IRAQ -- Being in Iraq, I'm frequently asked about my impression of what's happening here. Often, I'm reluctant to say because my opinions seem so at odds with the prevailing wisdom, especially the farther you get from Iraq. Maybe I'm an eccentric since I believe things will work themselves out for the best and for the following reasons:
* The Constitution was on time, despite al Qaeda threats to Sunni imams. The Iraqis again proved the critics wrong. And they will continue to inspire people who believe in democracy and self-rule (not all of whom are neoconservatives), despite what the shrill critics of this rescue operation being performed by the coalition in Iraq might say. The world's perceptions are going to be changed as the Iraqis continue to form a government.
* President Bush is bullheaded and determined to continue fighting al Qaeda and its allies, and he will remain so, especially in Iraq. He won't flinch regardless of the petty partisan advantage sought by his political foes and their allies in the media. Those hoping to undermine the war will have to face the fact that Bush was twice elected, increased the Republican control of the House and Senate twice, and is not backing down no matter how loud the din of demagoguery grows from the likes of Senators Kennedy and Byrd. The Democrats are playing a losing hand again and re-fighting the last election, which they lost but have yet to realize. They'd be wiser to look abroad where Australia's PM John Howard and the UK's PM Tony Blair have both been re-elected despite the same histrionics of opponents in those countries.
* Iraqis too are turning on Wahhabism wherever they've lived under the jihaddis. Like all people they resent religious chauvinism, especially the religious chauvinism of foreigners. The Iraqi Sunnis are not cut from the same cloth as the Saudi fanatics who flock to Iraq by way of the Damascus airport. The Washington Post's 14 August 05 report that "Iraqi Sunnis Battle to Defend Shiites" illustrates the inevitable conflict that will also undo Zarqawi and his al Qaeda co-conspirators. These tensions, a fatal flaw for the spread of Wahhabism, exist elsewhere but are rarely mentioned. Even in Chechnya, local Moslems are fed up with Wahhabi Puritanical popinjays. In Africa, too, scholars report local religious leaders wary of Wahhabi gunmen, who are young, rude, and arrogant punks denouncing local Moslems for the way they've practiced Islam for hundreds of years.
* Proof of the resentment against these foreign jihaddis is seen whenever Coalition forces take back territory once under the control of the jihaddi terrorists. Ordinary indigenous Iraqis show coalition forces where the bomb-making factories are. This is a consistent fact on the ground. Iraqis frequently identify terrorists and bomb-making locations. Tips and intelligence are flowing toward the Coalition. The balance has shifted.
* The U.S. is working feverishly on material solutions to save U.S. and coalition lives. One example is the up-armoring of vehicles from the HMMWV to nearly every other vehicle. Efforts at material solutions are made across the board; they are as highly imaginative as robots that search for IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) and as low tech as K-9s. Many are classified and yet to be fielded. This part of the war is constantly improving and comprehensively addressing all threats posed by the terrorists from IEDs to indirect fire. The media can spin the improvements in body armor as a failure, but soldiers never even used body armor before the U.S. toppled the Taliban.
The public should be happy to know the U.S. military is not content if something even a little bit better can be found to protect its service members. The U.S. and its allies will win the technological race. To believe the terrorists will outpace these efforts is to believe they can embrace science overnight in a way that it has no aptitude for; its only hope is continued assistance from Syria and Iran. But as for the terrorists, what have they have ever invented other than killing without pity and then wallowing in the gore on the Internet? And for those who think the coalition is not winning against these terrorists, why is it that Coalition forces are incapable only of picking up the enemy when they do not know their location? When was the last time a terrorist group entered a Coalition facility to snatch one of its leaders and then held them in a known location? It is because of the Coalition's strong position that the terrorists have shifted from attacking Americans to killing random Iraqi civilians.
The terrorists have only the roadside bomb and the un-aimed mortar to use today. An enemy whose greatest strength is its ability to hide is not going to win. This enemy may delay success and drive up the costs. He may create a protracted terrorism environment like that in Colombia, Spain, Algeria, Israel, and for a longtime Ireland. But as in those countries, democracy muddles through and will rule at the end of the day.
* All decent people in the world, and possibly even most liberals, will wake up to the similarities between the terrorists in Iraq and the terrorists in Britain, Egypt, Spain, Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bali, Thailand, and the Philippines, to name a few locations. Only the hard left will hold out hope that the U.S. will get its comeuppance in Iraq in some Pol Pot Cambodia type denouement. But for most people, the more the terrorists strike the rest of the world the more they remind civilized people that we're all in this struggle together. Ignoring the Iraqis' suffering at the hands of these fanatical criminals will become less politically correct.
* The Internet makes it far more difficult for the mainstream media to hide unpleasant facts about America's enemies and those who wish to see the U.S. military and the Coalition fail for their own political agenda. As Dan Rather found out, keeping the truth from the public is beyond the broken monopoly of the mainstream media now. Internet users know that President Bush has already met with the publicity-seeking and prominently grieving Cindy Sheehan. The days when CBS's Walter Cronkite could undermine a war are behind us. Now, people can search out the whole story no matter how much New York Times spikes stories about Air America or puts a "they're just Arab nationalist spin" on the terrorism in Iraq. Granted the TV News will continue to fight for the return of its lost power, but its days of shaping public opinion are gone. It can still do great harm, but it cannot hide the truth about the terrorists in Iraq or Michael Moore's soul mate Cindy Sheehan.
* Even al Jazeera's propping up of bin Laden and crew will grow old as more and more people come to understand the symbiotic relationship that exists between terrorists and media that prominently display them. Al Jazeera will have to decide whether it wants to be a credible news organization or whether it prefers to pander to the bloodlust of ghoulish viewers. It may wish to fill that niche market that enjoys repeated showings of beheadings and other backward and benighted violence. But nothing debases the Arabs more in the world's eyes than the impression al Jazeera gives that Arabs have an insatiable lust for cruelty. Al Jazeera, with a potential to enrich the lives of Arab viewers, can either become an enlightening and cosmopolitan influence or further its present role as the inspirers of violence.
* The unthinking use of the terms "insurgents" and "insurgency," implying as they do some sort of legitimate struggle, is now under fire. It has started to dawn even on slow-witted media types that the "insurgents" are primarily the old Baathists terrorists unwilling to give way to the long-suffering majority and the rule of law; that they are also criminals employed by the Baathists; and finally that they are the self-proclaimed al Qaeda affiliates. Those who continue to call these murderers "insurgents" will have no more credibility than if they called the KKK an insurgent organization.
* The Iraqi people have not buckled under the threat of terror. They voted when threatened with death. They continue to fill the ranks of the police and the army as quickly as the Coalition can train them despite suffering the most casualties of any member nation in the coalition. They engage the enemy with growing confidence and bravery all the time. The long-suffering Iraqis know that failure is not an option. A proud and nationalistic people, they nonetheless know that Saddam had brought them to a point where they need assistance from the U.S. The quickest way to end the much-needed U.S. assistance is to defeat the terrorists. Iraqis are keen to do it and to wish the U.S. farewell. It is time the media focused on their courage and their pluck instead of the car bombers and faceless murderers that get so much airtime and ink. Meanwhile, the Iraqis continue to turn on and turn in the terrorists and their mercenaries.
Iraqis know too well what failure would mean: mutually assured destruction. That alone still keeps me optimistic.