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sorry i neglected to inclde friedman's article
October 30, 2003
It's No Vietnam

ince 9/11, we've seen so much depraved violence we don't notice anymore when
we hit a new low. Monday's attacks in Baghdad were a new low. Just stop for
one second and contemplate what happened: A suicide bomber, driving an ambulance
loaded with explosives, crashed into the Red Cross office and blew himself up
on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. This suicide bomber was
not restrained by either the sanctity of the Muslim holy day or the sanctity
of the Red Cross. All civilizational norms were tossed aside. This is very
unnerving. Because the message from these terrorists is: "There are no limits. We
have created our own moral universe, where anything we do against Americans
or Iraqis who cooperate with them is O.K."
What to do? The first thing is to understand who these people are. There is
this notion being peddled by Europeans, the Arab press and the antiwar left
that "Iraq" is just Arabic for Vietnam, and we should expect these kinds of
attacks from Iraqis wanting to "liberate" their country from "U.S. occupation."
These attackers are the Iraqi Vietcong.
Hogwash. The people who mounted the attacks on the Red Cross are not the
Iraqi Vietcong. They are the Iraqi Khmer Rouge — a murderous band of Saddam
loyalists and Al Qaeda nihilists, who are not killing us so Iraqis can rule
themselves. They are killing us so they can rule Iraqis.
Have you noticed that these bombers never say what their political agenda is
or whom they represent? They don't want Iraqis to know who they really are. A
vast majority of Iraqis would reject them, because these bombers either want
to restore Baathism or install bin Ladenism.
Let's get real. What the people who blew up the Red Cross and the Iraqi
police fear is not that we're going to permanently occupy Iraq. They fear that
we're going to permanently change Iraq. The great irony is that the Baathists and
Arab dictators are opposing the U.S. in Iraq because — unlike many leftists —
they understand exactly what this war is about. They understand that U.S.
power is not being used in Iraq for oil, or imperialism, or to shore up a corrupt
status quo, as it was in Vietnam and elsewhere in the Arab world during the
cold war. They understand that this is the most radical-liberal revolutionary
war the U.S. has ever launched — a war of choice to install some democracy in
the heart of the Arab-Muslim world.
Most of the troubles we have encountered in Iraq (and will in the future) are
not because of "occupation" but because of "empowerment." The U.S. invasion
has overturned a whole set of vested interests, particularly those of Iraq's
Sunni Baathist establishment, and begun to empower instead a whole new set of
actors: Shiites, Kurds, non-Baathist Sunnis, women and locally elected officials
and police. The Qaeda nihilists, the Saddamists, and all the Europeans and
the Arab autocrats who had a vested interest in the old status quo are
threatened by this.
Many liberals oppose this war because they can't believe that someone as
radically conservative as George W. Bush could be mounting such a radically
liberal war. Some, though, just don't believe the Bush team will do it right.
The latter has been my concern. Can this administration, whose national
security team is so divided, effectively stay the course in Iraq? Has the
president's audacity in waging such a revolutionary war outrun his ability to
articulate what it's about and to summon Americans for the sacrifices victory will
require? Can the president really be a successful radical liberal on Iraq, while
being such a radical conservative everywhere else — refusing to dismiss one of
his own generals who insults Islam, turning a deaf ear to hints of corruption
infecting the new Baghdad government as it's showered with aid dollars,
calling on reservists and their families to bear all the burdens of war while
slashing taxes for the rich, and undertaking the world's biggest nation-building
project with few real allies?
I don't know. But here's what I do know: If Mr. Bush doesn't treat the next
year as his second term, when he must do all the right things in Iraq without
regard to politics, it is the only second term he's going to see.
On Oct. 23, when I cited 900 wounded in action in Iraq, I was referring to
the period since Mr. Bush declared major fighting over on May 1. I was still
wrong. Pentagon data shows 1,059 U.S. soldiers wounded in action from May 1 to
Oct. 22.

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