Jewish World Review Dec. 24, 2004 / 12 Teves, 5765

Rich Lowry

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The insurgents in Iraq blow up children standing in line to get candy from our troops. They fake surrenders in order to kill American GIs. They stash weapons in mosques and use the mosques as armed bases. They blow to bits Iraqi men standing in line to begin to serve in their country's army or police force. They kidnap aid workers and behead civilians, making snuff films out of their atrocities to broadcast on Arab television. They mutilate their victims and hang them from bridges. They seek to destroy Iraq's infrastructure and economy. They blow up U.N. workers. They kill anyone from an ethnic or religious group not their own in an attempt to foment revenge killings and civil war. They assassinate election workers in cold blood, in broad daylight. They strew Iraqi cities with the corpses of anyone they have been able to snatch and murder.


They are the demon spawn of Ayatollah Khomeini's ideology and strategy of murder-suicide, which debuted in the suicidal missions of Iranian teenagers clearing minefields in the Iran-Iraq War, was exported to Lebanon during its civil war, expanded to become the Palestinians' weapon of choice in the suicide-bomber-driven intifada against Israel, and now is a crucial instrument for the Iraqi insurgents.


They believe in a future Iraq that would be governed either by (1) a Taliban-style religious dictatorship, or (2) a new version of Saddam Hussein's regime that terrorizes most of Iraq's population, murders indiscriminately, steals Iraq's resources, lies to the world, threatens its neighbors, supports terrorism and flouts every norm of civilized governance.


Surveying this tableau of murder, destruction and darkness in Iraq, much of the left and the media in this country have found a ready object for their outrage - Don Rumsfeld's autopen. And in light of all the nettlesome questions about how we defeat such a vicious enemy, they have one overriding query: Was the secretary of defense's answer to a soldier's question during a forum in Kuwait too gruff?

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The lack of seriousness of all of this is hard to fathom. Yes, there have been legitimate policy questions - too few troops? not enough armor? - raised during the Rumsfeld controversy. But in the main it has been a tendentious, childish attempt to blame one man for the difficulties of Iraq, and - indirectly, at least - for the evil and cunning of our enemy.


It is an unfortunate fact that in war "the enemy gets a vote," as the military experts put it. According to the latest reports, Saddam prepared for a post-fall-of-Baghdad insurgency prior to our invasion. The very fact of that insurgency was not the result of American missteps, although it is certainly possible to identify those. But critics operate from the post-Vietnam left's assumption that if something is wrong in the world, it is America's fault. If our enemy in Iraq has a resourcefulness born of its evil and lack of all moral constraint, that isn't taken as a statement of the nature of our enemy and the necessity of defeating it. It is instead implicitly a statement about us - our failings that created such an enemy.


Almost as soon as the insurgency began in Iraq, its legitimacy was accepted in much of the commentary of critics of the war. After the latest bombing, they would say, "The Iraqis don't want us there." This takes the actions of a violent faction as representative of the broad sentiment of the Iraqi people. In reality, the insurgency is directed against Iraqis, which should be plainly evident, since it is Iraqis who are primarily the victims of its murderousness, and it is they who will be subjugated under its heel should the insurgency prevail.


In this struggle, the fate of a country and a region hangs in the balance, and the forces of goodness and evil couldn't be more starkly arrayed. But never mind. We have Don Rumsfeld's autopen to argue about.


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© 2004, King Features Syndicate