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Planting the seeds of freedom

By Henry Lamb
web posted June 26, 2006

In a society where people can say whatever they wish, every policy initiative that is advanced is sure to draw opposition. That is a good thing. What is not good is opposition that is based, not on the merits of the initiative, but on the person who advances the initiative. Not every initiative advanced by George Bush is good - or bad. But if an initiative is advanced by George Bush, regardless of its merits, it draws opposition from the same group of hard-core Bush-haters.

After the remarkable recent events in Iraq that sent Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to meet his virgins, and the installation of a complete elected government in Iraq, the President said that America would honor its commitment by staying in Iraq until the new government could govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself. And that this condition would be determined, not by politicians in Washington, but by the commanders and diplomats on the ground, in consultation with the Iraqi government.

Immediately, the voices of opposition rose to condemn the initiative, rather than to debate its merits. Senator Kerry demanded that U.S. troops be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of 2006, with no thought about the consequences should the fledgling government be unable to defend itself. Senator Clinton said that there should be no time line for withdrawal, but there should be a better plan than the President's. What that plan might be, however, was left undefined.

Opposition to the President's initiative to "stay the course" is often based on the fact that more than 2,500 American soldiers have died in the 39-month battle in Iraq. Were this number of soldiers killed in battle a valid reason to quit a war, then America would have had to quit World War II within a few days. More than 400,000 soldiers died during that five-year conflict, averaging more than 200 deaths per day. We should be grateful that our losses in Iraq have been no more than about two deaths per day.

We fight in Iraq and Afghanistan because al-Qaida killed nearly 3,000 Americans in one day.

Opposition to, or hatred for George Bush should never cloud this fundamental reality: the United States of America is under attack by a vicious, evil enemy, represented by al-Qaida. This enemy is not a nation, as has been the case in previous wars. This enemy is a religion that wears many different uniforms in many different nations. The war against terrorism is, in fact, a religious war.

America's religion is universal freedom, endowed by a loving Creator; al-Qaida's religion is universal tyranny under the rule of a human priesthood that interprets the will of an intolerant Allah.

This war will not be won by a victory in Iraq, but it could well be lost by a defeat in Iraq. The war cannot be won on the battlefield, regardless of where that battlefield might be. The war will be won only when the enemy discovers the fallacy of al-Qaida's gospel and the opportunities offered by the hope of universal freedom.

The new government in Iraq is a precious seed of freedom planted in the midst of al-Qaida's garden of evil. It has been watered with the blood of Americans, Iraqis, and freedom fighters from many other nations. Despite daily bombings, beheadings, kidnappings, and death threats, the Iraqi people have elected representatives to draft a Constitution, have gone to the polls again to ratify that Constitution, and again to elected their first Constitutional government. That government is just beginning to function. To leave them now, as Bush opponents demand, would allow al-Qaida's evil to choke the life out of the tiny seedling that is sprouting.

History has shown that when freedom gets a foothold, tyranny can't compete. Freedom's growth, though, is not governed by a calendar or the seasons of the year. It is governed by the desire, determination, and responsibility of the people who pursue it. It is far too early to measure these qualities in Iraq, but the turn-out for Iraqi elections in the face of deadly dangers is a very positive indicator.

Americans should realize that a successful representative government in Iraq is the best possible hope of ultimately winning the war against terrorism. Freedom is a wonderful alternative to the tyranny of al-Qaida, that can only be understood and appreciated if experienced. Iraqis are on the verge of being given the opportunity to experience freedom. This experience is a more powerful weapon against terrorism than all the bombs and bullets in America's arsenal.

America must not let political opposition or hatred for a political foe deprive the world of this hard-won opportunity to nurture freedom in the midst of evil.

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO), and chairman of Sovereignty International.

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