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Civilization Watch
First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
By Orson Scott Card January 14, 2007

The Crisis of the Islamo-Fascist War

President Bush is a genuinely awful speaker. Wouldn't it be a shame if we lost a war for the survival of western civilization because we had a President who reads his speeches in a dispassionate drone?

It's been interesting to watch the media respond to the speech. Not that many months ago, the media was reporting on the speeches of Democrats and other critics of the war, talking about how Bush's plan in Iraq had failed because we always needed "more boots on the ground."

None of them -- not even the generals who hated defense secretary Rumsfeld with such a passion that they violated the rule of civilian supremacy and lobbied in the press for Rumsfeld's removal -- had a single spark of a plan for how those guys in boots would have been used.

In fact, the number of troops was exactly appropriate for the mission they were assigned. In the effort to avoid a Vietnam-style situation where our troops were scattered in many vulnerable positions, we were instead using our soldiers to seek out and destroy enemy positions.

But because the Iraqi military did not progress to the point where they could reliably hold areas that our troops had cleared, the Iraqi civilians in the Sunni Triangle knew that if they cooperated with Americans in attacking the insurgent thugs that rule over them, the thugs would soon be back to retaliate.

So the strategy, which worked well through most of Iraq, was failing in the Baghdad and Anbar Province area. The failure was not because our troops were not doing what they were asked to do. Primarily, the failure was because the Iraqi government was responding to political pressures and concerns on the one hand, and our enemies had a nearly infinite source of reinforcement and supply, through Syria and Iran.

The new plan is one that requires more American troops and more effective Iraqi involvement. Our troops cannot fulfil this assignment alone -- the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi government have to want to succeed.

This is not a surprise. Success in Iraq has always required that an effective government take over its own defense.

Iraq Must Want to Succeed

The Iraqi people made it clear, with their courageous voting for their constitution and then for their new government that they want this to work. Our own government had hoped that this would be enough to discourage the insurgents -- and if it were a genuine insurgency, it almost certainly would have.

However, these "insurgents" are actually functioning as agents of two foreign powers -- Iran and Syria -- and any who might have been tempted to respect the clear choice of the Iraqi people would simply have been killed and replaced by their masters in Damascus and Tehran.

One thing we can count on: The thugs ruling the Sunni Triangle and Anbar province are fascists, ruling by terror, so that it is likely that substantial minorities, if not majorities, of the people in these areas are longing for them to be replaced by a decent government that respects human and civil rights.

If the Iraqi military does its job (for we know our soldiers will perform splendidly), this new strategy has a very good likelihood of success.

Keep in mind that most of the country of Iraq is functioning surprisingly well, despite the forays of terrorists into Shiite-majority and Kurdish-majority areas. The economy of most of Iraq is doing better than it ever was under Saddam; the people are far more free and, for the Shiites and Kurds at least, safer than before.

Furthermore, it is absolutely and obviously true that Bush is correct to say that most Shiites and Sunnis and Kurds want to live together in peace. They want to be about their ordinary lives; they want to be left alone.

But this new plan requires that they do their part to achieve this. America can't hand it to them; we can only open the door for them.


One of the weaknesses of the new government has been the almost complete inexperience of the bureaucracy. Under Saddam, you couldn't hold any significant government job without joining the Baath party. The result was that the vast majority of nominal Baathists were just people doing their jobs.

When we took over and occupied Iraq, there was no way we could determine which Baathists were sincere believers, and therefore possible saboteurs or criminals. So, echoing the "de-Nazification" of Germany nearly sixty years earlier, most of the highly trained, experienced government officials were removed from office -- permanently.

This move was politically pleasing to the Shiite majority, who had been virtually shut out of all government functions. Government was the exclusive province of the Sunnis, under Saddam. So de-Baathification removed the hated Sunni overlords.

The trouble was, it also hurt the ability of the government to function. There is evidence that many functionaries in the interim government cynically stripped billions of dollars from Iraq's budget and then, when the elected government replaced them, skipped town to live in luxury abroad with their embezzled funds.

