Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A Blogstorm on the President's Iraq speech yesterday

Everyone's got an opinion! Read the speech here. There's loads of responses to it here. There's nothing profoundly novel in the President's exposition, as far as I can tell. He focuses on the reality of Iraq today, it's connection to US security Vis a vis the war on terror, and the consequences of Victory. And Defeat. Here's a sampler:

Our mission in Iraq is clear. We're hunting down the terrorists. We're helping Iraqis build a free nation that is an ally in the war on terror. We're advancing freedom in the broader Middle East. We are removing a source of violence and instability, and laying the foundation of peace for our children and our grandchildren.

The work in Iraq is difficult and it is dangerous. Like most Americans, I see the images of violence and bloodshed. Every picture is horrifying, and the suffering is real. Amid all this violence, I know Americans ask the question: Is the sacrifice worth it? It is worth it, and it is vital to the future security of our country. And tonight I will explain the reasons why.

Some of the violence you see in Iraq is being carried out by ruthless killers who are converging on Iraq to fight the advance of peace and freedom. Our military reports that we have killed or captured hundreds of foreign fighters in Iraq who have come from Saudi Arabia and Syria, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and others. They are making common cause with criminal elements, Iraqi insurgents, and remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime who want to restore the old order. They fight because they know that the survival of their hateful ideology is at stake. They know that as freedom takes root in Iraq, it will inspire millions across the Middle East to claim their liberty, as well. And when the Middle East grows in democracy and prosperity and hope, the terrorists will lose their sponsors, lose their recruits, and lose their hopes for turning that region into a base for attacks on America and our allies around the world.

President George W. Bush greets soldiers after delivering remarks on the war on terror at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Tuesday, June 28, 2005. White House photo by Eric DraperSome wonder whether Iraq is a central front in the war on terror. Among the terrorists, there is no debate. Hear the words of Osama Bin Laden: "This Third World War is raging" in Iraq. "The whole world is watching this war." He says it will end in "victory and glory, or misery and humiliation."
We see the nature of the enemy in terrorists who exploded car bombs along a busy shopping street in Baghdad, including one outside a mosque. We see the nature of the enemy in terrorists who sent a suicide bomber to a teaching hospital in Mosul. We see the nature of the enemy in terrorists who behead civilian hostages and broadcast their atrocities for the world to see.

These are savage acts of violence, but they have not brought the terrorists any closer to achieving their strategic objectives. The terrorists -- both foreign and Iraqi -- failed to stop the transfer of sovereignty. They failed to break our Coalition and force a mass withdrawal by our allies. They failed to incite an Iraqi civil war. They failed to prevent free elections. They failed to stop the formation of a democratic Iraqi government that represents all of Iraq's diverse population. And they failed to stop Iraqis from signing up in large number with the police forces and the army to defend their new democracy.

The lesson of this experience is clear: The terrorists can kill the innocent, but they cannot stop the advance of freedom. The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September the 11th, if we abandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi, and if we yield the future of the Middle East to men like Bin Laden. For the sake of our nation's security, this will not happen on my watch.
America and our friends are in a conflict that demands much of us. It demands the courage of our fighting men and women, it demands the steadfastness of our allies, and it demands the perseverance of our citizens. We accept these burdens, because we know what is at stake. We fight today because Iraq now carries the hope of freedom in a vital region of the world, and the rise of democracy will be the ultimate triumph over radicalism and terror. And we fight today because terrorists want to attack our country and kill our citizens, and Iraq is where they are making their stand. So we'll fight them there, we'll fight them across the world, and we will stay in the fight until the fight is won.

The President makes clear what every rational person should understand: This is no longer about WMDs or Saddam Hussein. This is not about oil or empire. This is not about Corporate welfare or oil company buddies. Iraq is a country that struggles in labor to give birth to a free society. Terrorists such as Al Zarqawi and Osama Bin Laden have chosen to confront the US here. Why? Their campaigns of terror have not succeeded in the past because of these men's stupidity. Why would they risk the resources of their organization on Iraq if they did not see it as critical to their triumph?

Iraq can become a model Arab democracy. It's presence will shatter the myth that the Great Satan oppresses all true believers. The Arab Street already wonders why they can't enjoy some of the freedoms that Iraqis begin to enjoy. The Lebonese drove Syria out of their country. Saudi Arabia, of all places, contemplates implementing municipal elections! Other dictatorships in the Middle East shudder because they know they can't hope to prevent their own people from seeking democracy if Iraq succeeds. The terrorists know that a fully functional Arab Democracy completely undermines their cause. No one will become suicide bombers if they live in a society that offers hope for a fulfilling life. Al Q'aida and it's ilk must defeat the Great Satan in Iraq or else there will be no ressurection of the Caliphate.

If the United States cuts and runs, The butchers behind 9/11 win a major victory. America will lose all credibility in the region. The dictatorships will tighten their iron grip and give disgruntled people no way out except the Wahabists' Jihad. Al Quaeda will swell with recruits. Homicide bombers will soon unleash calamity on the American Homeland. And why not? They already took down the Twin Towers and drove the infidel from Middle East. Who will stop them from beheading the Great Satan?

Besides self-preservation, there is the question of honor. President George H.W. Bush once called on the Shia to rise up against Saddam Hussein. They did so in the waning days of the Persian Gulf War. They believed that the Americans would support them since the Iraqi army had fled Kuwait. They were wrong. Some American commanders watched in shame as the remnant of Hussein's Republican Guard shattered the southern resistance. The United States has already betrayed the Iraqi people once. She can't afford to do it again.

People of good will can honestly ask if there are still "serious prospects for success" for the United States in Iraq. They can't say that the US has no business being there. The Iraqis and the terrorists have made it clear just how much business the world's last Super-Power has there.