Two American soldiers, missing since an insurgent ambush at the checkpoint they were manning last Friday, were found dead Monday night on a street just south of Baghdad. An Iraqi General confirmed to the Associated Press that the soldiers’ bodies showed “signs of torture,” and that the men appeared to have been killed in a particularly “barbaric” way. This assertion appears to be backed up both by the fact that DNA tests were required to positively identify the remains, and by the claim of responsibility made by the self-titled new leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, who posted on an Islamist website that he “carried out the verdict of the Islamic court" for the death of terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi by “slaughtering” (a word most often employed when referring to beheadings) the two soldiers.
Privates First Class Kristian Menchaca and Thomas Tucker were members of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault)’s “Strike” Brigade, based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Both Menchaca and Tucker volunteered to be members of the US Army. Both volunteered to be infantrymen. Both knew, as do all members of the US Armed Forces, that they could end up in harm’s way as a result of their volunteering—doubly so since both initially enlisted well after the Iraq War (and postwar process) had begun. In a written statement, Tucker’s family said that their son had joined the military in part out of a desire to "do something positive.” They also released to the press the text of a message he left on their answering machine less than a week before his capture, in which he reaffirmed his commitment to, and belief in, his mission. "I'm defending my country," he said, and he asked his mother to be proud of him.
Interestingly silent on this and other atrocities carried out by the insurgents in Iraq are the “human rights” groups who seem to spend every day accusing the United States of torture, war crimes, and various human rights violations. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called the Iraq war “illegal,” and John Pace, former UN chief of Human Rights for Iraq, has said that human rights conditions are “as bad now as they were under Saddam,” but was it America that filled mass graves with hundreds of thousands of murdered Iraqi civilians? Last month, Human Rights Watch again accused the US of “brutalizing Muslim suspects in the name of the war on terror,” but how many times have Americans strapped bombs to their own chests and purposely detonated themselves in a large crowd of civilians? Amnesty International’s website highlights America’s use of “torture or other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” against terrorist captives, but how many prisoners—Muslim or otherwise—have Americans brutally beheaded?
Despite the immediate attempts of the anti-war Left to make this murder of American soldiers into an election-year political issue, the gradually stabilizing situation on the ground—especially evidenced by the decreasing frequency of effective insurgent attacks, combined with the increasing desperation of their methods—almost inarguably proves that a turning point in Iraq has been reached. Zarqawi’s demise at the hands of Air Force pilots and joint Special Operations troops was the most obvious sign of this improvement, but the tide had been turning in the favor of freedom long before Al Qaeda’s leader in Iraq was finally caught.
Beyond providing intelligence which will enable us to more effectively counter the remnants of the insurgency, the information gleaned from Zarqawi’s safehouse has given us additional proof that the battle against the insurgency is being won—and that that has been the case for some time. Computer files recovered after the bombing show that Zarqawi had been growing more and more concerned about the "bleak situation" his insurgents were facing. "Time is beginning to be of service to the U.S. forces,” he wrote, “by allowing them to form and bolster the [Iraqi] National Guard, undertake big arrest operations, carry out a media campaign weakening the resistance's influence and presenting it as harmful to the people, creat[ing] division among [the insurgency’s] ranks." He was rapidly approaching the conclusion that the only way "to get out of this crisis” was “to entangle the American forces into another war,” such as one with Iran. These are not the words of a bold, invincible leader of an army of freedom fighters on the verge of defeating the world’s greatest military. They are not the words of a man simply in need of the West to “reach out” to him in an effort to “make an appeal to his human decency,” as many peace-at-any-cost proponents have claimed. Rather, these words reflect the increasingly desperate thoughts of a man who is struggling to avoid the fact that he must finally begin to come to terms with impending, and inevitable, defeat.
There is no question that these two murdered soldiers, and all others lost in Iraq and elsewhere in the world, are to be mourned. Both Kristian Menchaca and Tom Tucker left behind families, friends, and other loved ones. Given that fact, and the fact that, due to an overriding love of America and belief in its ideals, they volunteered to serve their country even though they fully understood that they might one day have to make this ultimate sacrifice, it is supremely important—even necessary—that, along with a loving family, they leave behind a grateful nation.
America should recognize these men as examples of the myriad heroes which make up our all-volunteer military, and should realize that, without supporting the mission the troops are doing—and the cause for which they are volunteering to give their lives, should it come to that—it is not possible to support the troops themselves. The tide has turned in the battle to win the peace in postwar Iraq, and those who have stood on the sidelines for the past three years—or, worse, who have actively worked against the cause of freedom and democracy in that nation—are dangerously close to being remembered (if they are remembered at all) not for their support of human rights, but for their self-righteous fight against them—all in the name of their hatred of America, and of George W. Bush.
Jeff Emanuel, a highly decorated military veteran, is a senior at the University of Georgia where he is the Public Relations Director for the UGA College Republicans.