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The right war at the right time

By Henry Lamb
web posted September 13, 2004

John Kerry announced recently that Iraq is the "wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time." Even a casual review of the events of September 11, 2001, demonstrates just how wrong he is. Terrorists declared war on the United States.

Unlike his opponent, George Bush knows that victory in the war on terror will come only when the recruits to martyrdom have a better reason to live, than to die for a mystical hope of 72 virgins in Paradise. If, or more optimistically, when young Iraqis see a realistic hope of a productive job, a comfortable home of their own, and personal freedom - without the fear of government or terrorist death squads - then, and only then, can the war on terrorism be won.

Some critics of the war in Iraq contend that, as Osama bin Laden claims, terrorism is the result of U.S. presence in their "holy land," and U.S. support for Israel. These people condemn U.S. foreign policy as the cause of terrorism.

Consider what the world would be like today, had U.S. foreign policy reflected this belief over the last few decades. It's impossible to know for sure, but it's a pretty good bet that there would be no Kuwait, nor would there be any Kurds. There would most certainly be no Israel. The energy that fuels the U.S. economy, as well as the economy of other developed nations, would be held hostage by the strongest tyrant. Those who can remember the oil embargo of the 1970s, and the impact it had in the U.S., should realize that such a foreign policy is far too high a price to pay to appease the religious fanatics.

Other critics are convinced that the war cannot be won because it is a religious war, pitting Islam against the infidels. The extreme brand of Islam spouted by bin Laden, Moqtada Sadr, and other terrorist leaders, is not the same brand of Islam practiced by the vast majority of Muslims. The extremists use Islam as an excuse to justify their political objectives, all of which come together in one word - control.

Control and freedom are mutually exclusive terms. Freedom offers an opportunity for a productive job, hope for a comfortable home, the possibility of participating in government policy, and an end to the death squads empowered to execute the control claimed by the current tyrant.

Without the United States, the people in Iraq who dare to dream of freedom would have no hope of defeating the terrorists. Saddam's removal, and the obliteration of his army was not the war; it was simply the initial skirmish. The war is against those who hate freedom, who cannot bear the thought of people - even Iraqi neighbors - living their own lives, outside the control of their tyrannical decrees.

These are the people who prefer to slaughter their neighbors and destroy Iraqi resources, rather than to allow a representative government to organize. These are the people who are taught from childhood that Jews and Americans are pigs, to be hated and destroyed. These are the people who praise suicide - if it also results in the death of their enemies. These are the people who are far beyond negotiation and reason; who respect only power, and who must be defeated by whatever military power it takes.

The war in Iraq is now well into its second phase, the construction of a representative system of self governance, in which an alternative to terrorism can grow. The Iraqi people have accepted the responsibility of building a representative government, and are working toward this goal as hard as they can, even in the face of persistent opposition by the terrorists.

The United States has an incredibly difficult task: helping the Iraqis gain the strength and experience to defend their new government, even as they create it. Victory will take a long time, though not likely as long is it took in Germany and Japan after World War II. Whatever it takes, the U.S. must provide; it is an investment in a peaceful future.

Of course, should John Kerry's most recent position on the war prevail, and if he is successful in convincing the majority of Americans, again, that this is the "wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time," terrorists will claim Iraq as their new headquarters, as well as the enormous oil resources with which to fund their campaign of death and destruction.

The war on terror would not end with America's withdrawal, it would only be postponed and relocated. The war on terrorism must be engaged; better there than here, and better now than later, after the terrorists regroup, and gain control of new territory and new resources.

John Kerry is, indeed, unfit to command troops in a war he obviously can't comprehend.

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

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