Is it possible to redefine patriotism as one’s hope that their country succeed in its endevors to protect itself and promote stability for it’s allies?
On the eve of General Petraeus’ report to the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, we can expect to hear a litany of naysayers refute his testimony before he is able to represent to the Senate the current state of the war in Iraq. Before his last testimony we were all delighted to see Moveon.org take out a full page add in the New York Times calling our military leader ‘General Betray-us’.
Given the sensitive political environment of the left due to a rancorous and bloodied Democratic primary, the Liberal preemptive attacks on General Petraeus are going to come out of the Intellectual and Elite political classes, not the periphery organizations established to do the Democratic Party’s dirty work.
One such preemptive attack came from Frank Rich’s column, Tet Happened, and No One Cared in the New York Times.</a> I will use his arguments as a framework to address the attacks General Petraeus is going to encounter tomorrow.
Rich begins by expressing dismay and disappointment that more people are not against this obvious quagmire. “If only the American people could understand that we are going to lose,” he seems to think out loud. Or he may be thinking, “I wish we could just lose this thing and get on with the Nation’s business – lets see how much I can cloud the facts for my readers to explain how stupid they are if they are in fact one of those who believe we can win this war.”
Let’s consider some core arguments Rich makes:
Rich: <em>“That’s why it’s no surprise that so few stopped to absorb the disastrous six-day battle of Basra that ended last week — a mini-Tet that belied the “success” of the surge. Even fewer noticed that the presumptive Republican nominee seemed at least as oblivious to what was going down as President Bush, no tiny feat.”</em>
Rich seems oblivious to the fact that it was a surprising success <em>because</em> it was led entirely by Iraqi Security Forces. Al-Sadr’s Mahdi army has been fragmented, beaten, and largely rejected. It was a hard fought battle, but for now it appears that Maliki was able to beat back the insurgent militia and take control of the roaming Mahdi gangs that have been terrorizing neighborhoods in Basra. It also fairs well for oil security – something the Iraqis need to secure to distribute revenues to the various regions through out Iraq.
Calling it a “mini-Tet” is nothing less than ironic. Though widely considered to be a major turning point in the Vietnam War, the Tet-offensive in reality was a devastating defeat of Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese forces. The Tet offensive was more of a turning point in the American media, than in actual military terms. Because such media juggernauts as Walter Cronkite, the Wall Street Journal, and NBC’s Frank McGee declared it a loss for the American people – it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. The American media establishment had captured the hearts and minds of the American people, which marked the beginning of the end of the Vietnam War. The Viet Cong did not defeat US Forces, the American Media establisment did; and if Rich could replay such a defeat, I believe he would jump on any opportunity to do so.
With the advent of new media outlets that can counter Mainstream Media anti-war agendas, it is possible to divert another Tet-like disaster. But it is certainly obvious in this piece by Frank Rich that he would very much like the conflict in Basra to be a sequel to the Tet disaster, and he uses it to present a case that the United States cannot win in Iraq
This line of reasoning, albeit effective in the directing mainstream opinion, is disingenuous and runs counter to the objectively verified progress in Iraq.
Rich: <em>“Though some Iraqi armed forces were briefly in the lead, others mutinied. Eventually American and British forces and air power had to ride to the rescue in both Basra and Baghdad. Even then, the result was at best a standoff, with huge casualties. The battle ended only when Mr. Maliki’s own political minions sought a cease-fire.”</em>
It was al-Sadr that agreed to a cease-fire at the behest of members of the Iraqi parliament. Yes, Maliki’s authority may have been undermined – we do not yet know all of the facts of the negotiation. Also, US and British airpower did not “rush to the rescue,” they were late on the scene because the ISF had not coordinated with Coalition forces for support. In fact, the ISF was able to organize and deploy 30,000 troops quickly, much to the surprise of General Petraeus. Albeit, not a resounding defeat of al-Sadr, it has not been widely reported that the ISF took the Basra port, which had been under the control of Mahdi gangs. The Mahdi militia is largely fragmented, Al-Sadr is taking reguge in Iran, and Shiite insurgents have lost much of their ability to provoke internal strife between other Shiites and Sunnis.
Also, it should be emphasized, Sadr waged this conflict from Iran and with the support of Qud. There should be no doubt in the minds of Americans that the Iranians are waging a proxy war through Shiite militias.