So the Iraqi people already had grounds for cynicism about new governments. Even if the elected government is sincere and incorruptible, the bureaucracy that serves them has been forced to work without the educated, experienced, and, in many cases, dedicated bureaucrats who served their country under Saddam.

One key provision of the new plan, then, is for the de-Baathification policy to be revisited and many of the previous bureaucrats rehired, to bring their experience and expertise into the government. This will not only help to make the government function better, it will also show the Sunnis that they are not being ruled over exclusively by Shiites.

Needless to say, this is a difficult move for some Shiites to take. But it is essential if the Iraqi government is to become in fact as well as name a government of the whole country, Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds alike.

We were correct, in the first years after the fall of Saddam, to pursue complete de-Baathification. Now we are correct to relax those rules. But this will not constitute "re-Baathification." The plan is to let previous government functionaries return on a case by case or level by level basis -- none of the monsters of Saddam's regime will be returned to power.

In addition, the new plan includes sharing oil revenues with the people. What form this will take I don't know. Cash payments? New infrastructure? I'm not sure that establishing a dole out of oil revenues will actually help -- people value most what they work for, not what is handed to them.

But better to pay out checks to the citizenry than to let the oil revenues be skimmed by government-sponsored profiteers. And revenue-sharing will at least be a tangible sign that the government is working for the people, and not oppressing them. It may even be intended as an incentive for the people of thug-held sections of Iraq to cooperate in getting rid of their fascist masters -- help us get rid of the insurgents, and you too can get your check. But I'm most skeptical about this part of the plan.

The execution of the new plan will not be perfect, because nothing is. Still, it is a framework that can succeed.

Succeed We Must

When the Iraq Study Group report came out, the Democrats and the media just loved it. It was another stick to beat Bush with -- therefore it was treated as credible.

Just like the sniping of those generals who hated Rumsfeld. Never mind that the opposition of the entrenched military bureaucracy was actually a very good sign that Rumsfeld was doing a splendid job as secretary of defense -- most secretaries of defense are quickly coopted by the military, becoming more their servant than the President's, or else neutralized, becoming completely ineffective for anybody.

But for the media and the Democrats, anything that hurt Bush was good.

The moment the Democrats won, however, their "beliefs" seemed to change overnight.

No longer was the claim that we needed "more boots on the ground" even remotely interesting to them. They demand the opposite -- get the soldiers home.

No longer was the Iraq Study Group worth paying attention to -- the Democrats control Congress, so no longer does it matter that the ISG report declared that failure in Iraq would be a disaster for the United States.

(Those who care about such things will remember that even before the invasion of Iraq, I was on record as believing that it was much more important to eliminate Syria's Baathist government, an open sponsor of terrorism and the chief funnel for funds and weapons flowing to the terrorists in Israel and Lebanon.

(Of course, any invasion of Syria would have meant an almost immediate war with Iraq -- Saddam would have been unable to resist the macho thrill of declaring war on us in solidarity with his Syrian brethren. No nonsense about WMDs as a pretext -- it would have been Syrian sponsorship of terror, period.

We would have beaten Syria and Iraq relatively easily -- and then our occupation of both countries would have been accomplished without interference from either. Israel's life would have been easier, and so would Lebanon's. Palestinians might have had a chance to get out from under the thugs of Fatah without turning to the thugs of Hamas.

But nobody listened to my sage advice -- not a surprise -- and we're in the situation we're in. That's the part that the Democrats don't seem to get. No matter whether they like it now or not, Republicans and Democrats voted overwhelmingly for this war. Some of the information on which their votes were based turned out not to be true -- but all decisions of Congress and the President are based on incomplete and partially inaccurate information. Despite years of vile accusations, there is no evidence of deliberate disinformation from President Bush.

Yet even if President Bush lied constantly, and even if this war was completely misguided and inappropriate at its inception, the cost of leaving Iraq without complete, unequivocal victory is far higher than the cost of staying.

