George W. Bush and John F. Kerry have laid out strongly opposing visions on foreign policy. Bush says the key challenge we face is a global war on terror. Kerry says it is George W. Bush.
Kerry, of course, is the most liberal member of the United States Senate. Over the last two decades, Kerry has consistently taken the wrong side on national security issues.
When Ronald Reagan was staring down the Soviet Union and calling it a “focus of evil,” the junior senator from Massachusetts was fighting for a nuclear freeze, saying “communism was not a threat to our country.” When the world was united that Saddam Hussein must be expelled from Kuwait, Kerry voted against the Gulf War. After Islamic terrorists killed six people in a 1993 truck bomb attack against the World Trade Center, Kerry wanted to cut the intelligence budget by $6 billion.
And now we come to Iraq. First, Kerry voted to authorize Bush to go to war if Saddam did not come clean about the state of the weapons of mass destruction that the whole world agreed he had (Saddam refused), and Bush launched the invasion that spectacularly led to his overthrow. But to fend off Howard Dean in the Democratic primaries, Kerry voted against providing $87 billion to the troops for things such as body armor (after he voted for it, of course).
Kerry, exploiting understandable public angst about the deaths of U.S. soldiers accompanying Iraq’s fitful reconstruction, now says Bush bungled by pursuing a war with Iraq when the real enemies were the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan (which Bush had already defeated). Kerry says Iraq is a case of “wrong war, wrong place, wrong time.”
It is Kerry who, once again, is wrong. That is the kind of thinking that prevailed on September 10, 2001. In an age of horrific chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, we can no longer ignore the threat posed by outlaw regimes, like Iraq under Saddam, intent on acquiring weapons of mass destruction and sharing what they know with terrorists. If, as Kerry proposes, we try to meet some sort of “global test” or wait until a threat is imminent, it could be too late.
Writing in The Atlantic magazine, political scientist Michael Barone says the November 2 presidential election “may be the most important in generations.” The American people evidently agree. According to a USA Today/Gallup poll, 72 percent of respondents believe this election is the most important one in memory, compared with 47 percent in 2000 and 41 percent in 1996. Matthew Manweller of Central Washington University says that “100 years from now historians will look back at the election of 2004 and see it as the decisive election of our century.”
These statements are not the usual campaign hype. As Norman Podhoretz, writing in the September issue of Commentary, says, we are fighting not just terrorists in Iraq, but World War IV, and the continued survival of our civilization is at stake. (World War III, according to Podhoretz, was the long Cold War struggle against communism.)
On September 20, 2001, with the World Trade Center still a smoldering ruin, the president recognized this struggle and began to enunciate a new approach, known as the Bush Doctrine. He dared to name the terrorists as “heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th century … sacrificing human life to serve their radical visions … abandoning every value except the will to power.” Going further, on January 29, 2002, the president named Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as an “axis of evil” to be considered security threats to the United States.
Podhoretz says that terrorists were now seen not as “individual psychotics” but as “agents of organizations that depended on the sponsorship of various governments. Our aim, therefore, could not be merely to capture or kill Osama bin Laden and wipe out the … terrorists under his direct leadership. Bush vowed that we would also uproot and destroy the entire network of interconnected terrorist organizations and cells ‘with global reach’ that existed in as many as 50 or 60 countries. No longer would we treat the members of these groups as criminals to be arrested by the police, read their Miranda rights, and brought to trial. From now on, they were to be regarded as the irregular troops of a military alliance at war with the United States, and indeed the civilized world as a whole.”
Another major pillar of the Bush Doctrine is to “drain” the “swamps” of political and social oppression that encourage terrorism. No doubt correctly noting that democracies seldom attack one another, the president announced a policy of regime change for despotic governments, thereby giving “the entire Islamic world” the liberty “they want and deserve.”
So Iraq is not, to use Kerry’s description, a “grand diversion.” It is a necessary front in the global war on terror. No, there is no evidence Saddam and Al Qaeda worked together on the 9/11 attacks. But there is plenty of evidence Iraq worked hand-in-hand with terrorists. The Clinton administration believed Iraq had provided Al Qaeda with expertise on constructing chemical weapons of mass destruction. Saddam also paid $25,000 rewards to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers against Israel.
U.S. soldiers in Iraq have discovered documents detailing Saddam’s collaboration with bin Laden and with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (a bin Laden disciple who has made a name for himself by personally beheading defenseless hostages in the name of Islam). And if Iraq was not an important haven for terrorists, why are so many fighting coalition forces right now?
Saddam’s regime represented a security threat to the United States. Saddam ignored 17 United Nations resolutions to account for his weapons of mass destruction (which he had used against his own people). Given such a track record and the horrific power of WMDs, it would have been foolish for the president to bury his head in the sand. The Iraq Survey Group report, authored by Charles Duelfer, while noting that the regime had no active WMD programs, still found that “[Saddam] wanted to end sanctions while preserving the capability to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction when sanctions were lifted.”
Aside from the still live question of where all the WMDs went, our troops uncovered mass graves, rape rooms, large caches of munitions, and other grisly handiwork of the aptly named “Butcher of Baghdad.” This is the dictator who, when he wasn’t actively killing or torturing Iraqi citizens, was letting thousands more die every month of starvation or disease while skimming billions off the United Nations’ so-called Oil-for-Food program. Perhaps Kerry should tell the mothers of the young men who died in Saddam’s dungeons that this was the “wrong war.”
In any case, the choice is clear: Stay on the offensive, or wait for the next attack. Winston Churchill, facing a similar threat, in his first speech to the House of Commons spoke bluntly of the “monstrous tyranny” his countrymen had to confront.
“I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many months of struggle and suffering,” Churchill said. He added, “You ask, what is our policy? I say it is to wage war by land, sea, and air. … You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word. It is victory. Victory at all costs–Victory in spite of all terrors–Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival.”
Kerry, a former prosecutor, says he wants to return to the days when terrorism was seen as a “nuisance,” to be controlled like prostitution. Those days, like Neville Chamberlain’s “peace for our time,” are gone forever. Bush, like Churchill, knows evil when he sees it, and his aim is the same: not containment, but victory.
The course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is certain. Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have always been at war, and we know that God is not neutral between them.
The British people listened to their leader, faced their war, and ultimately prevailed. Are the American people made of the same stuff? We will soon find out.