First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
Is Iraq a "Mess"? Who Is Recruiting for Osama?
"Iraq is a mess. And it's a mess because of two people: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney."
Those words were spoken by John Edwards recently.
Meanwhile, various Democrats are making a big deal about President Bush landing on that aircraft carrier and saying to American servicemen: "Mission accomplished!"
What they say is, "The mission was not accomplished. It's still not accomplished!" And then, of course, they add this to the list of "lies" that President Bush has told.
But the American people remember: President Bush landed on that aircraft carrier at the end of major force combat in Iraq. The initial mission was to destroy organized military resistance and topple Saddam's government. That mission was indeed accomplished, in remarkably quick time and with astonishingly few casualties on both sides.
At the same time, President Bush stated very clearly that there was still much to do and the war on terror would take a long time and require many sacrifices.
So it is deceptive -- deliberately deceptive -- in fact, very similar to lying -- to attack President Bush for what he did and said on the aircraft carrier deck.
Of course, the subtext of these reminders of President Bush's landing on that carrier is this: Bush was dressing up like a soldier and trying to take upon himself the mantle of genuine soldiers. They want that moment to hurt him like Dukakis was hurt by pictures of him with his head sticking up from the top of a tank.
What they forget is this: President Bush is the commander-in-chief of the soldiers and sailors and airmen who accomplished our victory over the Iraqi military. Just because he will someday be in a contest for reelection does not mean it is inappropriate for him to go to those soldiers and commend them and thank them for their service and sacrifices and accomplishments.
Now let's get back to Edwards's statement that everything that's wrong with Iraq right now can be blamed on only two people: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
Let's look at that charge.
First, is Iraq a "mess"? We were certainly taken by surprise by how long the resistance in the Sunni triangle would continue; we did not have adequate plans in place for the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq.
There are many reasons for this, some of them layable to the charge of the present administration, though it has a lot more to do with Donald Rumsfeld's destructive turf wars than with anything that was within the power of the President or Vice-President to anticipate or control.
The people who are fighting us in the Sunni triangle are of the minority that profited from Saddam's vicious reign of terror. They know that if real democracy comes to Iraq, they will always be outvoted. Those they once exploited and oppressed will have the power. They expect their successors to behave as badly in power as they did, and since they know how evil they were when in power, they dread being on the receiving end.
There's nothing we can do to change that basic political fact, and all we can do in response to it is help train the Iraqi government to quell such rebellion themselves; meanwhile, we use our military force to contain the threat, and we suffer casualties in the process.
Is Edwards saying that President Bush should have stepped in and told the experts at Defense that they were wrong about how much resistance we'd meet after our military victory?
How exactly was the President supposed to know this in advance? The President only knows what the people under him tell him. And when he hears conflicting advice, he has to choose which to believe.
Sometimes a President chooses wrong. That's inevitable. Much of a President's job is guesswork, based on the best available information. But as long as we aren't electing prophets to be President, we'll end up with presidents who make human errors, and who have advisers who also make errors -- despite their best effort.
The question is: Having made miscalculations, what does a good public servant do then? He does his best to compensate for the errors and make it right. That's what our dedicated military are doing, and they are doing it with the full support and encouragement of the President.
What is Edwards promising us? That Kerry will always make the right choice?
Well, actually, Kerry almost certainly will make the right decision on every issue. After all, if you take every possible position on every question, one of them is bound to be right.
The trouble is that the real President can't vacillate. He can't send troops in and at the same time not send them. He can't go with one plan and at the same time go with another. The President has to commit, and then work with the consequences.
Senator Kerry has never had to do that. Neither has Senator Edwards.
It's easy to say, "I would have done it better."
But in all their attack rhetoric, have you ever heard them say exactly what they would have done differently?
More to the point, have you ever seen any evidence that before the fact, they advocated the course of action that would have avoided the problems we've had?
But if you're going to blame the President and Vice-President, and no one else, for every single thing that's gone wrong in Iraq, then let's carry that principle all the way. Most of Iraq is recovering quite nicely from the war and already has services that are better than they were under Saddam. They live with far less fear and far more freedom than they ever had, with better to come.
When would-be recruits to the police and military are murdered by terrorists, what do the Iraqis do? They recruit in larger numbers!
It is obvious that the Iraqi people are eager to take responsibility for their own nation. Most of them want us to leave, not because they hate us, but because they want to stand on their own two feet. And our military is working with them to train them and get them ready to do exactly that -- so we can go home.
