Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The Kids Are Alright

Monday's news was saturated with photos of terrorists assassinating two Iraqi election officials:

Terrorists' Street Execution

Both the photos and story are brutal. Could that mean we're losing in Iraq? Are American troops dying for nothing?

No. Start with the fact that we're killing terrorists--around 1500 in Fallujah alone. According to Senator John Kyl: "We have captured or killed three-quarters of known al Qaeda leaders in the past three years, and the result has been better security." Better security here at home and in Iraq, where local security forces are increasingly effective.

Still the street shooting was significant, says today's WSJ editorial:
Do we need any clearer picture of the stakes, and the nature of our enemy, in Iraq than the photo of those assassinations that appeared on yesterday's front pages? The dead Iraqis were targeted precisely because they are trying to build a new, democratic Iraq. Their killers can't abide a free election, or a newly legitimate Iraqi government, because they know it will make it less likely that they can ever return to power. . .

These events ought to put to rest the canard that what we are facing in Iraq is some kind of "nationalist" uprising opposed to U.S. occupation. The genuine Iraqi patriots are those risking their lives to rebuild their country and prepare for elections. They are being threatened, and murdered, by members and allies of the old regime who want to restore Sunni Baathist political domination.
The January vote remains on track, says Arthur Chernkoff in his latest fortnightly WSJ round-up of under-reported anti-terrorism news:
The election campaign officially kicked off on Dec. 15, the day voter registration finished across Iraq. In the words of the current prime minister, Iyad Allawi, who announced his candidacy at the head of his Iraqi National Accord movement: "We strongly reject the injustice and separation of the past and we are working towards national unity." Allawi called the election a "precious dream."
And Amir Taheri is optimistic, in today's NY Post:
With the start of the Iraqi campaign season, doomsters are back with predictions of disaster for the newly liberated nation.

Some claim the election could be a prelude to civil war. Others warn that the nation's Shiite majority might, in a moment of madness, choose an Iranian-style theocracy. Still others point to the Kurdish show of disaffection as a sign the multi-ethnic country may well be heading for disintegration, and that the coming elections could speed up the process.

Yet most doomsters are the same people who opposed first the liberation of Iraq, and then the holding of free elections. What is the evidence for all their warnings and demands that Iraqi elections be postponed (presumably forever)?

Some pretend to be alarmed by the "excessive language" used by rival Iraqi politicians in campaign speeches. For example, Hazem Shaalan, Iraq's flamboyant defense minister, has attacked Hussein Shahrestani, the leader of one of the Shiite lists of candidates, as "the man from Tehran." Shahrestani's aides have retaliated by branding Shaalan "the American minister."

By most campaign standards, this is a rather mild polemical exchange. The American papers that pretend to be shocked by Iraqi verbal duels must have forgotten the recent U.S. campaign, which saw President Bush branded as "the Arabian candidate" and Sen. John Kerry portrayed as a coward masquerading as a hero.

What is happening in Iraq is what happens in every democracy: Political rivals attack each other verbally — but, in contrast to most other Arab states, do not imprison or murder their opponents.

Other doomsters predict a straight win for the Shiites and see such an outcome as a disaster for Iraq and for U.S. policy. But why should anyone be scared of Shiites wining a majority of the seats? After all, they make up 60 percent of the population — yet they do not constitute a monolithic bloc.
Indeed, the anti-terror campaign is succeeding world-wide, says David Brooks in the NY Times:
How did we get to this sudden moment of cautious optimism in the Middle East? . . . It was unfortunate that George W. Bush was elected and then re-elected as president of the United States. After all, here is a man who staffed his administration with what Juan Cole of the University of Michigan called "pro-Likud intellectuals" who went off "fighting elective wars on behalf of Tel Aviv." Under Bush, the diplomats agreed, the U.S. had inflamed the Arab world and had forfeited its role as an honest broker.

It was unfortunate that Bush gave that speech on June 24, 2002, dismissing Yasir Arafat as a man who would never make peace. After all, the Europeans protested, while Arafat might be flawed, he was the embodiment of the Palestinian cause.

