Zarqawi's Death Brings Democrat Calls for Surrender



The recent death of terrorist mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the "prince" of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, follows on the heels of other good news coming from Iraq including the completion of his cabinet by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, and the formation of a parliament and defense ministry. The sudden change in temperature prompted a visit by President Bush and raised a quiet hope in the minds of some - might this work out after all?

There are those, of course, who by dint of upbringing and ideology are incapable of uttering a kind word about Iraq, and even now leading Democrats are calling for early withdrawal. The terrorists never dreamed of defeating the US militarily but realized early on they could count on the Democrats and media to help rout us politically in the manner of Vietnam. Invested in defeat, the Democrats remain willing accomplices - driven not by an interest in the good of the nation but an ambition to destroy Bush and take back power.

Notwithstanding the cynical tendencies of some, the moment does invite reflection on the state of Iraq and of our quixotic efforts to bring democracy to a violent region, and specifically this nation only recently relieved of what was arguably the most brutal dictatorship in the world. How fares our utopian enterprise? As Amir Taheri reports in a recent article in Commentary, the project is advancing.

He cites the following: First, the absence of Iraqi refugees. Under Saddam Hussein, Iraqis fleeing their nation lined up regularly by the hundreds of thousands along the Iranian and Turkish borders seeking refuge. Since the fall of Saddam in 2003, there have been no refugees but rather an influx of more than one million returnees.

There has been a dramatic increase in religious pilgrims in Iraq, with some 12 million arriving at its holy sites in 2005, "making them the most visited spots in the Muslim world, ahead of Mecca and Medina."

The Iraqi dinar has risen in value against regional currencies. Since liberation, the nation's GDP has more than doubled, inflation has fallen and unemployment has been halved.

Iraq is also the center of free expression in the Arab world. There is talk radio, internet blogs, television talk shows, and more than a hundred independent newspapers and magazines - unique in the Middle East, save for Israel.

Schools, universities, and hospitals are being built and staffed.

There have been three free elections, a new popularly elected government, and a constitution.

Yet, from the press we hear only of car bombs and civil war.

In the US there are roughly 25,000 homicides and 50,000 vehicular deaths per year. If the media were to religiously cover each day in graphic detail the grisly and tragic deaths of Americans murdered by fellow citizens or killed on our roads one would come away with the impression that the US was an impossibly violent and dangerous place. This, in effect, is what the media has done in Iraq - manipulated the images to influence perceptions.

Bush's vision, which is Wilsonian and Reaganesque, seeks to spread liberty to the autocratic Middle East, and is rooted in the American belief in the power of freedom to elevate individuals and nations. Entwined in that policy is a method to enhance American security, for states accountable to their people tend not to attack other states but rather devote their energies to enhancing civil life.

That Bush has made the process needlessly difficult by poor planning is unfortunate. The criticisms are by now familiar.

He did not have enough troops to occupy, secure, and rebuild Iraq. His father liberated Kuwait, a tiny nation compared to Iraq, with a force of half a million men. For Iraq, a task of far greater magnitude, he fielded a force of 130,000, and by so doing endangered the entire project.

He did not put an Iraqi face on the new Iraqi government immediately after Saddam's fall - as he did in Afghanistan with Hamid Karzai, allowing the media to portray the US as "occupiers" instead of liberators.

He did not make security his main priority, perhaps wanting to curry favor with an antagonistic media by being "nice" to locals.

He disbanded the Iraqi army when he should have dispensed with the upper brass only and kept thousands of soldiers gainfully employed and allied with coalition forces.

He failed to galvanize the nation or call upon Americans to make sacrifices. After the initial post 9/11 honeymoon, the country quickly split along standard partisan lines.

Bush's feeble management of post war Iraq has squandered our credibility and diminished our chances for success. But every war has its missteps. The Bush Vision remains a noble one and with the death of Zarqawi and other positive moves, perhaps the effort can be salvaged.


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