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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Rumsfeld: War Critics Wrong in Afghanistan, Wrong in Iraq!

Under the Burka, these Afghan women were overheard to say: "Michael Moore, Muther Sheehan, UP YOURS!"

I'm a big admirer of Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. His briefing at the Pentagon in the wake of the Afghan election was spot on:

From Department of Defense Transcript:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20, 2005 ? On Sunday the people of Afghanistan voted in their second successful democratic election in less than one year. These were their provincial and parliamentary elections. Terrorists have done everything in their power to try to intimidate the millions of Afghan voters and the literally thousands, in this case of the most recent election, thousands of candidates from participating in their elections. And they failed this week, just as they failed in the successful presidential elections.

Think of it. The country that hosted Osama bin Laden, that supported training camps for al Qaeda, endured decades of civil war, Soviet occupation, drought, Taliban brutality, is now a democracy that fights terrorists instead of harboring them. The Afghan people's courage should be a stunning reminder to all of those seemingly self- confident prognosticators who foresaw an Afghan quagmire. They were not just wrong, they were harmful by making the cause seem hopeless. Let me remind you of just a few examples.

"The war effort is in deep trouble. The United States is not headed into a quagmire, it is already in one." That was The L.A. Times. That was five days before Mazar fell.

"The question was suspended like a spore in the autumn air: Are we quagmiring ourselves again?" That was The New York Times.

"Without a clear exit strategy, another generation of American servicemen may be sucked into a quagmire in a foreign land." That was, I think, the Dallas Morning News. And there were many, many others.

Thankfully, millions of Afghans were determined to prove them wrong. A determined coalition put a plan in place -- yes, there was a plan -- adjusted it as needed -- and it did need to be adjusted, as all war plans do -- and followed a steady course despite the cassandras of the West echoing the predictions of the terrorists. I mention this because many who were so quick to predict gloom on Afghanistan are today eager to toss it in on Iraq, claiming that it's hopeless. But the Iraqi people and the coalition have a plan for Iraq, just as there was a plan for Afghanistan.

Consider the following. Have the Iraqis been able to form a government that realistically incorporates the views of the various responsible factions in Iraq? Yes, they have. Have Iraqis successfully held representative elections? The answer is yes. Have they now succeeded in drafting a constitution that accords respect for individual rights? Indeed they have. Are the insurgents gaining or losing the support of the Iraqi people? President Talabani recently spoke in the United States about this. He noted that the vast majority of Iraqis, including Sunnis, want to participate in the political process and have been disgusted, and indeed, outraged by the barbarism of the extremists. Finally, despite the critics, are the Iraqi security forces growing in size and capability and allowing the Iraqi government to secure areas with coalition support? Yes, this too is happening. Iraqi security forces now number over 190,000.

Last week, for example, the people of Tall Afar were liberated from the grip of insurgents and foreign extremists who had tried to turn the city into a base of planning operations and training. A number of insurgents were caught fleeing the city dressed in women's clothing -- hardly a sign of a confident group supported by the citizenry.

General Myers will provide some details on that operation, but I should note that this offensive featured some 5,000 Iraqi security forces in a leading role. A significant Iraqi military presence will stay on in Tall Afar with coalition assistance to support their new police force and to ensure that the terrorists do not return.

The people who know what's happening on the ground are, for the most part, Iraqi citizens and the coalition forces. They're there. And both report progress, growing confidence in the Iraqi security forces, and hope about the future.

When Abraham Lincoln delivered two minutes of remarks that he had only finished the night before, the speech was panned. When George Marshall proposed a plan to rebuild Europe after World War II, critics viewed it as "generous at best" and "wasteful at worst." When Ronald Reagan walked away from the summit with the Soviet Union "empty- handed," as they said, in the eyes of some it seemed to many that Reykjavik was a failure. The point is that history has perspective.

Today history records the brilliance of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. The Marshall Plan helped Europe recover. And Ronald Reagan's tough line at Reykjavik -- according to the Soviets, anyway -- was the beginning of the end of the Cold War. In thinking about Afghanistan and Iraq, we should ask what history will say. It will not be the daily violence or short-term setbacks, nor which person won the battle for a daily headline by predicting doom and gloom over and over. Instead, it will show that the battle in Afghanistan and Iraq was tough and ugly, to be sure, but that America was on freedom's side, and it will remember the millions of people who have been freed and the hundreds of thousands of coalition forces who helped them achieve that freedom.

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