Following Through In Iraq…

By no stretch of the imagination can things be said to have gone swimmingly in Iraq of late. To the contrary, it has been one thing after another. The murders and mutilations of American contractors in Fallujah, the Al-Sadr uprising, half of the Iraqi forces chickening out or changing sides, bad poll numbers from the Iraq people, the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, the heaviest American causalities of the war for April — the bad news has come in spades.

Yet and still, we’re slowly but surely winning despite it all.

I know the anti-war left doesn’t buy that for a second because every war from start to finish — well at least any war waged by a Republican President — is another Vietnam to them. But, I’m sure there are even some conservatives out there who’re thinking “Piffle and poppycock Hawkins! Winning? Bah! Call me when Fallujah is a hole in the ground, then I’ll believe we’re winning!”

Hey, I’ll be the first to tell you that I’ve had my doubts about whether we’ve used enough force in Fallujah and/or Najaf during this uprising, but I have a lot of confidence in our men on the ground. If the marines surrounding Fallujah wanted to blast the city until there was nothing left but bouncing rubble, they’ve been capable of doing it all along. Same goes for Najaf. Who knows? Maybe they’ll still have to go in firing before it’s over. But, that isn’t the path they’ve chosen and who’s to say they’re not right?

Isn’t our goal to help the Iraqis handle their own security? Well, that’s exactly what we’re trying to do — for the most part — in Fallujah and Najaf — we’re trying to let the Iraqis handle it. If the Iraqis can police their own country — and I mean really police it, not just **wink, wink** nothing to worry here about Great Satans — then isn’t that a better outcome than tearing up whole cities, losing hundreds of troops and losing hundreds, perhaps thousands of Iraqi civilians who’ll get caught up in the crossfire?

On top of that, we’ve got to keep our eyes on the ball here. If we want an Iraqi Democracy to succeed, we’ve got to help the Iraqis take responsibility for their own country. What’s going on in Fallujah and Najaf right now, whether the Iraqis trying to deal with the situation succeed or fail, is part of the process and it’ll help prepare them to run their own country.

And isn’t that why we’re there right now? To help the Iraqis towards Democracy? Isn’t that by heritage and choice, what Americans believe is the right thing to do, in our best interests, an important part of the war on terrorism, and the primary factor in how history will judge what we did in Iraq?

Take heart, there have been lots of local elections in Iraq, we’re turning over partial sovereignty to them on June 30th, and there are going to be nationwide elections in January of 2005. Moreover, while 50% of the Iraqi military and police crapped on us when things got tough, 50% hung in there and proved their mettle. Now we have a core to build around and if we add a few of the less tarnished Baathists to the roster and fighters from some of the soon to be disbanded militias, six months to a year from now Iraqis may be able to handle the overwhelming majority of their own security problems.

And their own problems may not be as bad as people fear. The insurgency has made little headway with the Iraqi population and there’s currently no evidence that Iraq is moving towards civil war. Has it been bloody? Yes. But compared to other major wars like WW1, WW2, Korea, & Vietnam, casualties have been light. I’m sure that’s no consolation to anyone who has lost a loved one fighting in Iraq, but what we’re doing there is helping to stop future 9/11s or worse yet, terrorists with WMD who could kill as many as 80,000 Americans in a single attack. Going back to sticking our heads in the sand like we did before 9/11 just isn’t an option anymore.

Nor is dishonoring the sacrifice of the Americans who gave their lives in Iraq. A lot of American blood has been spilt in Iraq and lives will be lost before it’s over. But that butcher’s bill will only be paid in vain if we don’t have the will to follow-through and help the Iraqis towards Democracy. In the end, the Iraqis themselves will be responsible for their own freedom, but by God, we should do everything humanly possible to help them. It has not been, nor will it be, easy — but it’s right and it’s in our interests and we must stay the course…

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