Iraq isn't Vietnam. When the Democratic Congress cut off funding for the South Vietnamese military after American withdrawal, violating all the promises that had been made to the South Vietnamese, this cowardly and dishonorable act had few repercussions for America for several reasons:

1. Vietnam was not part of the fountain of oil from which the world's economy constantly drinks.

2. As Senator McCain repeatedly points out, the Vietnamese Communists didn't follow us home.

In Iraq, like Vietnam, cowardly and dishonorable withdrawal by the United States will result in a bloodbath. Anyone who supported us and the cause of Iraqi democracy will be dead in short order. No reeducation camps -- fanatical Islam doesn't have a doctrine of redemption, just of execution.

Withdrawal from Iraq will without doubt vastly increase the prestige, power, and recruiting ability of our enemies -- Al Qaeda on the Sunni side, Iran's ayatollahs on the Shiite side. Iraq will certainly become a bloody battlefield as Iran, Turkey, and a Sunni alliance battle over control of the oil fields and the historically significant city of Baghdad, capital of the ancient Caliphs.

No outcome of that struggle has the slightest chance of working to our benefit. In fact, we would almost certainly be forced to intervene, and with far more casualties than we could possibly suffer through ten more years of the present struggle in Iraq.

For there is zero chance that any Muslim victor in such a bloody war would be anything other than a fanatical anti-Western anti-democratic regime that would control all Middle-eastern oil and claim leadership of all Muslims throughout the world.

Our departure from Iraq, without leaving behind a strong and viable democratic government committed to fighting terrorism, will lead immediately to all the secular governments in the region making their peace with Islamofascists -- or being overthrown by them. They will have no alternative, once the United States is revealed as having no will to resist the terrorists.

So even if the war over the spoils in Iraq is not as bloody and all-encompassing as I fear, it will only be because the Islamo-fascists have gotten their way without having to fight each other.

Make no mistake: Regardless of what the America-haters in the West declare, America is the last, best hope of the vast majority of people in the Middle East who wish to live in peace, under governments that will keep them safe but otherwise leave them alone to live their lives.

What Are the Democrats Doing?

I'm a Democrat -- a Scoop Jackson, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Joseph Leiberman Democrat. The kind that believes freedom is worth fighting for -- both our freedom of other people's as well.

The kind that places the interest of the American people and, yes, of the world at large over the temporary political advantage that can be derived from attacking a President in wartime.

So when I watch Democratic leaders completely ignore the security interests of the United States in order to engage in cheap sloganeering ("bring our boys home!") and demagoguery, I am filled with shame and rage.

Are they really so completely ignorant of history that they do not realize the golden opportunity we have, and the disastrous consequences of not seizing it?

In the 1930s, war-weary Britain and France kept appeasing Hitler, when a relatively cheap military action could have stopped him at any time. First when Hitler marched into the Rhineland, a mere show of force by France would have resulted in the toppling of Hitler's government. Later, when the Czech military was prepared to fiercely resist Hitler's armies, a firm stand by France and Britain would have led, again, to Hitler's fall.

After 9/11 made it clear that hand-wringing and a few cruise missiles were not enough to stop the America-hating madmen of Al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist groups and nations, we had a President who did not make the mistakes of France and Britain during the 1930s. The nations supporting terrorism did not yet have the capability to unify Islam and challenge the survival of the West.

So President Bush did the right thing; even if some of the steps along the way were mistaken, it was vital that we act boldly and visibly.

His policies were immediately effective in the changed behavior of most terror-sponsoring states.

However, years of vocal and increasingly effective Democratic anti-Bush propaganda, designed to achieve no higher purpose than the political defeat of George W. Bush, have emboldened our enemies everywhere. Democratic Bush-haters can claim that Bush has lowered our prestige in the world, but the opposite is true. Where it counts -- among those nations that support terrorism -- Bush vastly raised our prestige, and the Democrats have shockingly lowered it.

The result is that nations that for a while were cowed by Bush's boldness are once again sponsoring terrorism -- as witness Sudan's revived genocidal policies in Darfur. Ironically, the American and European Left are highly critical of Bush for not "doing something" about Darfur. No one has the brains or the courage to admit that the only "something" that would be effective is the military defeat of the Sudanese government.

