That blood is still being shed in Iraq is stated every day with calculated surprise. Voiced by the media, the Dems and our faux-allies in the U.N., the surprise is a criticism of our termination of Saddam’s regime, implying falsely that we promised instant success. What these critics willfully overlook is that while we fight the remnants of Saddam’s regime, we are also at war — quite literally — with Iraq’s terrorist neighbors. Iraq is the stage upon which the future of the Middle East is being fought out.
The truth is more than Gen. John Abizaid said last week when he said that Iraq is the center of the global war on terrorism. Though he and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that terrorists are coming into Iraq from Syria, they both stopped short of stating the undiplomatic but terribly clear fact that the governments of Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and others have decided to make a stand against freedom in Iraq. In addition, the Sudan, Afghani Taliban, and Palestinian terrorists have all joined the fight. The president almost confirmed this last Friday when he said that there was a “foreign element” moving into Iraq. Sorry, Mr. President. They aren’t moving into Iraq. They have been there almost since our campaign began, and more are still coming.
On April 10, Oliver North reported from the frontlines that all of the so-called “Saddam Fedayeen” being caught or killed by the Marines, not one of them was Iraqi. All were Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians, Egyptians, Afghanis, and Sudanese. Hezbollah from Lebanon and Syria were there by the hundreds, and more were coming in by the day. Ansar-al-Islam, the Iraqi terrorists known to be linked to al Qaeda (and among whom are Moroccans, Iraqis, Jordanians, and others) were also there, and were being reinforced continuously. Three days later, and weeks before the president declared the major military action over, a Marine was killed at a checkpoint near Baghdad by a terrorist attacker. The attacker, who was also killed in the incident, was found to be carrying a Syrian identification card. As it was then, so it is now.
It is time to remind ourselves that the Iraq campaign is not a war unto itself. It is a chapter — certainly the most important so far — in the war on terrorism. Iraq holds great promise for its people and the whole Middle East. The promise of freedom for Iraqis is dependent on two things. First, Iraq’s final escape from the brutality of Saddam’s regime will only be achieved by Saddam’s capture or provable death. Second, it is also dependent upon the defeat of Iraq’s terrorist neighbors.
None of the despotisms that are among Iraq’s neighbors — Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Syria — can continue if freedom blossoms in Iraq. So those governments are actively involved in funding, supplying, and reinforcing the terrorists and remnants of Saddam’s regime fighting us in Iraq. Iraq cannot be free, and its people finally liberated, unless and until we end the interference of those governments.
The mere thought of further American action in the Middle East gives the Deaniebopper Democrats a case of the vapors. They sing the same song as the EUnuchs and the U.N., who argue that for us to even consider taking further action proves our arrogance and colonial ambitions. They accuse us of wanting to remake the map of the Middle East to suit ourselves. There are three answers to that. The first is: baloney. We are not now, and have never been, a colonial power. Never — from WWI France to 2003 Iraq — have we tried to keep or exploit for our own purposes any nation we have freed from oppression. The second answer is that we are not about remaking maps. The Brits, Russians, Italians, and French have more than once remade the map of the Middle East for precisely those purposes, and created the environment in which we now have to fight. Third, and most important, is that we have no choice but to end the threat of terrorism from these nations.
Colin Powell went to Syria in May, and extracted promises from Bashar Assad that the terrorist union hall that Damascus has become would be closed down. Before Powell’s aircraft reached the end of its takeoff run, Assad was backpedaling. Only Foggy Bottom could be surprised that none of Assad’s promises were kept. Now, according to Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., the bomb that blew up the U.N. mission in Baghdad last week was made in Syria and smuggled across the border. Syria is one headquarters of Hezbollah, which has more American blood on its hands than any terrorist organization other than al Qaeda. Is there any reason why we should refrain from taking whatever action is necessary to demolish the Hezbollah organization everywhere — from the Lebanese border with Israel to downtown Damascus? If there is, I am unaware of it.
The same goes for the other terrorist organizations in the area, and the governments that fund, supply, and turn them to their own purposes. The current choice that these governments have made is to prevent the establishment of democracy in Iraq. If Iraq can be turned into another kakistocracy of mullahs, then the despotisms of Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia have nothing to fear. They will not permit a free Iraq, and will continue their subversive and violent intervention unless we stop it.
In theory, some of those governments should be vulnerable to diplomatic pressure. But that will surely fail for the same reasons that diplomacy failed against Saddam. If the West were to stand united against terrorism and the nations that support it, they could — by intense, active covert operations — choke the economies of Syria and Iran, destabilize their regimes, and bring them down. Even Saudi Arabia would not be immune. But the West is anything except united, and the same nations that made a shambles of the Security Council will do so again and again. By refusing to stand against these terrorist regimes, they will again remove the diplomatic option.
Given that reality, there is little reason to wait to pursue what other options we have. A military action against Syria would make the Iraqi “elite” Republican Guard look like the Wehrmacht. It wouldn’t last a week. Demolishing the terrorists there would be a big step. Iran is a much bigger problem. Its soldiers can fight and we will — unless we can bring about a regime change there by covert means — have to fight them sooner or later. Global terrorism will go on as long as the mullahs rule Iran. Saudi Arabia will be the last to fall. Its dedication to terrorism runs as deep as its oil wealth and its international support — bought over the years — remains so strong even we have not yet publicly called them what they are, the bankers and farmers of terrorism.
Our media, supporting the usual suspects of the left, are running the “quagmire” play from their Vietnam playbook. This time they have plausible grounds to say what they are saying. Vietnam became a quagmire because we refused to face the facts that North Vietnam couldn’t fight without massive Soviet and Chinese, which they got. We didn’t face those facts, and lost. In Iraq, we will face a quagmire if we refuse to deal with the nations that we are fighting there. The Saddamite remnants wouldn’t last very long without their allies who have taken the field against us. These nations are the principal problem in Iraq. They are doing what the Taliban did in Afghanistan, without yet achieving the massive number of American casualties al Qaeda caused on 9/11.
The president said, way back on September 20, 2001, that the nations who support terrorism must choose to be with us or against us. Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, the Sudan, and others have not only chosen to be against us, but to actively engage in the terrorists war against freedom in Iraq. We cannot win against terrorism, we cannot liberate Iraq, until we deal with these nations as their choice demands. We are half done in Iraq. We will never be done in Iraq until we finish the job in Teheran, Damascus, and Riyadh.
— NRO Contributor Jed Babbin was a deputy undersecretary of defense in the first Bush administration, and is now an MSNBC military analyst. He is the author of the novel Legacy of Valor.