al-Qaeda: “we must go on the offense, stay on the offense and take the fight to them.”


In contrast, the Senate Majority Leader sulks that the war is “lost and can accomplish nothing.” Yesterday, Harry Reid resumed his saw that American troops are hopelessly “mired in the middle of an open-ended civil war,” although all evidence shows the American presence so successfully quelled the low-level “civil war” that al-Qaeda is now desperately trying to reignite it.


Meanwhile, Reid and the Congressional left-wing leadership continue their scorched earth political civil war. After wasting 12 weeks putting together a bill they knew was destined for a veto, Reid and Speaker Pelosi held up delivery of the bill for nearly a week so the veto would coincide with the fourth anniversary of President Bush’s much-misinterpreted speech on the before a naval banner that read, “Mission Accomplished.” Tony Snow observed in frustration, the bill has “now been passed for five days. We’re not quite sure why it's been so difficult to convey it one mile up Pennsylvania Avenue.” The mystery deepened yesterday after Pelosi and Reid hosted a “signing” ceremony for their bill, then had it chauffered to the White House by private vehicle.


This allowed the Left to maximize damage to the president. John Kerry condescended, “The irony of President Bush declaring ‘mission accomplished’ in Iraq four years ago today was not lost on anyone in Congress.” Rep. Tim Mahoney, D-FL, chimed in,  “On the fourth anniversary of ‘Mission Accomplished,’ the president is faced with a choice: Either listen to the will of the American people or continue to send our brave men and women into harm's way to police a religious civil war.” White House spokeswoman Dana Pirino spoke frankly: “It is a trumped-up political stunt that is the height of cynicism, and it's very disturbing to think that they possibly held up this money for the troops and the troops' families to try some PR stunt on this day.” The Associated Press and other outlets dutifully reported the date.


Reid, Pelosi, Dick Durbin, and the full chorus of the Left has pledged further defiance. “We’re gonna shove it down his throat!” barked Joseph Biden (in “a slight Indian accent”watch the video of his threat). However, their likely strategy is leaking out.  Fox News’ Major Garrett reported senior Democratic Congressional leaders told him “they will drop troop withdrawal guidelines [and] focus their debate on benchmarks,” specifying, “We’re gonna shift the debate from when do we leave to the conditions under which we stay.”[1] It seems the far-Left is now co-opting the responsible antiwar proposal of liberal California Democrat Howard Berman, “The Iraq Benchmarks Act” (H.R. 1263), as he predicted they ultimately would in an interview with this author.


If they knew the president would veto any bill containing a timetable – and the president has hardly been guarded about his intentions – why the 86-day charade? Because MoveOn.org owns the Democratic Party, and Congressional leaders are eager to placate the Soros-funded extremists. To do so, they are willing to turn their back on a campaign against the very terrorists who killed 3,000 of their countrymen.


Though they grasp for comparisons between the president ordering a surge on the anniversary of his “Mission Accomplished speech,” it is more symbolic that the bill to withdraw from Iraq landed on the president’s desk the day native Iraqis reportedly killed Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the new leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq (the position having been recently vacated by the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi). In the face of continuing progress – in which Iraqis are fighting for their own future – the Left again seeks to undermine an American war against a totalitarian enemy.


Never again let them claim they support the war against al-Qaeda or Osama bin Laden. Their actions have proven otherwise.

Ben Johnson is Managing Editor of FrontPage Magazine and co-author, with David Horowitz, of the book Party of Defeat. He is also the author of the books Teresa Heinz Kerry's Radical Gifts (2009) and 57 Varieties of Radical Causes: Teresa Heinz Kerry's Charitable Giving (2004).

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