March 26, 2003

March 26, 2003 | Commentary on Middle East

The other side of the story

They say that truth is the first casualty of war, and I have no trouble believing this. The inaccuracies about the war with Iraq began even before the war itself.

Thomas Friedman, esteemed Pulitzer-winning columnist for the New York Times, wrote early last week that he's worried about the size of the coalition behind the United States' efforts to disarm Iraq and remove its leader, Saddam Hussein. "In most cowboy movies," he wrote, "the good guys round up a posse before they ride into town and take on the black hats. We're doing just the opposite. We're riding into Baghdad pretty much alone and hoping to round up a posse after we get there. I hope we do, because it may be the only way we can get out with ourselves, and the town, in one piece."

As for the getting-out-of-town-in-one-piece part, Friedman also predicted the United States and its coalition would be hard-pressed to win the first Gulf War, that Iraq's army (then regarded as one of the world's largest) would be a much tougher opponent than we expected, and that it might take years - if even then - before we prevailed. View his capacity for handicapping wars in that context.

But his capacity for assessing the depth and breadth of the United States' "posse" is another matter. There, it's not a matter of gazing into a crystal ball. It's a matter of recognizing the facts. Countries from all corners of the world have come out in support of our effort, as detailed in a new "Web Memo" from the Heritage Foundation. And guess what? We have 30 publicly declared allies - which is more than we had in 1991 - and 15 others that, for now, do not wish to be identified as such.

We'll do most of the fighting with help from Great Britain. But Secretary of State Colin Powell said he has secured promises of support from Afghanistan, Albania, Australia - which also will send troops - Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey and Uzbekistan.

In addition, my colleagues at the Heritage Foundation have identified 16 more countries that aren't on Powell's list but have "publicly offered either political or military support for the war": Bahrain, Canada, Croatia, Greece, Jordan, Kuwait, Norway, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Taiwan, Ukraine and the United Arab Emirates - even Germany and France.

Germany? France? That's right. The French have sought to "clarify" remarks by their ambassador to the United States that they would help if Saddam unleashed chemical or biological weapons. Not withdraw. "Clarify." If our troops are attacked by chemical or biological weapons, we can count on their help.

The anti-war crowd - which, to be fair, doesn't include Friedman, who advocated removal of Saddam and his weapons of mass destruction but insisted the president do so only with U.N. support - has been good at controlling the flow of information. Protests around the world - involving a few million of the world's nearly 6 billion people - have been turned into worldwide disapproval of U.S. actions. The slightest reservations by long-time allies have been presented as full-scale condemnation despite, in most cases, those allies taking great care to say they shared our aims, if not our methods.

But you don't hear about that. You don't hear about 42 countries in total supporting the U.S. effort in one way or other. You'd never know Germany had sent decontamination specialists to the region and provided AWACS and Patriot missile systems to Turkey for its protection. Or that Canada had helped with military planners, a frigate and two other ships to help protect our Navy. It takes organizations such as the Heritage Foundation and WorldNetDaily to provide the other side of the story - the side not spun by President Bush's avowed enemies.

Thanks to Heritage and its affiliate,, plus WorldNetDaily and several conservative outlets, you can learn it isn't all about the oil, or Israel, or megalomania on the part of President Bush and his cabinet.

You can see clearly how right-thinking Americans cover this war and its diplomatic run-up. And that all the news of the war doesn't all have to come from Peter Jennings or Dan Rather or even Thomas Friedman.

And given Friedman's record when it comes to prognostication, that's not a bad thing.

Reprinted with the permission of the Internet newspaper

-Rebecca Hagelin is a vice president of the Heritage Foundation, a research and educational think-tank whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values and a strong national defense. She is also the former vice president of communications for WorldNetDaily and her 60-second radio commentaries can be heard on the Salem Communications Network.

About the Author

Rebecca Hagelin Senior Communications Fellow