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Category: US in Iraq.archive
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Defining terms (and defining the opposition) has long been a key to victory in political conflict. Just ask the Anti-Federalists or "Know-Nothings." The battle for meaning is so vital, it tends to frenzy partisans during times of a closely divided electorate and consistently razor-thin margins of victory. As we draw closer to the midterm election, this contest over language will likely grow even more overheated.

At the moment, the opponents of the President (with the complicity of the mainstream media) seem to have secured the high ground in defining the boundaries of political debate. Last week, with very little success, the President and his men attempted to push back on the war in Iraq (employing such words as "appeasement" and "fascism"). The President and his supporters attempted to label advocates of withdrawing the troops and admitting what seems obvious to them, victory in Iraq is no longer possible or worth the cost, "defeatist." The opposition cried foul: "Don't question our patriotism!" On the other hand, who says you cannot be a "defeatist" and a patriot? Perhaps caution is the better part of valor.

Other battles in the politics of meaning:

It is a long held article of faith in the mainstream media that "911 and Iraq were not connected." This is nonsense. What they mean to say is that Saddam and his regime were not complicit in the terrorist attacks of 911. Those two statements are not the same. However, there is very little patience for a nuanced discussion of Saddam and the dangers he posed in the Middle East.

Review in a nutshell: Saddam was our sworn enemy. We know that he supported terrorist networks in the Middle East, and he may or may not have been harboring al Qaeda operatives (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi); either way, his regime, inarguably, contributed to the continuing turmoil in the region. More importantly, we were in a state of war with Saddam's Iraq, and the continued vendetta with him presented an insurmountable obstacle to progress in the region.

The relationship between Saddam's Iraq and the cauldron of discontent that produced 911 was so obvious and internalized for so many of us that public opinion polls have consistently revealed a significant portion of Americans who connect Saddam and 911. Of course, many have taken those numbers as evidence that the Bush administration merely deceived the simple-minded. But that conclusion, once again, flows from the mistaken but foundational premise that 911 and Iraq cannot be connected; therefore, any person who makes that connection is: 1) wrong; 2) deficient in intelligence and 3) under the spell of Karl Rove and Dick Cheney.

Another statement that has long rankled the President's opponents: "Iraq is the central front in the War on Terror."

Note: The label "war on terror" is in itself problematic (one of the many mistakes for which the President and his team deserve blame). Please see this previous post for a brief discussion concerning the lack of clarity in this terminology.

Presuming the "war on terror" has a concrete and agreed-upon meaning, identifying Iraq as the "central front" causes great consternation for many. First off, one can construe the statement as an admission that Iraq is connected to the war on terror, which some reject, preferring to cast the war as an unprovoked invasion followed by a brutal occupation, which inspired a natural and justified insurgency. While almost everyone admits that al Qaeda terrorists and other networks have played a role in the three-year post-war war, opponents of the war counter that the terrorists came as a result of the invasion and occupation and have drawn strength as a result of the American action (which is mostly true).

Are we fighting terrorists in Iraq? Was the invasion of Iraq an attack on Islamic terrorism? Does the "war on terror" hang in the balance depending on the results in Iraq? Yes and No and Yes. The answer to that set of questions is complicated. Consider the American Civil War. The North attacked the newly formed Confederacy, for the most part, to preserve the Union. While many Southerners fought to protect slavery, most Unionists took great pains initially to assert that the war had nothing to do with slavery. But by 1865, all could see that the Civil War would end forever the institution of slavery in America. To paraphrase Lincoln (and thinking in terms of Iraq), we did not expect a war of the "magnitude or the duration which it has already attained." We absolutely "looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding," but, nevertheless, here we are. If we lose in Iraq, it will be a defeat that echoes around the world. If we win, we turn a corner.

"Mission Accomplished." For many, nothing better epitomizes the putrid combination of sinister motives and naiveté within the Bush administration than the carefully choreographed incident in which the President landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln in the co-pilot's seat of a Navy S-3B Viking. After emerging from the aircraft, the President excitedly swaggered around the flight deck in his flight suit, and, later that day, dressed in civilian clothes, delivered a speech of congratulation with the famous banner displayed prominently in the background: "Mission Accomplished."

It is very easy to point to the thousands of dead Americans, killed after that celebration, and sneer at the ineptitude of the Bush gang. In truth, the more complicated explanation is that we have fought two wars. We won the first one against Saddam Hussein and his Iraqi state, in exemplary fashion. Our quick victory vindicated Donald Rumsfeld and the new lighter, more nimble army ("mission accomplished").

Of course, even as the words of self-congratulation were still lingering in the heady air of the White House and the Pentagon, the second war was already underway. A war that would take us far too long to understand, and a war in which we are still struggling to gain the initiative.

Currently, we continue our struggle to discern more than define who we are fighting: is the conflict today in Iraq against dead-enders, nationalistic insurgents or jihadists? Or are we in the middle of a sectarian civil war (low-grade or otherwise)? YES.

The battle rages in Iraq. What happens in Iraq is determinative of our future and the most important task of our generation. What we do in the next forty-eight months is incredibly significant. We need an honest and nuanced debate. I hope we get one.
Category: US in Iraq.archive
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The United States must succeed in Iraq, for failure means an unacceptable loss of prestige and freedom for us--and a much less-secure world for everybody else. Our success in Iraq will establish a foothold for modernity in the Middle East and deal a stinging defeat to Islamism, which will increase our credibility in the region (and beyond) and offer the model for improvement. It follows, ultimate success vindicates the decision to invade and remake Iraq.