Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Current Situation in Iraq

Note to Reader: The following is my written response to the request of a friend to submit my thoughts on the current situation in Iraq ...

Before I proceed with my remarks, I need to make known at the outset that I am the following: Christian, American, Conservative, Republican (in that order). I disclose these identifiers because regardless of what any of us might think or say, we all possess innate biases which color our opinions of the news. I am not exempt, and the reader might as well be made aware of the framework which shapes my Worldview.

Because I am a strong believer in “context,” I answer this invitation with a rather lengthy response. The complexities of this war, of any war, cannot easily be reduced to a few sentences, or even a few paragraphs.

Support for the President: I voted for George W. Bush in both elections, I supported his decision to invade Iraq, and until recently, I continued to believe that we were on the right course in our prosecution of the war. Shortly following the Iraq invasion and the toppling of Saddam’s statue in the streets of Baghdad, I did entertain some doubt regarding the ability of people from this part of the world and culture to embrace democracy. But with the ensuing high voter turnout in several Iraqi elections, exemplified by the now famous “purple finger,” my hopes rose that perhaps democracy could succeed in this otherwise violent part of the world.

Diminished Confidence: Recently, my confidence has diminished with some rapidity. The Democrat’s recent retaking of Congress spoke to me of the nation’s tiring of this conflict. The dismissal of Donald Rumsfeld, I now think, came too late. And while I do appreciate and respect both the president’s and the secretary’s bold determination to “stay the course” and not waiver nor be influenced by media and polling numbers, I cannot help but question, in hindsight, the manner in which this war has been carried out.

Ball of Confusion: Many factors play into the complexities of this conflict, not the least of which is the specific part of the world where the war is taking place. Baghdad and Iraq are the cradle of human civilization, the site of the Garden of Eden, the ancient city of Babylon, and even the once-soaring Tower of Babel. After God came and destroyed this tower, chaos reigned as languages became confused (Genesis 11). From that event forward, people scattered across the globe, and nations formed. I believe that God did this to create nations, and so that we would seek him (Acts 17).

The name “Babel” (which is the root of Babylon) means noise and confusion. America’s striking of this ancient city unleashed confusion not only upon the nations in the region, but also upon the striker nation--us. Many American media pundits and politicians have “babbled” on about this war, often changing their position with the shifting of the winds. We have heard and even chuckled at comments such as “I voted for this war before I voted against it.” We have seen many leaders try to hold and communicate both views simultaneously. To this day, confusion reigns in America on the topic of this war. In fact, the invitation to submit my thoughts has apparently been borne out of this same lack of clarity. I attribute much of this muddle-headedness to the ancient spirits which have ruled that region of the world for millennia.

Nature of This War: Our present situation in Iraq does not stem from lack of military capability, but primarily from confusion at home, and criticism from so many Americans and others around the world. We also wage a war against a very unconventional enemy who is too cowardly to fight out in the open, but instead camouflages himself amongst his own people. True men do not hide behind their wives or their children. Because the West values human life more than our enemy, we try and do the best we can to keep the casualties of innocents to a minimum. Our enemy has no such ethic.

In past generations wars were fought until victory was achieved. Victory was defined as one army conquering another. The losing nation became subjugated to the victorious nation. We no longer fight wars this way because we do not want to be seen as the conqueror, the subjugator. In past wars we concerned ourselves less with “collateral damage.” Think of Dresden and Hiroshima. Think of “Sherman’s March to the Sea.”

Wars are never pretty, clean, or simple. They are always complex, filled with unexpected developments. We can devise and execute strategies, but we cannot always predict how our enemy will respond. Adjustments on the field of battle must always be expected.

Minimal Forethought?: It would seem now that we entered this war with a measure of naiveté. Yes, we have a very capable and extremely powerful military. The nights of “shock and awe” quickly overwhelmed the armies of Saddam. But the aftermath, the broken parts and pieces of the Iraqi nation still scattered across the landscape, reflect what appears to be the lack of forethought prior to destroying the previous regime. What kind of plans existed to deal with the wake of initial victory? Our president's bold and oft-derided declaration of “Mission Accomplished” on the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, speaks to me of our leadership's failure to see the dark reality of what lay ahead. But I speculate, trying only to interpret what may have been in the minds of those "calling the shots," revealed in the events which occurred.

I do think that we placed far too much confidence in Iraqis in exile, and in their ability to raise up a stable government once Saddam was toppled. And we far underestimated the power of the ideas promulgated by our extremist, Islamic enemies.

