There are many more serious problems in the world today, but for my money the truly absurd protest of the Friends for a Nonviolent World has to head the list of S%#t Goin' On this month. FNW was protesting the Minnesota Twins' plan to hand out a five thousand G.I. Joe action figures to kids attending the game yesterday, as part of the Twins' "Armed Forces Appreciation Day." Joined by the local chapter of "Veterans for Peace," the "Friends" protested what they said was a promotion of war.
The Twins' terrible offense was a decision to hand out "Duke," the "calm and determined battlefield commander of the G.I. Joe Team," to kids attending the game. Seeking not to offend the sensibilities of the Aunt Pittypats of Minneapolis, the Twins configured Duke without his usual sidearm. (Note to the Twins: next time, don't pull your punches. I'm sure if you ask politely, the nice people at Hasbro would be pleased to make a "Curtis LeMay, 'Bomb 'em back into the Stone Age'" action figure for you, complete with the characteristic cigar clenched firmly in ol' Curt's teeth. Come to think of it, why not include a real stogie for Dad?) Oh, never mind. The Minnesota madness is only a small part of this week's action.
Moqtada al Sadr -- aka Mookie, as the terrorist Shia cleric is known to our guys -- is clinging to his shrinking power in Najaf. After saying that he'd keep fighting the "illegal" new Iraqi government, Mookie took a look around and said he was planning only peaceful resistance. Which means that he and his people are only waiting for shipments of arms and ammo from Iran before they kick off the next round of violence. Dealing with him, and getting cooperation of the principal Shia clergyman, Ali al-Sistani, will be one measure of the progress the new government makes toward stabilizing Iraq. Northward, our guys are redefining the term, "safe house." Over the past two weeks, terrorist "safe houses" in Fallujah have been on the receiving end of some American air power. Those strikes are less significant, though, than the continued flow of terrorists and arms into Iraq from Syria and Iran.
As I wrote 'way back in March 2003, many of the top figures in Saddam's regime, including members of this family, fled to the sanctuary of Baathist Syria. With them, they took billions looted from Iraq, and that money now is available to them in Syrian banks. (For all we know, it's invested in the Paris stock exchange.) Now even the New York Times is saying that some of Saddam's family members are operating from Syria, under the protection of Bashar Assad's regime. The list includes Hussein Kamal, Fatiq al Majid and Izzadin al-Majid, three of Saddam's relatives and former members of his regime's inner circle. They are sending money, arms, and people into Iraq. Moreover they are almost certainly -- through Syrian military and intelligence channels -- guiding or even commanding terrorist operations in Iraq. Why the devil we don't do anything about this is quite beyond me. Removing Syria's terrorist regime has to be very high on our "to do" list.
Just because someone somewhere may yet not understand this, let's review: it's not possible for Iraq to be secure, democratic, and finally free unless and until the threats from Syria and Iran are removed. Even without Iraq as a concern, terrorism continues so long as the mullahs run Iran and the Baathists run Syria. Period.
IT'S PRETTY CLEAR THAT Mr. Bush isn't going to press for any other significant action in the war against the terrorists before the election. Neither the terrorists nor the nations that support them will suffer more of what they should before November, unless there is another significant terrorist attack here. If that happens, all bets are off.
Meanwhile, the media is falling into the terrorists' trap, talking endlessly about the fate of Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, who has fallen into terrorists' hands and may be beheaded like Nick Berg and others before him. Wassoun was AWOL from his unit, and then captured by another one of those different-name-a-day terrorist cells, this one calling itself "Ansar al-Sunna." At this writing, al-Jazeera (all Jihad, all the time television) is reporting that Hassoun is still alive and is being kept safe because he has promised not to return to his unit. Another report says he has been released unharmed.
What happens next is not what the terrorists -- or some of our people -- seem to think. Though the media may be for a time, America won't be consumed with a drama of Hassoun's captivity, release or murder. Yes, his fate is as important as the fate of any American soldier. But his captivity will not slow or stop our military from doing what it's supposed to do in Iraq or anywhere else. If he is murdered brutally, like Americans Nick Berg, Danny Pearl and Keith Maupin, we will condemn the murderers and vow to punish them. While our resolve will not be affected by what happens to Hassoun, others' will be. If he is released without much harm, nothing will change whether he deserts or returns to his unit. But if he is murdered, that's another matter.
There is always a grim resolve among Marines engaged in battle. And for all their discipline and training, there will be a determination to exact a price for Hassoun's murder. A Marine is a Marine, until proven otherwise. Whether he was AWOL or not, whether he intends to come back or not, terrorists everywhere -- those who may be responsible for his fate, or any others who come across his brothers -- will be much less likely to ever see the inside of Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib. You say paybacks are hell? Tell it to the Marines. They invented it.
TAS Contributing Editor Jed Babbin is the author of Inside the Asylum: Why the U.N. and Old Europe Are Worse Than You Think, just out from Regnery Publishing.
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