The Corner

Iraq@5

Some excerpts from the president at the Pentagon right now:

Five years into this battle, there is an understandable debate over whether the war was worth fighting … whether the fight is worth winning … and whether we can win it. The answers are clear to me:  Removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision – and this is a fight America can and must win…

Over the past five years, we have seen moments of triumph and moments of tragedy.  We have watched in admiration as 12 million Iraqis defied the terrorists, went to the polls, and chose their leaders in free elections.  And we have watched in horror as al Qaida beheaded innocent captives, and sent suicide bombers to blow up mosques and markets.  These actions show the brutal nature of the enemy in Iraq.  And they serve as a grim reminder:  The terrorists who murder the innocent in the streets of Baghdad want to murder the innocent in the streets of American cities.  Defeating this enemy in Iraq will make it less likely we will face this enemy here at home.

A little over a year ago, the fight in Iraq was faltering.  Extremist elements were succeeding in their efforts to plunge Iraq into chaos…

My Administration understood that America could not retreat in the face of terror.  We knew that if we did not act, the violence that had been consuming Iraq would have worsened, spread, and could eventually have reached genocidal levels.  Baghdad could have disintegrated into a contagion of killing, and Iraq could have descended into full-blown sectarian warfare.  So we reviewed our strategy – and changed course in Iraq.  We sent reinforcements into the country in a dramatic policy shift that has become known as “the surge.”…

The surge has done more than turn the situation in Iraq around – it has opened the door to a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror.  For the terrorists, Iraq was supposed to be the place where al Qaida rallied Arab masses to drive America out.  Instead, Iraq has become the place where Arabs joined with Americans to drive al Qaida out.   In Iraq, we are witnessing the first large-scale Arab uprising against Osama bin Laden, his grim ideology, and his terror network.  And the significance of this development cannot be overstated… 

The challenge in the period ahead is to consolidate the gains we have made and seal the extremists’ defeat.  We have learned through hard experience what happens when we pull our forces back too fast – the terrorists and extremists step in … fill the vacuum … establish safe havens … and use them to spread chaos and carnage. …

            The successes we are seeing in Iraq are undeniable – yet some in Washington still call for retreat.  War critics can no longer credibly argue that we are losing in Iraq – so now they argue the war costs too much.  In recent months we have heard exaggerated estimates of the costs of this war. 

            No one would argue that this war has not come at a high cost in lives and treasure – but those costs are necessary when we consider the cost of a strategic victory for our enemies in Iraq. 

            If we were to allow our enemies to prevail in Iraq, the violence that is now declining would accelerate – and Iraq could descend into chaos.  Al Qaida would regain its lost sanctuaries and establish new ones – fomenting violence and terror that could spread beyond Iraq’s borders, with serious consequences to the world economy. 

            Out of such chaos in Iraq, the terrorist movement could emerge emboldened – with new recruits … new resources … and an even greater determination to dominate the region and harm America.  An emboldened al Qaida with access to Iraq’s oil resources could pursue its ambitions to acquire weapons of mass destruction to attack America and other free nations.  Iran could be emboldened as well – with a renewed determination to develop nuclear weapons and impose its brand of hegemony across the broader Middle East.  And our enemies would see an American failure in Iraq as evidence of weakness and lack of resolve. …

In the long run, defeating the terrorists requires an alternative to their murderous ideology.  So we are helping the people of Iraq establish a democracy in the heart of the Middle East.  A free Iraq will fight terrorists rather than harbor them.  And a free Iraq will be an example for others of the power of liberty to transform societies and replace despair with hope.  By spreading the hope of liberty in the Middle East, we will help free societies take root – and when they do, freedom will yield the peace we all desire.

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