me say from the outset: There are disagreements I have with this
Administration, disagreements in both domestic and foreign policy.
For example, I do not believe that the spending increases this
Administration has sought in many domestic programs--ideally for
the purpose of bringing along Democratic support--are the answer to
entrenched problems. The direction of reform in a number of
programs is commendable, but the spending is, frankly, too high.
All the spending we gave away under No Child Left Behind certainly
didn't keep Ted Kennedy supportive of the program for very long. We
are better when we stick to our principles; we are better when we
don't much like things like the tariffs on imported steel either.
In the long run, it's bad policy, bad for jobs, and bad
politics--and it's certainly inimical to our principles.
one very important area where the government should be acting more,
I think it is slow to act. In immigration, we see very little. We
have perhaps 10 million illegal aliens in our country. (We can't
say for sure because we can't document them with great accuracy.)
Virtual amnesty for them, and for the many who will come across
today and tomorrow, is wrong. It kicks the can down the road and,
ironically, will cause more domestic spending to cover the security
concerns and the domestic programs that citizens--and
Abroad, I believe, we are too appeasing of
countries like China. I do not support the engagement that leads to
permanent normal trade relations when we see no reforms from that
country in its civil and political system, when religion is still
anathema, where children's rights are a non sequitur, where virtual
slavery is de rigueur. We have also embraced Saudi Arabia too
closely--giving high-level meetings to their Royals whenever they
pick up the phone, treating them with kid gloves, showing a
coziness that frankly leads to confusion regarding what this war
against terrorism is truly about. More poisonous indoctrination
flows from Saudi Arabia than from perhaps any other country, and we
should be engaged in breaking, rather than strengthening, that
flow. And there are other issues.
The Overriding Issue
let's be clear on this: In the issue that matters most--our
survival, the civilized world's survival, the spread of democracy,
the war against terrorism and radical Islam--this President is
right and his critics wrong.
while this is so, to paraphrase Yeats, many of the best lack all
conviction while many of the worst are full of passionate
intensity. The President's critics speak daily and nightly with
furious conviction while the Administration often seems defensive,
too quiet, and reticent.
have heard from Dick Gephardt, John Kerry, and Howard Dean that our
foreign policy has been "a miserable failure" and that "we've done
almost everything wrong."
truth: Following September 11, there were days of anger, doubt, and
confusion. But consider what has happened since then and what we
have done in the world.
- We have not been attacked again in our
- Al-Qaeda has been radically disrupted.
Two-thirds of that network's leadership has been killed or
- The Taliban is finished. Afghanistan is
attempting a constitutional government.
- Yasser Arafat, who taught the world the
use of hijacking airplanes and the use of civilian deaths to make
political points, is ostracized by the American government--this
President did not put his arm around Arafat.
- Osama bin Laden is living a troglodyte
existence on the run.
of the criticism suggesting that we have done nothing right and
that we are a failure is specific to Iraq, and our critics have
talked a lot about the hopelessness of the task. But recall that
this is not the first time people have had doubt about our ability
to make a ravaged country better.
1946, the Saturday Evening Post published an article titled "How We
Botched the German Occupation." In it, Demaree Bess wrote:
We have got into this German job without
understanding what we were tackling or why. Not one American
political leader fully realized at the outset how formidable our
German commitments would prove to be. There was no idea, at the
beginning, that Americans would become involved in a project to
take Germany completely apart and put it together again in wholly
the brilliant John Dos Passos wrote in Life the same year that our
post-war occupation was "a tangle of snarling misery." His piece
was titled "Americans Are Losing the Victory in Europe." Dos Passos
Never has American prestige in Europe been
lower.... All we have brought to Europe so far is confusion backed
up by a drumhead regime of military courts. We have swept away
Hitlerism, but a great many Europeans feel that the cure has been
worse than the disease.
The Truth About "Squandered Goodwill"
have been told by Al Gore and John Kerry that we've squandered our
international goodwill. We have not squandered international
goodwill. In many places, we never really had it at all.
the 1980s, much of European goodwill toward us was very low.
Remember the protests in Europe over Reagan's decision to deploy
missiles in Europe. Europeans protested, but Reagan stood strong
and the Soviet Union cracked and crumbled, and millions more are
free today because we stood on the side of those the Soviets feared
the most: their people. Today, from Lithuania to Poland we see
freedom and democracy for literally tens of millions, freedom that
was said would not come in our lifetimes.
you look at U.N. votes over the past 40 years, we've never been
loved by the anti-democratic world, which is well represented in
the U.N., because we threatened its leadership. We are a great
country that stands in its way.
was there goodwill? Well, we are told, goodwill was there under
President Clinton. I would say that during that supposed era of
goodwill, bin Laden was building al-Qaeda, declaring war on us,
watching us do nothing about terrorism. In addition, during that
presidency, we were appeasing North Korea and building up and
coddling Arafat. If that was the era of goodwill, let there be no
more of it.
