Special Report

Let’s Think Back

Kofi Annan says the U.S. presence has been a "disaster" for the Middle East. So how did the region stack up before our arrival in Iraq?

By 9.19.06

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When I heard that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan complained that the United States had messed things up in the Middle East, specifically echoing Middle Eastern leaders who told him that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was a "real disaster" for the region, I got to wondering. What was the Middle East like before the U.S. messed things up by invading Iraq? Was it like the mythical Garden of Eden that North America was before the White Man came and messed it up? Jogging my long-term memory, I don't think that is quite the case.

Unlike the delusional John Kerry, the Secretary General did, in fact, talk to real leaders who informed him of their thoughts. In particular, Mr. Annan highlighted the opinions of Iran's leaders. "They were quite clear that the U.S. presence was a problem," stated Mr. Annan. Well if Mahmoud Ahmadinejad thinks we're a problem, we definitely should hang our heads in shame, and tuck our tails between our legs and "redeploy." While Mr. Annan is taking the United States to task for upsetting the Iranians, perhaps he can also launch an investigation into why this Holocaust hoax that bugs Mr. Ahmadinejad keeps getting play. I wonder, has the rise of the theocracy in Iran (and the ascendancy of Mr. Ahmadinejad in Iran) been a "disaster" for the region? I don't think I've heard an opinion on that from Kofi Annan.

As I recall, in 1980, Saddam's Iraq invaded Iran, starting an 8-year conflict that killed more than one million people. In 1991, Saddam's Iraq invaded Kuwait, starting the first Gulf War. And since the ceasefire from the first Gulf War, Saddam's Iraq spent its time killing southern Shiites, shooting at coalition aircraft enforcing the "no-fly" zones that prevented Saddam from killing more Shiites and Kurds, and confounding and finally kicking out U.N. weapons inspectors whose job it had been to verify that Saddam was living by the terms of the cease-fire by not reactivating his chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs.

The American led invasion of Iraq in 2003 took care of the perennial disaster that was Saddam Hussein. But other problems, as Kofi Annan and other critiques of American military action are fond of pointing out, have come up. Specifically, terrorists seeking U.S. defeat in Iraq, old Saddam loyalists, and some extreme Islamic sectarians have been engaged in a terror campaign sometimes killing hundreds of Iraqis a month. This is a problem -- and the main reason why U.S. forces are still in the country in large numbers.

BUT LET'S PUT THIS PROBLEM in historical context. When Saddam was in power, if he was killing only a few hundred people a month, he was having an off year. (From 1988 to 1992 alone, he killed an estimated 250,000 Kurds and Shiites.) Now it is true that during Saddam's time, the violence wasn't so random or visible as it is now; it didn't take the form of dramatic bomb blasts, but rather mostly took place in torture chambers and in isolated villages without media coverage, and you could be fairly confident that you wouldn't become a victim unless Saddam had good reason to go after you -- such as if you didn't agree with his policies, argued for democratic reforms, or were a Kurd, or a Shiite. Nonetheless, just on the basis of body counts, one can only come to the conclusion that the mess the United States has made in Iraq is a significant improvement over the mess that was already there.

Beyond the violence, however, the "disaster" of American policy in Iraq has resulted in a functioning democracy in what had been one of the most vile dictatorships in the region. I can understand why the Ayatollahs in Iran would find this a disaster (if democracy were to spread to their country, after all, they would be thrown out of power faster than you could say "Mahmoud Ahmadinejad"), but why does the Secretary General of the United Nations second this opinion?

The American-led invasion of Iraq, and the ouster of Saddam Hussein has not been a "disaster" for the Middle East. And, despite the histrionics of the Democrat leadership in the United States, it has not been a disaster for America by "creating more terrorists" or more hatred aimed at the United States.

Again, let's think back. When the U.S. led coalition invaded Iraq in 2003, it wasn't the "Arab street" that exploded in rage -- it was the American and European street. Protests in San Francisco, London, and Rome, dwarfed anything in Cairo, Beirut, or Damascus. Quite a few Arabs were not all that fond of Saddam Hussein, and they certainly took away from the demonstration of American force and resolve a sense of respect for American power -- at least initially, before all the carping by people like Dick Durbin, John Kerry, and Harry Reid who declared the mission "illegal" and a great "mistake" when they discovered that it wouldn't be concluded before the next presidential election.

The antiwar crowd contends that by invading Iraq we so enraged Muslims that we "created" thousands of new terrorists. But why would Muslims be so outraged by our invasion of Iraq? It wouldn't be because they liked Saddam Hussein, or even that they regarded our actions as "illegal" -- Egypt, Syria, and Jordan never thought to get U.N. approval to attack Israel. Those Muslims who were really, really ticked off were those who were upset that a non-Muslim nation had invaded a Muslim nation. To them, the issue wasn't right and wrong or good and bad, but Muslim versus non-Muslim. And guess what? In these people's mind, "non-Muslims" are the enemy -- even when they aren't toppling Muslim-murdering Muslim dictators. We were the enemy, remember, on September 11, 2001 (and before).

MARK STEYN HAS QUOTED a few times in his wonderful essays something that is worth reading again, for it does not seem to have sunk in to the minds of many. He quotes a spokesman for the Islamic Army of Aden commenting on the 2002 bombing of a French oil tanker: "We would have preferred to hit a U.S. frigate, but no problem because they are all infidels." To quote the venerable Mr. Steyn, "You can be a hippie-dippy hey-man-I-love-everybody-whatever-your-bag-is-cool backpacking Dutch stoner, and they'll blow you up with as much enthusiasm as if you were Dick Cheney."

If our invasion of Iraq did not "create" hordes of new anti-American terrorists, what would doing nothing -- other than getting dozens of more meaningless U.N. resolutions -- have done? How many anti-American terrorists would we have "created" by our show of weakness and impotence in the face of a defiant Saddam Hussein?

Lastly, if those who voice the notion that our Iraq policy has made us less safe by "creating" more terrorists really believe this, then why don't they insist that we abandon Israel as an ally? Of course, some do -- but not those in the halls of Congress. Clearly, our support of the "Zionist Entity" rankles much deeper on the Arab street than does our Iraq policy. And if we really want to be safe why don't we just adopt Sharia? (Already, after all, many in our brave media refuse to run cartoons that depict Mohammed.) The argument that we cannot engage our enemies militarily without "creating" more terrorists is a hollow one, and I suspect that most of those who make it only do so in an attempt to score political points.

Kofi Annan, in taking up the cause of America's critics is not trying to score political points. The Secretary General, I am afraid, is just a creature of the organization he heads. As such, laying blame on the United States, whenever and wherever he can is just part of his being.

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About the Author
Brandon Crocker is the chief financial officer of a commercial real estate development and management company in San Diego.