November 30, 2005
By Helle C. Dale
The Iraq debate in Washington has been caught in a time warp for
several months now. How did we get into the war? Did the president
"mislead" Congress about weapons of mass destruction? What did
Scooter Libby, Karl Rove and assorted reporters know about CIA
operative Valerie Plame? All of which questions invariably lead to:
How soon can we leave Iraq?
Those who live in Washington will recognize the hallmarks of a
campaign of political destruction against the White House, and
those who travel abroad can testify that overseas they are
scratching their heads over the American talent for getting
completely sidetracked from what is important by political
Here are the real questions: Are we making progress in Iraq?
Does the White House have a plan? Despite the vociferous assertions
of many Democrats, the answers are yes and yes. The United States
and its allies have been systematically stewarding a political
process that has stayed on track every step of the way, from a
provisional government to a constitutional convention to a
negotiated and ratified constitution to parliamentary elections,
which will be held on Dec. 15. The elections will lead to a
coalition government that will govern Iraq for the next four years
and include all three ethnic groups, Shi'ites, Kurds and Sunnis. In
the Middle East, a region where democracy has until recently made
very halting progress (except in Israel), the democratic process in
Iraq is truly impressive.
Most reporting is not designed to lead Americans to this
conclusion, and you have to admire the steadfastness of the 30
percent to 40 percent of Americans still supporting our presence in
Iraq in the face of a daily barrage of bad news, and calls from
Democrats like Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania that Americans
troops should be brought home with all due dispatch. From most
media you would not know that the uprising of crazed
fundamentalists under Abu Musab al Zarqawi along with elements of
the former Saddam Hussein regime is focused in four of Iraq's 18
provinces. What happens in the other 14 is not news, of course.
Today in Annapolis, President Bush will be giving yet another
major speech on progress and U.S. strategy in Iraq. Americans are
thirsty for good news from Iraq about accomplishments they know are
taking place, from friends and family who are serving there, but
never see reported. Speaking at the Heritage Foundation on Monday,
for instance, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt spoke about the promise shown
by the 200,000 Iraqi police and military, who have now been trained
and who are fighting hard alongside American troops. A big element
in future success is that Iraqi troops can now be left behind to
guard villages where insurgents have been defeated, which wipes out
rebel strongholds methodically one after the other.
Now, the president's critics will dismiss any good news as
propaganda. In yet another blast at the president, veteran
Bush-basher Sy Hersh writes in the New Yorker, "Many of
the military's most senior generals are deeply frustrated, but they
say nothing in public, because they don't want to jeopardize their
careers." He quotes - anonymously, of course - a former defense
official as saying that the administration has "so terrified the
generals that they know they won't go public." Which is why one has
to give thanks for the courage of Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who often
stands out as one of the few honest men in Washington. On Monday,
Mr. Lieberman broke ranks with the Democratic Party to speak
publicly of what he witnessed during his fourth visit to Iraq, over
Thanksgiving. "The country is now going from Saddam Hussein to
self-government and, I'd add, self-protection," Mr. Lieberman said.
"About two-thirds of the country is in really pretty good shape."
Signs of life returning to normal are the profusion of satellite
dishes on rooftops and cell phones everywhere. "Overall, I came
Furthermore, in a long article yesterday in the Wall Street
Journal, Mr. Lieberman warned about the consequences of
withdrawing U.S. troops too soon. "More work needs to be done of
course, but the Iraqi people are in reach of a watershed
transformation from the primitive, killing tyranny of Saddam to
modern, self-governing, self-securing nationhood - unless the great
American military that has given them and us this unexpected
opportunity is prematurely withdrawn."
Spot on, Mr. Lieberman. Let us not snatch defeat in Iraq from
the jaws of victory.
Helle Dale is
director of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy
Studies at the Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in The Washington Times
Let us not snatch defeat in Iraq from the jaws of victory.
Helle C. Dale
Senior Fellow for Public Diplomacy
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