Whether other countries love us or not
makes no difference. The U.S. will continue to do the right thing,
usually--it will be blamed or resented, but it will do it
nonetheless. That's what has happened before, that is what is
happening now, and that is what will happen in the future. That's
who they are, that's who we are, and that's what we do.
Governor Dean says the minute he is
President Dean, he will hand over peacekeeping in Iraq to the U.N.
Right now, we have our Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines; our
Special Ops, our Delta Force--our best fighting men and women. They
are involved in a tough war, in a tough rebuilding. Do we really
believe that U.N. men in pale blue hats from Kenya and Holland will
do it better?
have squandered goodwill." Just what is meant by "squandering
goodwill?" What is meant is that we defy the U.N. The U.N. on whose
Security Council sits Syria and whose Human Rights Commission was
chaired by Libya this year--these are the people whose goodwill we
squandered. So be it!
The Truth About "Unilateral
is said by Wesley Clark that we are acting unilaterally and
arrogantly. John Kerry claimed we did not do the hard coalition
work of President George H. W. Bush. This is an empty complaint.
That President Bush's coalition in 1991 had 34 countries. This
President Bush's coalition has 31--the complaint rests on a factor
of three countries.
We've forgotten--I should say, John Kerry
and Wesley Clark have forgotten--the letter written by eight
European leaders earlier this year, including "the conscience of
Europe," Vaclav Havel. The letter supported our efforts regarding
Iraq and said:
We in Europe have a relationship with the
U.S. which has stood the test of time. Thanks in large part to
American bravery, generosity and farsightedness, Europe was set
free from the two forms of tyranny that devastated our continent in
the 20th century: Nazism and communism.... The Iraqi regime and its
weapons of mass destruction represent a clear threat to world
letter was signed by Spain, Portugal, Italy, the U.K., Hungary,
Poland, Denmark, and the Czech Republic. These are countries that
know the face of tyranny and the meaning and favor of America.
is said that we have trumped up charges of weapons of mass
destruction about Iraq. That charge is made by people who did not
care that Saddam Hussein banned inspectors since 1998--and by
people who forget things the previous Administration said. It is
Bill Clinton who said this:
What if Saddam Hussein fails to comply,
and we fail to act, or we take some ambiguous third route which
gives him yet more opportunities to develop his program of weapons
of mass destruction and continue to press for the release of the
sanctions and continue to ignore the solemn commitments that he
made? Well, he will conclude that the international community has
lost its will. He will then conclude that he can go right on and do
more to rebuild an arsenal of devastating destruction. If we fail
to respond today, Saddam and all those who would follow in his
footsteps will be emboldened tomorrow. Some day, some way, I
guarantee you, he'll use the arsenal.
Clinton, acting on that information, sent
missiles into Iraq in Operation Desert Fox. He did this, by the
way, without seeking U.N. approval.
was Clinton, and it is said that Republicans, conservatives,
trumped this up?
the first time in five years, we now have inspectors in Iraq. They
have been there for seven months, and David Kay is still in the
preliminary stages of his investigation--yet he has already
reported "a complex concealment program of long range missiles well
beyond legal ranges, intimidation of scientists, and the incubation
of deadly biological toxins."
The Truth About Why We Went to War in
is said that we change or have changed the justification for war
with Iraq. But weapons of mass destruction was never our entire
indictment. The truth is, we always made our case on several
grounds, and it was the opposition who wanted just one. We charged
all of the following: human rights abuses; history of aggression
(invading two countries, bombing a third); hiding terrorists;
funding terrorists; building WMDs--all were justifications. In
fact, President Bush's first case to the U.N. in his September
address last year began an indictment of Hussein for "repression of
[his] own people."
is said we have brought about the animus of the Muslim world. But
let this be said loudly and clearly--and let it be heard all over
the world. The last seven times the U.S. has used its military, it
has been on behalf of Muslims: First, to save Afghans from the
Soviets; second, to save Kuwaitis from Saddam; third, fourth, and
fifth, to save Kosovars, Bosnians, and Somalis from their own petty
dictators and warlords; sixth, to save Afghans a second time; and
seventh, now the Iraqis. The American military is the peaceful
Islamic peoples' best friend.
skeptics say Israel explains it all, that it is our support for
Israel that led to all this trouble. Wrong. All wrong. Bin Laden
did not focus his indictment on us over Israel. Our support for
Israel simply can't explain why Syria swallowed Lebanon, why
Hussein unleashed a bloodbath against Iran, why Hussein invaded
Kuwait, why Kuwait expelled hundreds of thousands of Palestinians,
why the Taliban destroyed the Bamiyan Buddha statues in
Afghanistan, why the Sudan slaughters Christians, why the bombings
in Bali killed 202 people, why there are church bombings in
Pakistan, or why the U.N. and Red Cross are considered targets in
problem is actually not the U.S. or Israel; the problem is radical
Islam. Not terrorism, radical Islam. Let's get it exactly right:
radical Islam, of which there is too much. Moderate Islam--where
and if it exists--must raise its voice against that radical
The Truth About Civil Liberties
to the criticism of the war at home, the ACLU--with continued
support from Al Gore--claims the Administration is using war as a
pretext to curb civil liberties. This month, Gore said, "They have
taken us much farther down the road toward an intrusive, `big
brother'-style government--toward the dangers prophesied by George
Orwell in his book 1984--than anyone ever thought would be possible
in the United States of America." What illiteracy. What bad
truth: Senator Joe Biden recently said attacks on the Patriot Act
are "ill-informed and overblown." Senator Dianne Feinstein recently
said, "I have never had a single abuse of the Patriot Act reported
to me." And when Senator Feinstein asked the ACLU for examples of
civil liberty abuses, she reported, "they had none."
