October 29, 2003 | Commentary on Education
The natives in Iraq aren't getting restless. But some residents of Washington, D.C., are.
A dozen senators, including presidential candidates John Edwards, D-N.C., and John Kerry, D-Mass., recently voted against President Bush's request for $87 billion to help rebuild Afghanistan and Iraq. Out on the campaign trail, another presidential hopeful, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, says we should bring our troops home-now.
What a self-inflicted reversal of fortune that would be. From glorious victory-Saddam's statue crashing down back in April-to ignoble defeat in just six months.
As Vice President Cheney says, Iraq is the front line in the war against terrorism. "Having liberated that country, it is crucial that we keep our word to the Iraqi people, helping them to build a secure country and a democratic government," he reminded us during an Oct. 10 speech at The Heritage Foundation. "And we will do so."
There is bad news from Iraq, of course. All Americans grieve for the troops who have been killed since major combat ended. But we shouldn't focus on each individual tragedy to the point of ignoring the many successes.
"Within two months a new Iraqi police force was conducting joint patrols with coalition forces," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wrote in The Washington Post recently. "Within three months, we had begun training a new Iraqi army-and today some 56,000 are participating in the defense of their country. By contrast, it took 14 months [after World War II ended] to establish a police force in Germany and 10 years to begin training a new German army."
It's all about building an Iraq for Iraqis. When we've finished that job, we'll come home. The United States has no desire to colonize or occupy Iraq, Afghanistan or any other country.
None of this means the Democratic presidential candidates are wrong to voice their opposition to the Bush administration. On the contrary-when they disagree with the president, they should speak their minds. Freedom of speech is a critical component of our system of government, and it's one of the major things we're exporting to Iraq.
Remember that Iraqis lived in the clutches of a cruel dictator for decades. Saddam executed hundreds of thousands of people-some for speaking out, some for organizing politically, some just for being related to opposition activists. For the first time Iraqis can speak their minds, so it's good we're giving them an example of how to dissent politically, without resorting to violence.
We're also showing them the importance of listening to dissent. The Bush administration doesn't rule by fiat. That's why it had to work with Congress to get the $87 billion supplemental aid bill passed.
Plus, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz recently went to speak to-and hear from-students at the New School University in Manhattan. The New York Times calls that school a "bastion of antiwar liberalism," and Wolfowitz was met with the expected boos and hisses.
Still, he managed to make his points. We went into Iraq for three reasons, he explained: to forestall Iraq's drive to obtain weapons of mass destruction, to break that nation's connections to terrorism and to stop Saddam's reign of terror.
The silent majority of Iraqis understand we're there to help them. They support our mission, and they know they will benefit from it. Most Americans realize that, too.
Pulling out now, or allowing Iraq to collapse because we aren't willing to spend the money needed to help it get back on its feet, would be a critical error. We can't allow a violent minority in Iraq, or a vocal minority here at home, to deter us from our mission.
Ed Feulner is the president of The Heritage Foundation.