Everybody wants American troops to leave Iraq. And if the terrorists and insurgents stopped attacking our troops and blowing up Iraqis, we could go home far sooner!
In other words, while claiming they want to drive us out, our enemies are actually prolonging our stay, since we can't leave until it's clear that the new Iraqi leaders and public servants can maintain order within their own borders and defend themselves against foreign incursions.
And our enemies know this. They are not attacking us in order to make us leave -- they are attacking because they want to replace Saddam as the dictators of Iraq, and by attacking us they hope to gain in prestige in the Arab world.
Here's the reality check. The mess in Iraq is caused by murderers, rebels, thugs, and self-righteous fanatics. For Edwards to say that the mess is "because of" President Bush and Vice-president Cheney is so monstrously false that it offends not just common sense but common decency for a candidate for such high office to utter such an unspeakable charge.
The murderers are the ones who are guilty of murder. The messmakers made the mess. Our President and Vice-president have been doing their job: sticking to the mission they embarked on and seeing it through to a successful conclusion.
And there is no sign whatsoever that Kerry or Edwards know how to make a decision at all, let alone how to stick to a decision and respond to the unpredictable events that always come up in military matters.
It's as if Kerry and Edwards thought that if they were in power, America's enemies would consult with them to find out what script to follow. But they won't.
British Ambassador to Italy Ivor Roberts kicked up a huge fuss this week on several levels when he lobbed this little grenade into a closed conference of British and Italian diplomats: "George W. Bush is the best recruiting sergeant for al Qaeda," Roberts said. "If there is anyone ready to celebrate his eventual reelection, it is al Qaeda."
This is, of course, ridiculous. Al Qaeda has been under relentless pressure under President Bush; only if Kerry is elected can that pressure be expected to let up.
Since the election of John Kerry would mean that Americans were surrendering to terrorism and bowing to international popularity contests, it's his election that would prove Osama bin Laden right when he said that Americans don't have the strength of will to keep up a long struggle.
However, there is an element of truth in Roberts's remark. For a time, the humiliatingly rapid defeat of Iraq's military (with the tacit consent of many Iraqi soldiers, it's important to add) will cause angry young men in the Muslim world to enlist in greater numbers in the effort to wipe out that stain on Muslim honor.
But it is not an infinitely expanding cycle. There is not an endless supply of young Muslim men willing to kill -- or die -- to inflict painful but strategically meaningless attacks on a grimly determined America.
But if America is not grimly determined, then that changes everything. Instead of recognizing the futility of giving their lives to kill Americans, these Muslim young men will be filled with hope that their sacrifice might yield results.
The people who help Osama are those who follow his script, who fulfil his predictions, thus granting him credibility in the Muslim world
You know whom I mean: People who say ridiculous and irresponsible things about the motives of George W. Bush and Tony Blair, who blame us for a war that Saddam could easily have avoided by opening his doors to serious UN inspections ...
Those who loudly proclaim that this war was concocted by President Bush for political advantage, or that America should never go to war without the permission of France and Germany and Russia, or that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are the cause of all the problems of Iraq.
If the Democratic Party were behaving responsibly, they would have followed Senator Lieberman in proclaiming that no matter who wins in November, this war will be prosecuted with the full vigor of the United States until terrorists and the governments that sponsor them are gone.
Then there could be a clean campaign about issues that matter, like how to win our independence from foreign oil, or how to get our tax and budget systems to a sustainable balance that will adequately fund Social Security and Medicare, or how to get a reasonable level of health insurance for the millions of households that are currently without it.
Instead, we have a dirty campaign that is playing politics with the lives of our soldiers. Every vicious attack on President Bush that blames him for our victory in Iraq as if it were a war crime encourages Osama's followers and other diehard enemies of a free Iraq to keep on killing Americans -- because it's working.
It's actually possible to conduct a political campaign in which you don't encourage enemies of the United States to kill Americans. It's actually possible to look at a war and not blame our own leaders for the crimes of our enemies.
But you'd never know it from watching the fanatical Bush-hating Left in this election.
So, they paid the million-dollar ransom and got those two Italian women back from the terrorists who took them hostage.
Now all the thugs in Iraq and elsewhere in the world have learned their lesson: Kidnapping pays.
By "saving" these two women, the danger to everyone else has now markedly increased.
Surrender to kidnappers and terrorists encourages more kidnapping and terrorism. The way to extinguish these crimes is to make sure they never pay off.
"Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute." Once that was a slogan that brought Americans to arms.
But nations that are led by political cowards behave in such a way as to increase the danger for everybody.
Copyright © 2004 by Orson Scott Card.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.