Each month the Sun Advocate presents two views of the same subject as columnists Terry Willis and Tom McCourt see it.
Several things have happened in the past few weeks that suggest we might soon have a new strategy regarding the war in Iraq. There has been the Iraq Study Group, also known as the Baker Commission report. There has been the firing of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. And there has been much said by the new Democrat leadership about a new change in policies and direction. This is all well and good. The will of the people was voiced in the recent election and polls show that a majority of Americans want us out of Iraq.
There are some real problems with the war in Iraq. The war is taking too long, costing too much and not showing the progress we would hope to see for our blood, money and noble efforts. Our allies are not stepping up to the plate. The Iraqi people have never been free and they don't know how to deal with freedom. They can't seem to put their ethnic, religious and regional differences aside long enough to create a unified country. I freely admit that things are a mess over there. But before we pull out of Iraq, there are some things we should consider.
First: we are not at war with Iraq. The Iraqi people, army and government are our friends. We should be careful about abandoning our friends in the Middle East.
Second: the fight is with international terrorists. Pulling out of Iraq will not stop the war. It will only shift the battlefield to another location.
Third: we are at war with religious fanatics who want to take the world back to the dark ages of the ninth century. They hate us because of who we are and not because of anything we have done. Leaving Iraq will not appease them. They have vowed to kill us and they intend to do it. They will follow us home.
Fourth: our country and way of life is in mortal danger. The terrorists will use chemical, biological and nuclear weapons as soon as they are able. They will use them on U.S. soil if they can. They will also use oil as a weapon to either starve us, or goad us into a full-scale world war. They are men without honor who make war on children. It is best to fight them in their own backyard.
Fifth: This is not George Bush's war. He made the decision to go into Iraq, but the war started in 1979 when Iranian radicals attacked the American embassy in Tehran and took American hostages. Since then, Islamic terrorists have made major attacks on Americans at least nine times: The Beirut embassy in 1983, the Beirut Marine barracks in 1983, the Pan Am aircraft bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, the Saudi Arabian Kobart towers bombing in 1996, the U.S. Embassy in Kenya in 1998, the Tunisian U.S. Embassy in 1998, the USS Cole bombing in 2000 and World Trade Center number two in 2001. We did not provoke any of those incidents and they happened during the administrations of both Democrats and Republicans: Carter, Reagan, Bush number one, Clinton and Bush number two. Politics do not factor into the equation. We have been attacked and we are at war, pure and simple.
Sixth: pulling out of Iraq will solve nothing. In fact, accepting defeat in Iraq will only make things worse. By leaving Iraq we leave that country open to civil war and domination by Iran and Syria, terrorist states that openly support the jihadists. By leaving Iraq we give a victory to the terrorists. What a wonderful propaganda and recruiting tool that would be for militant Islam. And by leaving Iraq we betray every Iraqi who believed in us and put their lives on the line to help us. Like the Montagnards in Vietnam, they will be slaughtered when we leave.
And so, my vote is to stay in Iraq for as long as it takes. If we pull out too soon we leave the whole region in the hands of our enemies. We need to stay in Iraq until the Iraqi people can defend themselves and protect their borders from the Iranians and from terrorist militias and foreign infiltrators. Our presence is a stabilizing force and a deterrent to wider bloodshed in the region. This war will be with us for many years to come.
Let's win it in the Middle East if we can.
I didn't think we would revisit this issue so soon, but it remains a hot button issue and even those in charge are polarized of what to do next.
The election shows that even though the Democrats made some political gains, the country is still fairly evenly divided on many issues. The balance of power in congress resides on the health of a single member of the house.
The Baker Commission came out with some strong recommendations to the president. It echoed the sentiment of the American people, but was not driven by the results of recent polls. The Baker Commission was convened to address by the lack of positive results from our military invasion into Iraq.
As we consider the problems with the war, we need to remember that we went to war in Afghanistan to fight the Al Quaida and the Taliban. Those were known terrorist groups that had targeted us. We are still fighting that war and will be for a long time, because we cannot follow the insurgents into the areas in which they are hiding using conventional tactics.
We went into Iraq to topple Sadam and get his weapons of mass destruction. Al Quaida was not our target and was not an ally of Hussein. Years ago our president stood on the deck of a US carrier and declared "Mission accomplished!" I think he was right. We needed to have a clear exit strategy at that time, but we didn't.
Military strategists continue to state that this is now a civil war between factions fighting for power within Iraq. They have declared that we have dismantled much of the Al Quaida network. When he needed to bolster support for staying the course, Bush tried to tell us that we are there to fight the terrorists. His military advisors disagree with that and continue to state that Iraq is now in the midst of a civil conflict.
There are religious fanatics and terrorists just waiting for the opportunity to destroy us. That level of hate becomes irrational and no amount of negotiation will change the course of their path. But by remaining in Iraq, we are fueling the fanatics and giving them a wondrous recruiting tool to restock their ranks.
Our focus needs to be to equip the Iraqi military to be able to defend and stabilize their own country. We need to give the government the resources necessary to rebuild a police force and defense system so they can begin to govern. There is a good chance that after we leave there will be a major shake up in the government. That may be the only way they find stability.
It would be nice to come away with a win. But what is the definition of winning the war? I have never really seen a realistic scenario of that put before us. Democracy is all well and good, but it isn't a prerequisite in what we accept as an ally.
Saudi Arabia is not a democracy, but you don't see us threatening them if they don't hold elections. We even count them as an ally even when it has been proven that they funnel money to the very terrorist groups we are fighting.
We do not need to abandon Iraq to pull out. This week Senator McCain voiced the need to send in more troops to the effort. The general's who are on the ground in Iraq are saying that more troops will not fix the problems. I think it says something when the very men who are directing the battles are not saying, "Just send me more troops and we'll knock the snot out of these guys." They are advocating for the arming of more Iraqi military.
Implementing a strategy for Iraq to take over its civil war is not leaving with defeat. We need to assist the transition so they are capable of dealing with the unrest, but it is no longer our role to fix it. The only way the country will find its equilibrium is on its own. We should have been better prepared for that when we went in.
Let us turn our focus to keeping our country safe and free. The money used to fight this civil war can now be turned to the war on terrorism. Whether or not we linger in Iraq, we will need to address this.
Terrorism will remain a threat to our country. The war in Iraq and the war on terrorism are different.
Do not confuse the two issues.