U.S. must keep reins in Iraq

Saturday, November 1, 2003

By Chris Morrill

In his recent guest column, Marcus Bond of the Southeast Missouri Coalition for Peace and Justice attacked the Bush administration on a variety of fronts. His comments should not be allowed to pass without rebuttal.

Bond is correct that the intelligence that the Bush administration used to justify the argument for war appears to have been deeply flawed. That bothers me also. However, this same flawed intelligence was also used by President Clinton to justify his numerous strikes against Saddam Hussein.

While I agree that the president must answer for the intelligence snafu, the perpetual protesters need to be aware that should we choose to tar and feather everyone who had a finger in that bad intelligence, this would involve many Democrats currently in Congress and a good chunk of the Clinton administration.

Bond contends there were "far better ways" of removing Saddam short of war. One must assume this means sanctions. But the anti-war crowd complains about the supposed damage caused by those same sanctions. How they can have it both ways is beyond me.

Also, Bond takes the administration to task over a scattershot list of deficiencies in Iraqi public works, unemployment, violence and other things. I find this amusing. Much of the infrastructure in Iraq was decimated by Saddam's neglect over the years, not necessarily our bombs. And most damage to Iraqi infrastructure after the war has been perpetrated by a very limited number of insurgents, not our troops.

The column also hinted that Iraq was better off under Saddam. This is a bit like old-timers saying, "Well, that Mussolini fellow was bad, but he made the trains run on time." No one today doubts Mussolini needed to get strung up.

History will likely judge Saddam's toppling kindly, even if there are some kinks at the outset. Liberals need to put aside their dislike of President Bush for a moment, remember their supposed commitment to human rights and liberty and not stray into praising tyrants.

The most distressing portion of Bond's column demanded that the United States hand over control of Iraq to the United Nations. While the administration would welcome U.N. assistance, a total handover of command is simply not going to happen. Need the anti-war protesters be reminded that the United Nations opposed the war? Need they be reminded that the U.N. gives equal recognition to dictators, tyrants and theocracies as it does to democracies? Why do they believe a U.N. stamp of approval on the reconstruction would give legitimacy to the operation?

The U.N. Security Council backed the first Gulf War, and many progressives here (likely many of these same people complaining today) protested anyway. If anything, a U.N. takeover of the Iraqi occupation and reconstruction would increase the long-term chaos, not decrease it. For the U.S. to turn tail and run would signal to miscreants the world over that terrorism pays. We cannot afford, post 9-11, to send such a signal. This fight cannot be lost.

Furthermore, do the protesters forget that the insurgents in Iraq bombed the United Nations compound in Baghdad on Aug. 19, killing a good number of U.N. personnel? The current crop of terrorists in Iraq do not see the U.N. as a friend. For goodness sake, they even bombed the Red Cross on Oct. 27. The U.N. will not be treated any kinder than we are being treated now.

So long as there is fighting left to be done (as there admittedly appears to be), the United States needs to be the one doing it. Nobody does it better.

Bond's column also advocates the cancellation of all U.S. contracts that have been awarded for rebuilding Iraq. This is jaw-dropping. How can one simultaneously bemoan the sorry shape of Iraq's infrastructure while advocating the rebuilding process be scrapped and started from scratch? Furthermore, as primarily American blood was shed in the effort to dispose of Saddam, how can anyone oppose American companies getting contracts? Bond must think every penny spent in Iraq is being poured down the drain. This is ironic, especially if those pennies go to American companies and hence American workers at a time when he apparently thinks the economy is in the toilet -- despite many recent signs otherwise.

Should our efforts to produce a free and democratic Iraq work out, the benefits will far outweigh the amount spent. Freedom from terrorism, and eventual Middle East peace, will be a stimulus package all its own that no domestic government spending program could ever accomplish.

And it bears mentioning that the glass is half-full concerning Iraq, not half-empty. A Gallup poll of Baghdad residents taken in September showed that 67 percent of respondents believed their lives will be better within five years. Only 8 percent thought things would ultimately be worse after reconstruction.

A poll taken in October by the Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies revealed that only 9.8 percent of the population of Iraq "strongly opposed" the coalition's military presence. This does not a crisis make. Meanwhile, 95.5 percent favored democratic elections as the best way to establish a new government. This is not the image of wild-eyed, raging Iraqi hordes that the protesters would like you to believe.

Despite his flaws, I would choose to believe President Bush over terrorists, dictators and their apologists any day. That others would not belies the depth of their partisanship.

Chris Morrill is a Scott City resident.

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