It was a mistake to build the security fence, which the International Court of Justice called a violation of international law. Never mind that the fence cut terror attacks by 90 percent. It was the moral equivalent of apartheid, the U.N. orators declared.

It was a mistake to assassinate the leaders of Hamas, which took credit for the murders of hundreds of Israelis. France, among many other nations, condemned these attacks and foretold catastrophic consequences. . .

It was unfortunate that Bush sided openly with Sharon during their April meetings in Washington, causing the European Union to condemn U.S. policy. It was unfortunate that Bush kept pushing his democracy agenda. After all, as some Israelis said, it is naïve to export democracy to Arab soil.

Yes, these were a series of unfortunate events. And yet here we are in this hopeful moment. It almost makes you think that all those bemoaners and condemners don't know what they are talking about. Nothing they have said over the past three years accounts for what is happening now.

It almost makes you think that Bush understands the situation better than the lot of them. His judgments now look correct. Bush deduced that Sharon could grasp the demographic reality and lead Israel toward a two-state solution; that Arafat would never make peace, but was a retardant to peace; that Israel has a right to fight terrorism; and that Sharon would never feel safe enough to take risks unless the U.S. supported him when he fought back.
Even before the election, ordinary Iraqis are enjoying and exercising the freedoms Saddam withheld, including freedom of association:
Iraqi labour unions making their global debut at a conference in Japan are seeking tips on their tough task--how to make workers aware of rights suppressed for years by Saddam Hussein.

Five trade union leaders from Iraq attended the 18th World Congress of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), which began on Sunday in the southwestern resort city of Miyazaki.

It was the first-ever appearance of Iraqi organised labour at a congress of ICFTU, which meets every four years. Saddam only allowed a government-run union and persecuted the underground labour movement.

Since the collapse of the regime, at least 10 independent trade unions have been set up in Iraq.
America must persevere, says the WSJ:
When these columns endorsed the war in Iraq, we didn't sign up for a short or easy war. We signed up to support whatever it takes to win. No war ever goes as planned, and Iraq is no exception. But surely we can all admit that when we see those enemy assassins on our front pages, we are staring at what would be the consequences of U.S. defeat.
If this week's public murders illustrate the dangers of quitting, the young Iraqis blogging as Iraq the Model are the future:
We want to emphasize that neither I nor my brothers have changed our opinion about the American people and we're still grateful for the people who risked and sacrificed to liberate Iraq from the tyrant and that we haven't faced any ill treatment from any American in Iraq.
We're come too far to abandon Mohammed, Ali and Omar and others transform Iraq from dictatorship to democracy.


British Prime Minister Tony Blair says it better while visiting Iraq:
[T]he danger that people feel here is coming from terrorists and insurgents who are trying to destroy the possibility of this country becoming a democracy.

Now where do we stand in that fight? We stand on the side of the democrats against the terrorists. And so when people say to me, well look at the difficulties, look at the challenges - I say well what's the source of that challenge - the source of that challenge is a wicked, destructive attempt to stop this man, this lady, all these people from Iraq, who want to decide their own future in a democratic way, having that opportunity.
(via Andrew Sullivan)

Still More:

A reader pointed to this optimistic Washington Post article:
Islamic extremism is losing. The movement, in all of its variations, has been unable to garner mass support in any Muslim country. While people in many countries still despise their governments -- and that of the United States -- this has not translated into support for Osama bin Laden's ideas. It doesn't mean the end of terrorism by a long shot. Small groups of people can do great harm in today's world. But it does mean that the political engine producing this religious radicalism is not gaining steam.

In those places in the Muslim world where political life is open, the evidence is overwhelming. In the elections in Malaysia and Indonesia this year, secular parties trounced Islamic ones.
More and More:

AP files this story on New Year's Day:
Al-Qaida's arm in Iraq released a video Saturday showing its militants lining up five captured Iraqi security officers and executing them in the street, one of a string of recent attacks claimed by the group led by terror boss Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

A statement posted on an Islamist Web site along with the video denounced the five men as "American dogs," and the group warned other Iraqis they would meet the same fate if they join the security forces loyal to the government of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.

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