Tomorrow night, I depart for a few days in Iraq. If all goes as planned I will visit with U.S. and Iraqi troops, interview some of the government leaders, and come home with a better understanding of what we're up against. I go with a pretty clear perspective on Iraq. It has evolved from studying the country and the events affecting it since Saddam invaded Kuwait in the summer of 1990. My perspective, inevitably, will be changed by what I see and hear first-hand. But what if I went to Iraq armed with preconceptions based only on what we "know" from the mainstream media and the Democrats?
To reach that perspective, we have to penetrate the force field of faux-outrage that limits the facts on which it is based. The outrages du jour are the CIA's secret prison facilities where terrorists are held outside the U.S., and the revelation that American forces are paying to have good news stories in Iraqi newspapers. The Dems, serving as the EU's surrogates, are shocked, shocked, that these practices stain America's image on the Arab street, in the salons of Paris, and the editorial offices of the New York Times, if you will forgive the redundancy.
The Washington Post's revelation of the secret terrorist jails was news only because it listed some of the nations that host these facilities. Anyone who was paying attention knew Khalid Sheik Mohamed, once al-Qaeda's #3, was captured in Pakistan in 2003. Various government spokesmen said KSM was in U.S. custody outside U.S. borders, and the Pentagon denied he was held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But what of the others we captured who weren't at Gitmo? You didn't have to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce that we had one or more secret facilities in friendly nations, which term we now define to exclude France, Germany, and the rest of the EUnuchs. If you spent a few moments with a map, you'd say that some of these places were in Eastern Europe, Afghanistan, and anywhere else nations chose to side with us, quietly and effectively, in the wider war.
All the pols flocking to television studios to express their outrage -- especially the EUnuchs, who demand full disclosure from us and threaten each other over cooperation with us -- are only displaying the lack of intellectual horsepower that prevented them from reaching these conclusions without the help of Dana Priest. The fact that Secretary Rice is telling the EUnuchs to butt the hell out is the best action by the State Department since Adlai Stevenson's U.N. speech faced down the Soviets during the Cuban missile crisis.
"News" in the Arab world is usually nothing more than propaganda. From the Saudi government-controlled daily Arab News to al-Jazeera and dozens of jihadist websites, the terrorists and their supporters flood the eyes and ears of their readers and viewers daily, hourly, and minute-by-minute with every bit of bad news imaginable, tilting public opinion against America's fight against terrorists in Iraq and everywhere else. They broadcast videos of attacks on American troops, condemnations of America's actions and goals spoken by any Islamist cleric who wants the opportunity to do so. For Sen. Warner and others to harrumph over American efforts to get positive news into Iraqi papers -- positive stories mind you, not lies -- by paying to get them printed is political poltroonery. If we weren't buying good factual news stories, our people wouldn't be doing their jobs.
Having jumped those low hurdles, what else would I "know" on departing for Iraq? What would I expect to see?
First, thanks to Teddy Kennedy, I'd expect to see what he called "George Bush's Vietnam." A quagmire, an unwinnable war, an increasingly desperate effort to save an ally who doesn't deserve to be saved in a war that isn't worth the sacrifice of one more American life. I'd expect to see the chaos on the ground that NBC's David Gregory sees.
Second, thanks to Rep. John Murtha, I'd expect to see a war that is unwinnable, our army "broken, worn out," and "living hand to mouth." I'd expect to see our Marines strained to the breaking point, our spec ops troops worn out, all our troops dispirited, ready to come home, believing that they have done all they can.
Third, I'd expect to see military commanders who think their commander in chief isn't giving them the tools they need to win the war. I'd expect that, if asked on background assuring them anonymity, they'd tell me what they really think. That they don't have enough troops, that closing the thousands of miles of border between Iraq, Iran and Syria was something they have been begging for assets to accomplish. And I'd expect that they'd tell me, as Hillary Clinton believes, that we have no plan for winning this war and concluding it.
Is a withdrawal from Iraq essential to restoring our military to the strength it needs to win the wider war against terrorists and the nations that support them? Are we better advised to tell the Iraqis that if they don't get their government together, make the compromises they need to end the tribal rivalries among themselves, as Joe Biden believes, that we will abandon them to their own internal strife? Is Hillary right when she says that the president can begin planning to win and conclude the war "by taking responsibilities for the false assurances, faulty evidence and mismanagement of this war," or are apologies for American action what substituted for national security and foreign policy during her husband's administration?
Is Iraq a quagmire for us or for the terrorists? It's never possible to get inside the heads of our leaders, the Iraqis or those such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qaeda's chief in Iraq. But we can make informed judgments, and we must. The facts are what they are and we're all stuck with them. I'll bring back as many of them as I can. See you next week.
TAS contributing editor Jed Babbin is the author of Inside the Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe Are Worse Than You Think (Regnery, 2004).