Posted by Lex, on Wed 9 Aug 2006
The media (and your correspondent *) made much hay out of the testimony to Congress last week of General Abizaid and General Pace that the situation in Iraq might devolve into a civil war. Less emphasis was placed on the generals’ point that it doesn’t have to. Cal Thomas makes that point * more explicitly in the Miami Herald.
Secretary Rumsfeld’s later testimony to the House, quoted by Thomas, was filled with such uncontroversially self-evident facts they they approach the status of platitudes. We know we’re different than those we fight, and we know we’re better – why write about it?
(It) bears reading and repeating to a large number of people who, in their quest for pleasure and personal peace, appear to lack the staying power required to defeat perhaps the greatest evil the world has ever faced.
Taking note of the differences between the way the United States and terrorists fight, Rumsfeld said, ‘’. . .one side puts their men and women at risk in uniform and obeys the laws of war, while the other side uses them against us.’’ We have seen that in the world’s reaction to Guantánamo Bay prison and Abu Ghraib. Terrorists use torture and murder and no court of public opinion or judicial entity holds them accountable. The rare instance of abuse by American soldiers is punished.
Rumsfeld elaborated on the difference between the two sides: “One side does all it can to avoid civilian casualties, while the other side uses civilians as shields, and then skillfully orchestrates a public outcry when the other side accidentally kills civilians in their midst. One side is held to exacting standards of near perfection; the other side is held to no standards and no accountability at all.’’
Rumsfeld noted how the enemy uses our media to undermine American resolve, ‘’planning attacks to gain the maximum media coverage and the maximum public outcry.’’
Not too long ago, when young, middle class Saudis and Yemenis crossed the oceans to fly airliners into buildings full of strangers that had done them no personal or collective harm, we asked ourselves, “What kind of people would do a thing like that?”
When a different set of people would cheerfully sacrifice their children in suicide attacks against other people’s children so that – defying all logic – their grandchildren could have the full loaf, rather than half, we asked ourselves, “What kind of people would do a thing like that?”
When a group of men could saw a defenseless prisoner’s head off, and proudly post the video to the internet, with music – as a recruiting tool – we recoiled, asking ourselves, “What kind of people would do a thing like that?”
When groups of men would, day in and day out, commit inter-confessional massacres based on little more reason than the sequelae of a 1200-year old dynastic dispute, we once again ask ourselves, “What kind of people would do a thing like that?”
The enemy we fight in the fields and cities of Iraq would. And so we should hear the Secretary’s words loud and clear, because even though we know they are true, the have the salutory advantage of reminding us who we are, and who we fight, and why we must not fail.
Navy SEAL Marcus Lee Allen, who became the first SEAL to lose his life in Iraq last Wednesday understood this. According to his mother, interviewed for the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Before his death, Lee helped rescue a fellow SEAL during a two-hour battle in which he fired 100 rounds against insurgents, Lee’s mother, Debbie Lee, said she learned from Navy personnel yesterday morning.
She said her son was “committed to stand up for what was right and to make a difference.” In an e-mail sent a few days before his death, Lee told his mother that Iraqis wanted the U.S. forces there because insurgents were routinely violating many of their rights.
“He said they were begging for the military to release them from this tyranny and were appalled at the things that were going on,” said Debbie Lee of Surprise, Ariz.
As we should all be appalled.
During his interview with Congress the Secretary also reminded us, maddeningly, of consequences:
“We can persevere in Iraq or we can withdraw prematurely, until they force us to make a stand nearer home. But make no mistake: They are not going to give up, whether we acquiesce in their immediate demands or not.’’
Rumsfeld is right.
So is Cal Thomas.
It isn’t necessary for us to believe that the planning for the war-after-the-war was brilliantly executed, or that it has been waged perfectly, or that it will end with a pristine Jeffersonian democracy – when the last American footsoldier leaves, there will very likely still be fits and sputters of violence in a violent land, a place much given to tribalism and nurtured grudges.
It isn’t even necessary to believe that the original justification for going to war was sufficient. Nor, stipulating sufficiency for the sake of argument, that the decision to engage when and as we did was good one. The violent extremists that threaten us may or may not have been in bed with the Saddamite regime, but they are embedded in Iraq now, and that is where we must fight them. It is only necessary to understand that those forces – those who would do such things so as to make us ask, “Who are these people?” – see Mesopotamia as a civilizational testing ground, the central front in their war against modernity.
We are across the Rubicon, our forces are committed.
No end but victory.
* 08-06-2018 Links Gone; no replacements found – Ed.