The Left always wants someone to "do something," but never wants to do anything that works. And never wants to admit that President George W. Bush has ever done anything right.

Well, he has; and the Democrats right now are doing something dangerously wrong. Every word they say strengthens and encourages our enemies, while discouraging and weakening our friends and allies in the Middle East. They are the best weapon Al Qaeda and the murderous Iranian and Syrian governments have against us. Every time they open their mouths in their misleading and deceptive attacks on Bush and demands for unilateral withdrawal from Iraq, they are helping ensure the future deaths of Americans and others, at home and abroad.

It is one thing to raise legitimate questions about how a war is being waged. It is quite another thing to agitate openly for surrender to an enemy that will not accept our surrender, but will, scenting victory, continue to murder Americans wherever they can.

Why should the Democrats have control of Congress if they will use that power to destroy the fledgling movement toward democracy in Iraq that is the only hope for countering the false piety of the Islamo-fascists?

They are so ignorant of history that they think they can do this with impunity -- that if they can keep the media on their side (as they certainly are right now), they can win political control of America in the presidential election of 2008.

Maybe they can. Just as Hoover won the presidency in 1928 just in time to preside over the Great Depression, maybe the Democrats will get complete control of the American government just in time for the disastrous world war and/or worldwide economic collapse that will be the certain result of the triumph of Islamo-fascism in the Middle East.

So the real question for Americans right now is: Would you rather fight the war now, in Iraq, with policies that will lead to victory, and with a military that has high morale and is prepared to do what is necessary to win?

Or would you rather fight it later, with the kind of anti-military, anti-victory President that the Democrats are almost certain to nominate in 2008, and with a demoralized military that will have to regain all the ground we already hold right now, and at a far higher cost?

It is not a choice between war and peace. It is a choice between a victory in defense of Western civilization, particularly America, or a defeat that will lead to a far more desperate war later -- and with far less economic strength behind us as we fight it.

Here's the Crux

Here's where everything will come to a head. President Bush's speech had one paragraph that is the single most important thing he said:

"Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity -- and stabilizing the region in the face of the extremist challenge. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria."

Bush then rehearsed the fact that Iran and Syria are supplying and training our enemies, as well as providing safe havens for them. So he promises:

"We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. We sill seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq."

This is a declaration that our enemies, who are already at war with us though no official declaration has been made, will no longer be safe in their own territory, because America will not respect a boundary that they have already violated countless times.

It is a declaration that we will take military action in Syria and Iran.

When President Bush does this, there are two possible reactions.

We know the liberal media and the Democrats will howl at this "widening" of the war.

(It is not a widening at all, since our enemies are already using Syrian and Iranian territory against us and against Iraq. It is "widening" the war to invade Syrian and Iranian territory only if it was "widening" the war in World War II to attack the Japanese and German military wherever they were, including their homelands, and not just where they happened to be killing American soldiers that day.)

Will the American people believe them, swallow their distorted interpretation, and cease to support the President in waging a war for victory?

Or will the American people understand that we have a President who intends to win this relatively small, cheap war in order to save us from far greater devastation later? Will the poll numbers leap in his support?

It could go either way.

Here's the bitter irony: If President Bush succeeds, he will never get credit for what he prevented, because we will never live through the disasters that he averted by his bold, relentless pursuit and destruction of our enemies.

Indeed, it is quite likely that the War on Terrorism will go down in history as an "unnecessary" war, or a war of American imperialism, because the Left will certainly write the history of our time -- if President Bush succeeds and American soil remains peaceful and prosperous.

Only if the Democrats have their way and we go down to voluntary and unnecessary defeat in a war that we did not start -- only then will it become clear how wise and essential President Bush's policies were. The Democrats will try to blame the disaster on Bush, but the American people will know that things went hopelessly wrong only after the Democrats forced our premature surrender to Islamo-fascism in Iraq.

