Wednesday, December 14, 2005

David Ignatius on "Breaking The Assassins"

Liberty is a gift that we in the west too often take for granted. As we make every effort to legitimize every liscense as an expression of liberty, we can easily forget our brothers and sisters that suffer under tyranny. David Ignatius, writing for the Washington Post, reminds us of the slavery to terror the Iraqis endured under Saddam Hussein and the Baathists:
This is the time of the assassins in the Arab world. On Monday they killed a brave Lebanese journalist who dared to tell the truth about Syria. This week in Iraq they will try to kill people who want to vote. They kill wives to intimidate their husbands. They kill children to frighten their parents into silence. Their power is the ability to create raw fear.

The shame for America isn't that we have tried to topple the rule of the assassins but that we have so far been unsuccessful. We thought we were cracking the old web of terror when America invaded Iraq in 2003, but it's still there, in the shadows of the shadows. George W. Bush gets a lot of things wrong, but he knows that he's fighting the assassins. On days like these, I'm glad that he is such a stubborn man.

What is this struggle about? Listen to some Arab voices. Yesterday the front page of the Beirut daily An Nahar carried an open letter from the Syrian-born Lebanese poet known as "Adonis," perhaps the most famous writer in the Arab world. It was written to the paper's celebrated editor, Ghassan Tueni, whose outspoken son Gebran had been murdered the previous day by a car bomb. "We are witnessing the destruction of the soul and the spirit," wrote the poet, whose real name is Ali Ahmed Said. The people who killed Gebran want to create "a temple of fear."

The headline atop the newspaper's front page said this: "Gebran didn't die and an-Nahar will continue." For a paper that had already lost its fearless columnist Samir Kassir to a car bomb in June, it was a defiant statement to the assassins: Kill us all. We aren't going to stop publishing the truth.


The Baath Party in Iraq ruled by its sheer brutality. I gathered reports from Iraqi dissidents and human rights workers in the early 1990s, when I was researching my novel about Iraq, "The Bank of Fear." These stories are sickening to recount, even now: The children of Shiite rebels in southern Iraq, dropped from helicopters to terrify the parents; dissidents who had nails driven into their heads; and prisoners beaten with metal cables until they collapsed or died. At Saddam Hussein's trial last week, a woman was speaking about how she had been beaten with those cables. Watching his arrogant scorn for the testimony of his victims, I remembered what the war is about.

The Baath Party in Syria has governed much the same way, though it saved its worst brutality for neighboring Lebanon. The Syrians maintained their mandate by demonstrating that they were prepared to kill anyone who got in their way: a president, a prime minister, a religious leader, a journalist. The price of speaking out was death. That was the message: This is the land of death. Enter into this theater of violence and we will swallow you up.
We Americans, in particular, have spent far too much hand-wringing over our nation's stated causus belli for the Iraq war. We've regrettably focused far too little on the reality of the Iraqi people's suffering under Saddam.

Especially now.

The Iraqi people vote in masse tomorrow. They will express the freedom to determine their own government in the face of islamofascist totalitarians. They will risk their lives and families in order to fulfill their aspirations for making their nation a true representative republic. And how have prominent leaders of the Senate and House of the United States of America responded to this? By publically calling for a full withdrawal of American forces in Iraq. By smearing American soldiers and servicemen as the ones that "terrorize" Iraqi families. By distorting the voice of the Iraqi people themselves in order to support their ridiculous assertions.

If we leave Iraq before government security and defense personnel can secure the nation, we condemn the Iraqis to totalitarian brutality once more. We say that the lives of our brave servicemen were spent in vain. We tell the assassins that murder is an instrument of public policy that works. We tell the world that our commitment to liberty is for ourselves and our own, alone.

Is that the message we want the world to hear? Is this the treatment the Iraqis deserve from us?

War is never a victory for humanity. While it is sometimes necessary to secure the defense of a society or ensure justice, it is never sufficient for these ends. Many have raised legitimate concerns as to whether or not the Iraq war was the right war in the right place at the right time. Well, right or wrong, the Butcher of Baghdad is out of power. His Baathists' torture of the Shiite and Kurds ended with his fall. Those that would pick up where he left off murder women and children and call themselves "liberators." Meanwhile, the Iraqis prepare to enact of government of their choosing.

We can only betray justice and everything noble that we stand for if we abandon the Iraqis now. Let us not forget that. Or them.