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Worth fighting for? Faint light from the hear of Iraq darkness…

By Murray Soupcoff
web posted November 10, 2003
As increasing numbers of America's young soldiers pay the ultimate price in the heart of darkness that is post-Saddam Iraq, it surely must be more and more difficult for Americans to stomach what appears to be the obstinacy and incompetence of the Bush administration policy there.

Every day it seems, not only is the blood of more American service personnel being spilt in Iraq, but the ferocity of the opposition to the American presence is increasing. What's worse, America's leader -- so eloquent and clear in articulating his response to the 9/11 terrorist attack -- now seems incapable of calmly and purposefully talking to the American people -- detailing the reasons why American forces are in Iraq and why they must stay there.

Less cowboy talk, more message George
Less cowboy talk, more message George

Instead, in a act of tragic hubris, America's president increasingly retreats into cowboy-movie sound bites of defiance that not only debase the coinage of his cause but discredit his message. And although poorly planned and tragically mismanaged, the American "occupation" of Iraq continues unaltered as if nothing has changed since the day triumphant American tanks paraded through the streets of Baghdad.

At heart, America is an idealistic and pragmatic nation. Whether it was the battle to dislodge the savage Nazi chokehold on continental Europe, to avenge the unprovoked Japanese rape of East Asia and attack on Pearl Harbor, or to push back the ever-expanding icy hand of Soviet totalitarianism, Americans have always responded with enthusiasm and determination to their leaders' call to action in the name of freedom and international justice.

As far as Iraq is concerned, nothing has really changed in that department. The original war against Saddam was a just one, and the majority of Americans responded positively to the Bush administration's initiative to overthrow the menace of Saddam Hussein's murderous dictatorship.

Similarly, the American intent in post-Saddam Iraq is also just. And when it comes to the basic goal of bringing some version of political democracy, freedom and the promise of a better life to the Iraqi people, Americans have expressed similar support.

The problem is that the justifiable pride of the Bush administration in America's bold military victories in Afghanistan and Iraq appears to have blinded the administration's leadership to the realities of the moment in Iraq and in the American heartland. Perhaps overly buoyed by success on the battlefield -- and succumbing to the inevitable hubris of the victor -- vanity and haughtiness have replaced caution and humility in the Bush administration's conduct of the peace.

An insensitivity to American lives lost, a reluctance to carefully explain and justify current policy, and an inflexibility in militarily responding to the changing threat in Iraq, are justifiably turning Americans away from support for the U.S. peace effort in Iraq. And certainly, the irresponsible attempt of the Democratic leadership to equate Iraq with Viet Nam is starting to resonate with a demoralized and war-weary public.

In fact, diplomatically and militarily, Iraq is no Viet Nam. But in terms of the increasingly insensitive, intractable and defiant conduct of the Bush administration during the post-Saddam era, the American effort is increasingly mirroring the tragic hubris and follies of the Johnson administration during the Viet Nam War.

Simply put, it's time for members of the Bush administration to abandon their self-righteous sense of being the anointed ones and come down to earth again. It's time for the President to shake off his political handlers, face current realities, and draw on his innate decency to publicly comfort the families of America's fallen heroes, as well as to encourage an outpouring of sympathy and support for them by the American people.

It's also time to remind the families of the fallen -- as well as all military personnel remaining in Iraq, and the American people -- why American forces are in Iraq and the ideals that they are fighting for.

And it's time to make dramatic changes on the ground in Iraq, whether beefing up intelligence capabilities, adding more troops, or implementing more effective anti-terrorist countermeasures -- even if these measures underscore the mistaken rigidities of previous Defense Department policies in Iraq.

Americans have always been willing to make sacrifices in the service of the greater good -- just so long as they have had confidence in the decision making of their leaders. And until the rigid, insensitive rhetoric of current administration spokespersons is replaced by a flexible commitment to restoration of American military competency in Iraq -- even if the rigid orthodoxies (and reputations) of the current Defense Department establishment must be repudiated -- then ordinary Americans will find it difficult not to believe that America is indeed heading for another Viet Nam, as argued by a cynical and manipulative Democratic opposition.

But even more is required from the current Bush administration leadership. After all, Americans have always been a people who respond to an appeal to their idealistic side. And a strong case can be made for the American intervention and current presence in Iraq. It's just a long time since the American public has heard an impassioned and heartfelt justification of such actions from their President or representatives of his administration.