Complexity Behind Conflict: Like other wars in history, the war in Iraq came into our lives out of an extremely complex set of components. Consider past wars:

  • WWII: Although the U.S. declared war the day after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Japan had already invaded China, Germany had seized Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland, the Battle of Britain had been fought and won by the Brits, and Hitler had ordered the mass extermination of the Jews.
  • WWI: Likewise, while the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in 1914 ultimately catapulted Europe into WWI, tensions had been building between the Balkans and Austria-Hungary for years, and alliances were already in place.
  • The American Civil War: Years of national strife and bickering over the institution of slavery and of state’s rights preceded South Carolinians firing upon Fort Sumter in April of 1861, launching the War between the States.
  • The War for Independence: And the American Revolution was fought over much more than a Tea Party in Boston.

The war in Iraq is no different in its complex, historical background.

Terrorism Prior to September 11th, 2001: When did the threat of Islamic radicalism begin to impact the U.S.? Many will say September 11th, 2001. But a closer look reveals over twenty years of terrorist attacks on U.S. interests prior to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001:

  • Iran Embassy Hostages, 1979
  • Beirut , Lebanon Embassy 1983
  • Beirut , Lebanon Marine Barracks 1983
  • Lockerbie , Scotland Pan-Am flight to New York 1988
  • First New York World Trade Center attack 1993
  • Dhahran , Saudi Arabia Khobar Towers Military complex 1996
  • Nairobi, Kenya US Embassy 1998
  • Dares SPAN Salaam, Tanzania US Embassy 1998
  • Aden, Yemen USS Cole 2000

Furthermore, records indicate a total of 9,928 acts of terror committed in the years between 1981 and 2003 (source: Jewish Virtual Library).

Reasons for Invading Iraq: Why did we engage Iraq in war? The reason given at the time was that Iraq was collecting and hiding weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) that could fall into the hands of terrorists. But some are convinced that Bush Jr. only wanted to finish what “Daddy” had started twelve years earlier. Others believe that the Iraq war is simply about oil. Still others point back to the West’s meddling in and carving up the Middle East in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Others hearken as far back as the Crusades. Some even trace the origins of the Middle East’s troubles to the two sons of Abraham--Isaac and Ishmael--who lived four thousand years ago. I am convinced that there is a measure of truth in all of these given reasons.

So, as much as we like our pithy sayings, the war in Iraq is far more complex than “Bush lied, people died.” And victory there, if even possible now, is far more complicated than “stay the course.” I want to look more closely at reasons for our war in Iraq, and the importance of finishing the job.

WMDs: Yes, we DID find them! On June 21, 2006, Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and Michigan Congressman Peter Hoekstra announced the declassification of a report claiming that in Iraq, “Coalition forces have recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions which contain degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent.” This information has been downplayed or ignored by the major media.

Furthermore, in January of this year, Georges Sada, former aide to Saddam Hussein, published the story of his life in Saddam’s regime. His book is titled Saddam's Secrets. I have personally read this book and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in an inside look at the machinations of Saddam Hussein. Sada, a Christian man, a former general in the Iraqi Air Force, and a close, yet reluctant confidant of Saddam, claims that just prior to the American invasion, two commercial airliners were gutted and subsequently filled with Saddam’s secret weapons which were then flown “under the radar” into Syria for safe keeping. Little of this highly provocative news has made it to the general public.

Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction had already been used to murder an estimated 300,000 Kurds. And of the Kurds who survived, millions are said to still be suffering the aftereffects of chemical weapons exposure. Some have tallied the deaths of Iraqi citizens at the hand of Saddam and his henchmen, at near one million people.

Why We Should Finish the Job: In the aftermath of the “shock and awe” phase of the Iraq war, we began to regularly hear that “Iraq is a major front in the war on terror. We are fighting the terrorists over there, so we don’t have to fight them over here.”

Following the toppling of Saddam, Islamic radicals understood better than Americans what was at stake. They still do. A freely elected, stable government established in Iraq would become a major blow to the cause of Islamic fundamentalism.

Terrorists rushed on to the battlefield bringing their most feared weapon--the improvised explosive device (IED). The nature of terror is fear. How can I be certain that “my neighbor” can be trusted? How do I know they are not carrying a bomb?

To me, the best argument for staying and finishing the job is that Iraq is where the battlefield is today. The ramifications of leaving this battleground without victory are grave. A despotic, Islamic, fundamentalist regime in Iraq would only embolden the terrorists, giving them every reason to believe that America is conquerable.

A Lesson from Israel, Lebanon, and Hezbollah: This summer, the Hezbollah Army began lobbing rockets into Northern Israel from Southern Lebanon. The Israeli Army answered. But their response was soft, and their resolve weak.

World opinion likely kept Israel from fighting this war like they had fought wars in the past. Their leaders seemed fearful of wreaking too much “collateral damage” on their northern neighbor.

Although Hezbollah took many severe blows, Israel’s retreat before the job was finished allowed their enemy to declare victory. [We] “defeated the invincible army,” they proclaimed.