and Dean and the Democrats who rail against the Patriot Act forget
that it passed the Senate by 99 votes.
Before and After in Iraq
all the passion by the Democratic contenders for President right
now, we should clear our throats and start ratcheting up our own
passion about the following brief facts on the war in Iraq, facts
that look at the conditions before and the conditions now.
Iraq is demonstrably better than it was six
months ago, six years ago, or 16 years ago. Of this there can be no
question. Iraq, while dangerous, is safer than it was, freer
than it was, more humanitarian than it was. While we rightfully
lament the challenge of internal terrorism there--and our men and
women being part of that--there can be no question that the
- No longer officially harbors terrorists
(like it did Abu Nidal and Al-Zarqawi);
- No longer exports terrorism outside of
- No longer threatens to purchase or use
weapons of mass destruction from outside nations like North Korea
- No longer keeps hospitals and schools
- No longer murders the way it had--5,000
children per month according to UNICEF; and
- No longer subsidizes suicide bombers
Middle East has one less thug leading one less thuggish state, and
the threats from Iraq are exclusively internal to Iraq and no
longer external to other nations and allies. With Iraq, now, it is
easier to quell a cauldron than it was to prevent a volcano. We are
helping to create the first democracy in the Arab world--and
someday, some way, we may even receive a letter from Muslim nations
thanking us for defeating their tyranny the way we received a
letter from Havel and the European Eight.
efforts in Iraq rank among the crowning achievements of our nation,
of our democratic will against tyranny, and of our goodwill for
human rights. We are turning one of the worst countries in the
Middle East into one of the best countries in the Middle East. For
this, we should not be humble. For this, we should not be
embarrassed. For this, we should be proud.
The Way Not to Forget
Holocaust Museum in Washington just celebrated its tenth
anniversary. The Holocaust Museum is a profound place based on a
simple premise: We should never forget man's inhumanity to man.
Remembering and seeing with our eyes and imagination is the way not
to forget. And as with Germany, so it is with Iraq--we should see
should see and remember the videos former NYC Police Chief Bernard
Kerik saw in Baghdad:
Interrogations of Iraqis whose lives ended
with the detonation of a grenade that was tied to the neck or
stuffed in the shirt pocket of the victim....living bodies
disintegrate at the pull of the pin....a tape of Saddam sitting and
watching one of his military generals being eaten alive by
Dobermans because the general's loyalty was in
should see and remember the plastic shredding devices left-wing
Parliamentarian Ann Clwyd brought to the world's attention, with
the following witness-testimony:
There was a machine designed for shredding
plastic. Men were dropped into it and we were again made to watch.
Sometimes they went in head first and died quickly. Sometimes they
went in feet first and died screaming.... Their remains would be
placed in plastic bags and we were told they would be used as fish
should read testimony from the survivors of the chemical attack on
Halabja that killed a minimum of 5,000 people; we should see the
torture chambers and the rape rooms. We should see mass graves like
the one near al-Hilla that Christopher Hitchens described: "The
remains of 3,000 individuals were brought to the surface....
Eyewitnesses from the horrific repression of 1991 report having
seen three truckloads of prisoners three times a day, for a month,
being unloaded there."
need to have these images again, for too many seem to have
I attended human rights rallies in my youth, I used to hear the
quote from Tom Paine, that "we have it in our power to begin the
world over again." In the Middle East--the cradle of dictatorship
and terrorism--we are beginning the world again. This is what such
work looks like. Yet many have forgotten that all beginnings are
difficult. If it succeeds, we will see more democracy, less war,
and less torture.
Someday, we may even have the luxury of
saying about this, and other memorials to horror, that we do not
remember the world that brought them about. In the meantime, let us
be mindful that it is in that desert in Iraq that civilization and
barbarism are now at war. It has fallen to us to be the arm, the
conscience, and the will of civilization.
so to our critics we say, with passion and conviction, that we are
proud of our country; we are proud of our fighting men and women in
Iraq; and, yes, we are proud of our President.
William J. Bennett, former U.S. Secretary of
Education, is Distinguished Fellow in Cultural Policy Studies at
The Heritage Foundation. These remarks were delivered at a meeting
of The Heritage Foundation President's Club, held at the Ronald
Reagan International Trade Center in Washington, D.C.