If the Democratic leadership would only let President Bush win this war, they would get the government back afterward, the way Labor won in Britain after the crisis of World War II ended in victory. Then the Democrats would be blamed for nothing.

But if the anti-war Democrats succeed in blocking President Bush now, if they prevent him from removing Syria and Iran as threats to world peace and the world economy and, most particularly, threats to American safety and Western democracy, then that party will bear all the blame and all the shame for the disaster they caused.

In Iraq, President Bush and our brave soldiers are fighting for all the values that the Democratic Party claims to hold dear -- including the pursuit of world peace by defeating those who have, without provocation, slaughtered thousands around the world in acts of barbarism.

The Democratic leaderss are watching the polls. Since their highest goal right now is temporary political advantage, the only way to keep them from undoing all the fine work and great sacrifices of our military is to help all Americans understand exactly what "bringing the troops home" right now would mean -- what it would mean to block President Bush from pursuing the policies that will lead to victory.

In other words, make copies of this essay and the words of others who stand with President Bush in pursuit of victory, and give it to everyone you know -- especially those who are most adamant in their opposition to the war. Ask them, "Have you thought about this?"

Of course, I know the answers some will give. They'll treat it like a high school debate. Instead of answering the big issues -- what will happen to the world economy when Islamo-fascists control the Persian Gulf, for instance, or how we will respond when a united Islamo-fascist army starts murdering all the men, women, and children in Israel, or what we will do when the Islamo-fascists hiding among the Muslim immigrants in Europe call for violent revolution in France, in the Netherlands, in Britain -- they will focus on narrow, foolish, no-longer-relevant issues, like whether Bush "lied," or whether we should have gotten involved in Iraq in the first place.

Like the man who came to a recent book-signing of mine in Greensboro, trying to pick a quarrel with me. When I said, "Nobody knew that Iraq did not have a nuclear program," his answer was, "Hans Blick did."

He was wrong in his facts: Hans Blick didn't know. Because he and his team of inspectors had not been allowed free access to anyone or anything that would have given them knowledge. He had an opinion, which at this moment seems to have turned out to be correct. But President Bush could hardly have been expected to base our future security on Blick's unsupported opinion, when all the credible, impartial evidence available to him said that Iraq had nukes.

But he was even more wrong even to raise the issue. Today, in 2007, what does it matter whether we should or should not have invaded Iraq? The fact is that we did! What matters now is that the consequences of leaving without victory (i.e., surrendering Iraq to our enemies) would be devastating and global, while the cost of staying and pursuing victory is, compared to other wars at such a scale, amazing cheap in both life and money.

So why would anybody be such a fool as to introduce, into the debate about what should do now, arguments about what we should have done before?

Equally foolish are those who say "We should negotiate." Negotiating only works if you have something the other side needs or are prepared to do something the other side fears. This is always true. There are no exceptions, ever, in all of history. And if we withdraw from Iraq without victory, we will have nothing left that the other side wants or fears from us.

Such foolish, time-wasting arguments would base foreign policy on quibbles instead of either principles or practical consequences. The issue is not what we should have done before, but what we can and must do now.

Yet even on that basis, President Bush is ultimately right and has been all along. I might quibble, like a sports fan after the game, that we should have invaded Syria before Iraq, and we should have done it close on the heels of our victory in Afghanistan instead of waiting for U.N. approval.

But in the long run, it was always true that there would be no end to Islamo-fascist terrorism until the governments of Iran, Iraq, and Syria, as they stood in 2001, were removed from power and replaced with governments committed to destroying terrorism.

President Bush's speech made explicit, once again, his commitment to accomplishing exactly that. It's time for us, the ordinary citizens, to speak up, to vocally declare our loyalty to our side in this war, and force the opponents of the war to answer the real questions -- or stop getting in the way of victory.

When the Democrats come to believe that opposition to President Bush's conduct of this war will lead to their resounding defeat at the polls in 2008, you can be sure that they will immediately provide the most supportive of Congresses. It really is, ultimately, up to us, whether we win or lose this war.

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