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An Unsung Victory By: Ralph Peters
New York Post | Wednesday, September 03, 2008


A HURRICANE smacks the Big Easy again. Back-to- back political conventions. A surprise VP pick. Russians behaving like Russians...

All too easy to miss the biggest story out of Iraq this year: Yesterday, security responsibility for once-bloody Anbar Province officially passed from the US military to the Baghdad government.

Fallujah. Ramadi. Al Qaeda's worst atrocities. Those opposed to the liberation of Iraq celebrated years of headlines from Anbar.

Then it all changed: We won - and the headlines vanished.

This year, Iraq received a special gift to kick off Ramadan, Islam's holy month of alternate fasts and feasts: The handover of a huge, economically resurgent, peaceful province.

More than 12,000 Marines have been withdrawn from Anbar. The remaining 25,000 US troops are packing up. That means more forces available for Afghanistan - and more time together for our military families.

The handover also means that 11 of Iraq's 18 provinces are now the responsibility of the country's long-derided security forces - with two more provinces scheduled to revert to full Iraqi control by year's end.

Yes, challenges remain in Anbar. The province is overwhelmingly Sunni, and the Shia-dominated government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will have to avoid clumsy partisanship that could ignite a new round of Sunni-Shia strife. All parties will have to make compromises, and inter-communal cooperation isn't deeply embedded in the local DNA.

But the irrefutable fact is that we did our part - and our troops did it well. When Anbar appeared to be al Qaeda's turf and its cities endured ferocious urban combat, our defeatists insisted that victory was impossible, that Iraq was hopelessly lost.

Imagine how much worse off the Middle East - and the world - would be today if we'd listened to the quit-and-damn-the-consequences crowd. Al Qaeda would've won a great strategic victory.

Instead, the terrorists suffered a catastrophic defeat - even more destructive to their cause than the loss of Afghanistan - when millions of Iraq's Sunni Arabs turned against them.

Back in the dark days of 2006, both Sens. Barack Obama and Joe Biden wanted to bail out - to abandon Iraq to terrorists, militias and the Iranians. Even in 2007, Biden said there was "zero chance" the surge could succeed.

No matter who wins in November, we Americans must always be grateful to Sen. John McCain for pushing for the surge that gave Iraqis the confidence to reject extremism. The media's preferred candidates were 100 percent wrong.

Even now, Obama shamelessly claims that the surge didn't make any difference, that Iraq turned around because he opposed the surge. According to the Obama Politburo's rewrite of history, his "courageous stand" frightened the Iraqis into good behavior.

(One pictures Anbar's leathery sheiks shuddering and crying, "Allah have mercy! Barack Obama is displeased with us! We must shape up!").

Now Obama's line is that, during his brief-as-a-Brazilian-thong visit to Iraq a few months back, he instructed Gen. David Petraeus on the proper military strategy for the future - directing the most successful general of our time to shift troops to Afghanistan.

That's egotism and falsity worthy of a North Korean dictator. Our military's been discussing a shift of troops to Afghanistan for over a year. Senator, have you no shame?

On the occasion of the hand-over of a peaceful Anbar to Iraq's freely elected government, wouldn't it be nice to hear just one leading Democrat tell our troops, "Thank you - you won"?


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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