Rich: <em>“Like Mr. Bush, he keeps selling Iraq as the central front in the war on Al Qaeda. But Al Qaeda was not even a participant in the Basra battle, which was an eruption of a Shiite-vs.-Shiite civil war. (Al Qaeda is busy enough in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the actual central front in the war on terror.)”</em>
Iraq has been the most committed state in the Middle East in its efforts to eradicate Al Qaeda. The reason Al Qaeda was not present in the conflict is because the Sunni population that formerly assisted the terrorist organization has largely rejected Al Qaeda and no longer gives them refuge and support. This is a huge win for Iraq. For Rich to make such a remarkably absurd remark is to dismiss much of the progress that has been made. He uses the absence of a largely defeated enemy to demonstrate that the war is being lost. If the Polish in World War II had defeated the Nazis before American troops arrived, would have Eisenhower, Marshal, and Patten assumed we lost the European campaign? Clearly this argument is grasping for straws in favor of losing in Iraq
If Iraq is not the central front in the war on terror why was Zarqawi taking refuge and promoting a civil war between Shia and Sunni Iraqis? Al Qaeda (AQI) in Iraq is often dismissed as “real Al Qaeda” because 90% of it is constituted of Iraqis. In Afghanistan and elsewhere the terrorist organization is typically separated from the indigenous population. AQI in Iraq, however, is patently Al Qaeda, and its recruitment effort in the country is demonstrative of the fact that Iraq truly is the central front in the war on terrorism.
In a White House briefing to the US Air Force the following was outlined:
“<em>Jordanian Terrorist Abu Musab Al Zarqawi Founded Al Qaeda In Iraq And Pledged Allegiance To Osama Bin Laden.
o Before 9/11, Zarqawi ran a terrorist camp in Afghanistan.
o According to our intelligence community, Zarqawi had longstanding relations with senior al Qaeda leaders and had met with Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri.
o In 2001, Zaraqawi left Afghanistan and eventually went to Iraq to set up operations with terrorist associates after Coalition forces destroyed his Afghan training camp.
o In 2004, Zarqawi and his terrorist group formally joined al Qaeda, pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden, and promised to “follow his orders in jihad.”
o Bin Laden publicly declared Zarqawi the “Prince of Al Qaeda in Iraq” and instructed terrorists in Iraq to “listen to him and obey him.”
• Zarqawi’s Successor Abu Ayyub Al-Masri Is An Egyptian Who Also Has Deep And Longstanding Ties To Al Qaeda Senior Leadership.
o Abu Ayyub has collaborated with Ayman Zawahiri for more than two decades.
o Before 9/11, Abu Ayyub spent time with al Qaeda in Afghanistan and taught classes indoctrinating others in al Qaeda’s radical ideology.
o Last year Osama bin Laden tried to send a terrorist leader named Abd al-Hadi al Iraqi to help Abu Ayyub. </em>
According to our intelligence community, Abd al-Hadi was a senior advisor to bin Laden who served as his top commander in Afghanistan.
Abd al-Hadi never made it to Iraq. He was captured last year and now is held at Guantanamo Bay.
Also, consider the admission of Osama Bin Laden:
“Bin Laden: “The most important and serious issue today for the whole world is this third world war … raging in [Iraq]. I now address my speech to the whole of the Islamic nation: Listen and understand. The issue is big and the misfortune is momentous. The most important and serious issue today for the whole world is this Third World War, which the Crusader-Zionist coalition began against the Islamic nation. It is raging in the land of the two rivers. <strong>The world’s millstone and pillar is in Baghdad, the capital of the caliphate.” </strong>(Text Of Bin Laden’s Audio Message To Muslims In Iraq, Posted On Jihadist Websites, 12/28/04)
Rich: <em>”Mr. McCain’s doomed promise of military “victory” in Iraq is akin to Wile E. Coyote’s perpetual pursuit of the Road Runner, with much higher carnage. This isn’t patriotism. As the old saying goes, doing the same thing over and over again and hoping you’ll get a different result is the definition of insanity.”</em>
It was the Democrats that called for a “surge” in 2006. As President Bush proceeded to increase troop levels, the contrarians changed their tuned and called Bush’s action, “Just more of the same thing.”
The surge has decreased casualties by 90%, has rooted out Al Qaeda in Anbar, and is quelling the Mahdi outbursts in Basra. Yes, this war takes time and commitment – but the naysayers and pessimists in Congress and in the media should be revealed for what they are; defeatists that rush to declare a victory for terrorists at any cost to American lives, and without consideration to the long-lasting consequences to the security of the United States.
An argument one often hears from the Defeatists on the Left is that political bench marks have not been met. They fail to consider the change in strategy manifested in the surge. That is, until there is security and calm with in the country political objectives cannot be met. One of the reasons behind the Mahdi crackdown in Basra was to quell an uprising against Sunnis when elections occurred. We are certainly on the road to success, and the security benchmarks that are being met will lead to a successful accomplishment to the political benchmarks.
I would appreciate a postscript from Mr. Rich dealing with the consequences of an immediate withdrawl of US forces from Iraq; and the long-term effects it would have on stability in the Middle East. Does Mr. Rich think that a defeat in Iraq would increase the security and credibility of the United States in the world?