Enough with the cowboy sound bites. It's time to treat the American public as grownups, and explain the rationale for the Bush administration's recent foreign-policy actions in a thorough and reasoned manner.

And what kind of things could the President or his spokespersons talk about? Well, aside from reminding Americans again of the savage, inhumane mistreatment of ordinary Iraqis by Saddam Hussein, which was ended only by American intervention -- while other nations passively looked away or profited from dealing with the Hussein regime -- it's also probably worth reminding Americans, in detail, of the United Nations' past condemnations of Saddam's long history of destructive weapons development, as well as the threat that Saddam's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons-making infrastructure posed to his neighbors and ultimately to the United States (via terrorists utilizing Saddam-supplied weapons).

In that regard, I suggest you review my past Iconoclast opinion piece, America's Just War: What The NY Times Doesn't Want You To Know About It!

As a reminder of the issues involved, here's a brief quote from that commentary:
"Contrary to what the New York Times and liberal Democrats would have you believe, the Bush administration's war against Saddam was a just one. It was based on the premise that Saddam had breached several UN resolutions warning him against attempting to create WMDs that potentially could threaten Iraq's many neighbors, or end up in the hands of terrorist organizations like al-Qaida (which would use them to strike at American cities). And it hinged on a reality-based foreign policy that assumed that unless Saddam himself were overthrown, this autocratic megalomaniac would inevitably return to the task of creating fearsome chemical, biological and nuclear weapons once the United Nations was put off the scent.

After the events of 9/11, President George W. Bush could not put the lives of thousands (if not millions) more Americans at risk, by letting this happen."

With regard to the current "occupation" of Iraq, a recent column by Toronto Globe & Mail columnist Margaret Wente, reporting from Iraq, reminds us just how noble and idealistic Americans can be -- and just how pragmatic they can be in implementing those ideals. The opinion piece is entitled Nation-Building On The Double, and is well worth reading as a tonic to all the Democratic Party naysaying.

As Ms. Wente saliently points out:

"Seven months ago, Capt. Michael Burns, age 25, was a U.S. Apache attack-helicopter pilot. Now his assignment is nation-building. He's fixing schools, piping water, and helping settle land disputes.

'I love it,' he says. 'I wouldn't trade this job for any job in the world right now.'

They love him back. At the girls' Kurdish primary school in the Kurdish-Arab town of Makhmur, the tall black soldier is mobbed by a gang of giggly eight-year-olds. The school had nothing before the army came -- not a single desk -- that wasn't broken. Now it boasts new furniture, a computer, a copying machine, a TV and a fridge, as well as brand-new traditional instruments for music lessons."

Maybe all that talk about "ugly Americans" has been exaggerated. As Wente, on assignment in Iraq, also notes:

"This is not the army of your favourite army sitcom. The officers of the 101st Airborne are sophisticated, entrepreneurial, very dedicated, and very, very smart. They didn't wait for someone to send them money to get started. Instead they're using Saddam's money. They found piles of it in his palaces, and figured this is a good way to return it to the people.

They didn't wait for Bechtel to show up. They're finding their own contractors.

Capt. Burns's tiny outfit, based in Makhmur, has spent $440,000 so far. They're having water pipes put in, and they've built a big park with swings and slides. They've refurbished the police station and the mayor's office. Their biggest project is a model village where Kurds and Arabs will live side by side."

Finally, to summarize what America is and can be all about, we again quote Wente, writing in Canada's "national newspaper":

"Whether it's war or peace, this is what the 101st has been superbly trained to do -- tackle problems, figure out how to solve them, be creative with what they've got, and never say it can't be done. This is as impressive a group of people as you'll ever meet. And they believe deeply in what they're doing.

'Forgive me for sounding corny, but maybe we can plant the seed of democracy here,' says Mike Mittlebeeler, a 27-year old Apache pilot who was shot down during the war and lived to tell about it. He believes the seed is already beginning to sprout. 'We used to do everything ourselves. Now the Iraqis are working with us. They're picking up the ball.' They're optimistic. But they acknowledge that this part is much, much harder than the war."

These are the kinds of things that President George W. Bush must talk about to the American people. And soon.

Sometimes the Karl Roves of the world just aren't needed. Instead, a leader must talk honestly to his people from the heart -- about real ideals and about what really matters.

Perhaps then the light of hope and freedom will one day illuminate the heart of darkness that is present-day Iraq.
Murray Soupcoff is the author of 'Canada 1984', and publisher of the popular Iconoclast conservative Web site.  © 2003 Murray Soupcoff 

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