Wishing Iraq a happy Independence Day

March 21, 2007|By CAL THOMAS

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Demonstrators and the media have been reminding us of the fourth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. This may be the beginning of the fifth year of this war, but it is only one skirmish in a conflict with a lengthier past and a long future. Pundits, politicians and protesters who want to isolate Iraq from the rest of the world war, of which it is just one part, suffer from tunnel vision.

This larger war did not begin March 20, 2003. The first shot may have been fired in 1968, when three members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hijacked an El Al plane bound for Israel. Maybe the war started when the American Marine barracks in Beirut were hit with a truck bomb in 1983, killing 241 U.S. servicemen.

This war will not end in the next year, in another four years, or perhaps in 100 years, in spite of the meaningless "Out of Iraq Now" signs carried in Saturday's protest near the Pentagon. The sentiment is meaningless because war opponents never say, nor will they take responsibility for, what would come next, which most assuredly would be disaster and a greater threat to America.

This war is unlike any the world has seen. It is without borders, though our enemy operates within and across borders; it is without a state, though al-Qaida would like to make Iraq its headquarters; and it is without reason. No theocrats wishing to impose their narrow vision of God and government on everyone ever debate politics and theology with dissenters - they simply slaughter those who disagree.

That the war could have been planned and executed better is without question. There were serious errors in judgment that have led to needless deaths and injuries. But that is for the historians to sort out. We must win this war, or Islamo-fascism will win it. There can be no turning back. The only thing the enemy understands is humiliation and defeat. It must be given a double dose of each so that it will abandon violence and oppression for generations to come.

Premature hope can be a dangerous thing, but hope can be like the first signs of spring: a foretaste of more pleasant things to come.

The British media, which have been more critical of the Bush administration's Iraq policy than the American media have been, are displaying some signs of optimism about the war. Sunday's Times reported the results of an Opinion Research poll of more than 5,000 Iraqis. It said the majority are "optimistic" despite their suffering in sectarian violence. This despite the fact that 26 percent of Iraqis report a family member has been murdered. And when asked whether they preferred life under Saddam Hussein or that under elected Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, 49 percent of those polled said they were better off today.

Despite the regular use of the term "civil war" in the media to describe the continuing, but apparently diminishing, violence in and near Baghdad, only 27 percent of those polled described it as such; 61 percent did not.

There are other signs of budding optimism. In Karadah, formerly an affluent shopping area of Baghdad, some shops have started to reopen and murderous sectarian checkpoints have begun to disappear, as Iraqi and American security forces dominate more of the capital.

If this surge continues to work and hopeful buds turn to blossoms of freedom for Iraqis, there will be many American politicians with more than egg on their faces.

If stability is achieved and freedom preserved, March 20, 2003, will no longer be seen as the "beginning" of a war, but as Independence Day for a nation whose renaissance may just turn the tide of this world war in freedom's direction.

Cal Thomas' syndicated column appears Wednesdays in The Sun. His e-mail is calthomas@tribune.com.

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