Jewish World Review April 20, 2004 /30 Nissan, 5764

Edward I. Koch

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Freedom of what? | On Sunday, April 4, while watching the Fox News Channel, I saw former Secretary of State, Lawrence Eagleburger interviewed on the rising insurrection in Iraq. The interview followed a whole day of televised gloom, doom, pessimism and Bush bashing by the talking heads of medialand. I listened in amazement and agreement to the opinions of Eagleburger, who was Secretary of State from 1992 to 1993 under President George H.W. Bush.

The next day, I expected Eagleburger's views to be covered by the media. There was not one reference to his comments. I recalled the April 2nd New York Times editorial entitled, "Four Deaths in Falluja," which advised, "At the same time, letting those emotions shape the future of American occupation policy in Iraq — pushing it either toward vengeful reprisals or toward a panicky, casualty-driven withdrawal — would be a terrible mistake. America's future course in Iraq must be decided on broader considerations, especially the prospects for successful nation-building."

On April 8, however, The Times ran an editorial criticizing President Bush on actions taken by coalition forces against the cleric Moktada al-Sadr, writing, "The administration itself triggered the current uprising by factions of Iraq's Shiite majority, perhaps because the United States decided that it had to take on the radical cleric Moktada al-Sadr in order to remove one of the most dangerous armed groups well before the scheduled transfer of power on June 30. That would explain the otherwise baffling decisions to shut down a newspaper loyal to Mr. Sadr, arrest his deputy and then announce that the occupation forces would arrest Mr. Sadr on a secret warrant that's been in effect for nearly a year. In the process, however, Mr. Bush is in serious danger of overplaying his hand and creating a broader Shiite rebellion...Now the military is trying to take the city. It is understandable to want to avenge the hideous murders of four American security guards last week, but hard to imagine how that can happen. It is impossible to pinpoint who killed them, and punishing the mobs that then mutilated their bodies would mean mass arrests."

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The Times editorial did not mention that Sadr's newspaper was shut down because it had urged the killing of Americans. Does The Times believe that freedom of the press trumps the power of the U.S. military to close down newspapers that urge their readers to kill Americans? Does The Times believe that Sadr, accused by an Iraqi court of killing a rival cleric, is immune to arrest?

Now, let's contrast The Times' waffling, ill-advised observations with those of former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger on Fox News Live:

"REPORTER: It's a bad day for the US military...

EAGLEBURGER: Very bad day, it's a mess, but I must tell you I think we're going to see more of this as we get closer to that June turnover date... not less of it. Unless we get very tough, I think it's going to be a real difficult time when that June date comes around.

REPORTER: No, I agree, so what do you mean by getting tough? What do you think we need to do?

EAGLEBURGER: Well, I will now make myself terribly unpopular, but there's going to have to be some killing. I don't know any other way to put this. You cannot go into a place like we just saw there in Baghdad and just let this continue. Now I know there are women and children and so forth, but the fact of the matter is these people are out in the streets, there's only one way to deal with them and that is you have to get them off of the streets and if you have to shoot at them to do that, we're going to have to do some of that.

REPORTER: You're talking about heavy firepower... you're talking about strategic strikes... or more of an overall?

EAGLEBURGER: Well, what I'm really talking about, is, you've got to get enough troops in there, and I'm not the military genius here, but it does seem to me that with sufficient force, these people could be put down. And every time they raise their heads it's got to happen again, I'm sorry but I do not believe that we can go on like this, threatening that we're going to retaliate and not retaliate, and when we retaliate, it had better be forceful.

REPORTER: When you say better be forceful, are you talking airpower, are you talking ground, a combination?...

EAGLEBURGER: Well, clear and cohesive message, it won't be tolerated, and if that means level it — I don't think you're going to have to level it, but if what I'm saying here is going to upset people I might as well say it, unless we are prepared to take whatever actions are necessary militarily, to put these people down so we can go on with a steady transition to an Iraqi government, the transition will not take place, because there won't be anything to transit to..."

Shouldn't The New York Times, the journal of record, have referred to that interview with Eagleburger? Former Senator Bob Kerrey, a tough questioner of Condoleezza Rice on the 9-11 commission in an op-ed article in The Times on April 11 summed up what the U.S. is facing, writing, "The real enemy is a small group of radical Islamists who have chosen to wage a war on all infidels — military and civilian alike." Infidels translates as anyone who is not Muslim. This enemy has no hesitation in calling it a war between Islam and "the Crusaders (Christians) and the Jews." We do not attack their religion and culture. We do not seek to convert them to our religion or have them accept our religion as superior. They do.

Contrast Eagleburger's decisive statements with the scurrilous comments of Senator Ted Kennedy, who has charged President Bush with creating "the largest credibility gap since Richard Nixon." This kind of attack is unacceptable. We are at war with al Qaeda and its supporters who want to kill us by any means possible. We need unity now more than ever.

We were able to defeat Hitler and his cohorts because we recognized the terrible danger they posed and united against them. Now we must unite against the Islamic radicals who threaten our nation and our future as a democracy. They tested our resolve on 9-11. They are testing us again in Iraq. We will pass this test if we listen to Lawrence Eagleburger's wise counsel and reject Ted Kennedy's reckless attempt to score political points at the expense of our war against al Qaeda and its allies.

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JWR contributor Edward I. Koch, the former mayor of New York, can be heard on Bloomberg Radio (WBBR 1130 AM) every Saturday from 9-10 am. Comment by clicking here.

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12/24/03: Why I'm voting for Bush
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07/30/03: As the world churns
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04/03/03: Gulf War II: The misleading media does it again
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02/12/03: History is now repeating itself --- why don't the American bashers grasp it?
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10/01/02: Congress is not doing its job
09/26/02: Confronting pathetic Americans in a post 9-11 world
09/19/02: Don't be fooled by Saddam
09/05/02: Necessary or not, getting congressional approval for war is common-sense
08/28/02: In defense of terrorism
08/22/02: Saddam Hussein is extremely popular in "Arab street," so why attack him?
08/15/02: My potpourri
08/09/02: Traitors: Journalistic and 'patriotic'
07/31/02: Euros should spend their time analyzing their own country's wartime actions
07/25/02: I may know next to nothing about the stock market, but I'm not getting out
07/18/02: Dems should stop trying to 'Whitewater' the President
07/11/02: Real Americans and the Islamic threat

© 2002, Edward I. Koch