Friday, August 20, 2010

Victory in Iraq

Yesterday, the last of our combat troops left Iraq. They left Iraq having achieved victory. It was a hard won victory that went unremarked by Obama and the far left.

The road to our war in Iraq was long and convoluted. Iraq under the rule of Saddam Hussein was violent, unpredictable, and threatening to the world. Internally, Hussein ruled his country with all the violence and brutality shown by Stalin during his years leading the Soviet Union. Externally, Iraq was the major source of instability in the Middle East. In 1980, Hussein launched a war against Iran that would last for eight years and involve the deaths of millions in the two countries. American was drawn into the war when Iran mined the Straits of Hormuz in 1988. That same year, Hussein ordered an attack using chemical weapons against a rebellious Kurdish in northern Iraq. And it was in the 1980's that Hussein began a very public quest for a nuclear arsenal.

With his country near bankruptcy by 1990, Hussein invaded Kuwait to capture its rich oil fields. That led to First Gulf War and a permanent U.S. military presence in the region.

When Hussein was driven out of Kuwait by an American led coalition, he was forced to sign a treaty providing that he would dismantle his chemical and nuclear programs and that he would allow verification of the dismantling. But soon after, he stopped cooperating with the verification regime. In 1998, Clinton, with virtually unanimous support from Congress, attacked Iraq from the air in operation Desert Fox. It did little good. By 2000, virtually every major intelligence agency across the globe believed that Hussein was actively involved in reconstituting his WMD program. Then in the aftermath of 9-11, concern with what was believed to be the continuing push for a nuclear weapon led a bipartisan majority in Congress to pass the Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq. As an aside, it should be noted that, at the time, America had yet to learn about the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

On March 23, 2003, the war to depose Saddam Hussein began. Our air force flooded the skies, attacking command and control positions, air defenses, and lines of communication. Soon after, our ground troops poured in, fixing and bypassing Iraqi defenses while moving at a breakneck pace towards strategic objectives. It was a combined arms campaign reminiscent of the blitzkrieg. The relatively open terrain of Iraq was well suited for our tanks, mechanized infantry and attack helicopters. Few who understood the capabilities of our armed forces were surprised when the million man Iraqi Army, 4th largest in the world, utterly crumbled under the onslaught. By April 9, just a little over two weeks into the war, Baghdad fell to coalition forces. And by April 30, the coalition announced the invasion phase over, organized resistance to the invasion having disappeared. It was a sophisticated war plan executed with skill, violence and speed by troops with superior training, weapons, leadership and morale. It was a thing of terrible beauty.

And with the victory, all of the ills of Iraq were exposed. In a world where religious sects and tribes were natural fault lines, and in a land where a Sunni minority had brutalized the Shia majority and the Kurdish minority, conflicts soon boiled over. Iraqi Shia militias, trained and harbored by Iran, flooded back into Iraq. On the Sunni side, al Qaeda saw an opportunity to do to America what it had done to the Russians in Afghanistan. Ayman al Zawhahiri announced that Iraq would be the main focus of al Qaeda's efforts. In an effort to mobilize the Sunni population in war against the Shia and the Americans, al Qaeda began a campaign of suicide bombings, culminating in the 2006 bombing of Iraq's most holy of Shia Shrines, the al-Askara Mosque in Sammara. American forces, ill prepared for this guerrilla warfare, searched for new strategies as Iraq descended into a violent, low grade civil war.

The far left in America saw an opportunity for taking political power. A search for WMD in Iraq in the aftermath of the invasion had failed to turn up anything. With the war going bad, the far left seized on the WMD issue, claiming that they only voted for the war because Bush had "lied." Further, they refused to acknowledge that al Qaeda was even in Iraq, let alone that it was the main focus of al Qaeda efforts. The far left went on a full scale offensive - against America. They attacked Bush daily and demanded that we leave Iraq, irrespective of the horrendous consequences such a move would have had for our national security and the disastrous, perhaps existential impact that a perception of victory for al Qaeda in Iraq would have had on the radical Islamist movement world wide. It was treachery of the most loathsome sort.

The left's push to legislate what neither al Qaeda nor Iran could win on the battlefield - a defeat for American forces in Iraq - reached a fevered pitch in 2007 when President Bush announced a "surge" of troops and a new strategy of counterinsurgency. The left did all they could to stop the surge and made a show of their disdain for Gen. Petraeus. And indeed, only two months into the surge, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid surrendered on behalf of America after a series of three bombings by al Qaeda.

Thankfully President Bush, Gen. Petraeus, and our forces in Iraq didn't agree. Taking the war to al Qaeda, our troops rooted them out. In November, 2007, a depressed Osama bin Laden admitted to the utter route of al Qaeda taking place in Iraq. By March 2008, that route was complete.

Then turning to the South, our forces prepared to take on the Shia militias supported by Iran. And it was during this effort that President Maliki and the Iraqi forces, still as of yet unprepared, nonetheless took the bold move of attacking Iranian supported militias controlling Basra. The Iraqi government emerged victorious and, for all intents and purposes, that marked the true beginning of the end of the Iraq war. By July 17, 2008, with both al Qaeda and Shia militias dispersed and, in large measure destroyed, it was safer to be a U.S. combat soldier on duty in Iraq than it was to live in Detroit or Chicago. A second victory had been achieved in Iraq.

Thereafter, some of our combat forces stayed in place while the majority drew down. It wasn't until just yesterday that the final combat unit in Iraq, 4th Bde., 2nd Inf. Div., left Iraq and headed into Kuwait. Fifty thousand U.S. troops will remain in Iraq for an indefinite period in support roles.

By any measure, we achieved victory in Iraq. We deposed the evil regime of Saddam Hussein and put in its place a nascent democracy. That democracy was one of a kind - an Arab democracy in an Arab world almost uniformly ruled by autocrats and strong-men. We defeated al Qaeda on its chosen battlefield and dealt them a serious setback. And as importantly, we defeated Iran's push to turn Iraq into another Lebanon.

Unable to legislate defeat in Iraq, the far left has nonetheless remained bound and determined that Iraq should never be portrayed as a victory. The fact that our last combat unit left Iraq yesterday should have been a day of national celebration for all that we have accomplished. It should have been a day when our politicians trumpeted our victory over al Qaeda and used that victory as propaganda to belittle al Qaeda and their murderous Wahhabi ideology throughout the Muslim world. It should have been a day when our politicians trumpeted the Shia philosophy of quietism led by Grand Ayatollah Sistani and piped into Iran the message of how that has led to democracy in neighboring Iraq.

And yet from Obama and the left, silence. Four thousand American dead, tens of thousands injured in battle, all in a victorious effort, and there is silence. The word "victory" never passes Obama's lips. Our soldiers have received no thanks for their efforts from our left beyond bare lip service. Moreover, the far left knowingly declines to use the fruit of our victory in Iraq to further America's efforts against al Qaeda, Wahhabism and Iran. It is a travesty and a tragedy for our nation. But it is still a triumph for our military. They did everything asked of them. They achieved victory.

Update: In the concluding paragraph, I failed to note that Obama, in his rush to erase Iraq from the mind of America, is also jeopardizing Iraq's future. America should be intimately involved in insuring the emplacement of a new government following the last election and America should be exerting the single greatest influence on Iraq's future. Obama has failed at the former and is squandering our years of effort as to the latter. This from Charles Krauthammer several days ago:

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