Weakness of Western Europe: Following the Madrid bombings, Spain elected a new government, soft on terror. Spain had supported America in Iraq early on, even sending troops, but with the terrorism it experienced in the spring of ‘04, Spain quickly retreated out of fear. Radical Islam now holds Spain in its grip. For all intents and purposes, Spain has surrendered to the fear of terror.

France continues to bury its proverbial head in the sand, with the recent Muslim riots in Paris and other cities going virtually unaddressed. This former ally is now 20% Muslim, and cowering in fear. France is on the ropes, and without a major awakening, is likely to go down in the near future.

Melanie Phillips recently published a book titled Londonistan. I have not yet read it, but hope to read it soon. Phillips reportedly explores how London has now become the Western hub of radical Islam due to “benign neglect” by British leaders in the 80’s and 90’s. Londonistan is now the city-within-a-city where radical Islam thrives due to Britain’s loss of national identity and embrace of multiculturalism.

It is likely the grotesque bloodshed from the two World Wars of the last century that keep Europe and Britain desperately wanting to avoid conflict. While this position is certainly understandable, it is not at all practical. Unless something is done soon, the countries of Western Europe will continue to be picked off, one-by-one.

I am reminded of the words of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who in 1938 after signing a pact with Hitler, proclaimed “Peace for our time.” Two years later, London suffered under the terror of the Nazi Blitzkrieg in the Battle of Britain.

More Context: For centuries, Islam has been on the march to conquer and subjugate the world. Promoted as a “religion of peace and tolerance," Islamists assert that the many wars of Islam were only "defensive" actions in response to the aggressions of others. But history reveals quite the opposite picture. For while Christianity has been advanced primarily through the testimony and the pen, Islam has been advanced predominately through the sword. Here, in chronological order, are some historical highlights:

  • 630 AD: After minimal success gathering followers through the proclamation of his message, Mohammed began to teach that Allah was instructing Muslims to use the sword. He raised an army of 10,000, conquering Mecca and the entire Arabian peninsula. Many of his warriors signed up for reasons of greed and personal gain, not because of his teachings.
  • 637-644 AD: Shortly following Mohammed’s death, his followers raided and conquered Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Armenia, Iraq and Iran (present-day names used). The defeated were converted to Islam by the sword.
  • 710 AD: After conquering and subjugating all of Northern Africa, Muslims crossed the Straits of Gibraltar and swept up the Iberian Peninsula, conquering Spain, Portugal, and one third of France. They were finally turned back 125 miles south of Paris by Charles Martel and his armies in 732 AD.

The Crusades: Most believe, and are even taught, that the Crusades were a war of aggression by the Catholic Church and the kings of Europe against Islam. In reality, the Crusades were primarily fought to recover lands and peoples conquered earlier by the armies of Islam described above. I report these facts not to justify atrocities done by so-called Christians, but simply to explain that like other wars, there is much more behind the story of the Crusades than we often realize.

  • 1683 AD: Ironically, it was on September 11th of this year that an alliance of Christian armies led by Jan III Sobieski, the King of Poland, arrived at the Gates of Vienna, (present day Austria) to push back invading Islamic hordes. Prior to this battle, Islamic Ottoman Turks had once again been expanding their rule into Europe by the sword. They had captured Greece, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and parts of Romania and Hungary.
  • 20th and 21st Centuries: The new Islamic sword is the vast oil deposits in their Middle East countries. Because of the West’s dependency on oil, Islamists now wield tremendous power over Western governments. Our addiction to oil has led us to make alliances with tyrants and despotic governments in the Middle East. Because the economies of the West are run on the oil from this part of the world, Western nations cower in fear and bury their heads in the sand when confronted with Islamic extremism.

For sake of brevity, I have minimized details and sought to encapsulate, the best I could, the long history of struggle between Western civilization and Islam.

Final Thoughts: Bush hatred is rampant. It has been fueled both by mainstream media, and by his opposing political party. As one who voted twice for this man, I concede that not all of his actions in this conflict have been perfect or well-advised. Although his stubborn stance against terrorism is right, he hasn't done everything right. But to blame our current dilemma on this one man and his advisors is utterly foolish and short-sighted.

Many say that if we simply leave our enemies alone, or had left them alone to begin with (it may now be too late), we would not now be in this dilemma. The brief chronology of events laid out above is provided to make the argument that Islamic extremism is not a response to aggression and meddling by the West, but rather the very nature of the religion itself. For in the first 100 years of Islamic history, Muslims had conquered by the sword, subjugated by fear and intimidation, and acculturated their neighbors to the extent that the whole Middle East was under their rule.

Others say that we merely need to sit down and dialog with our enemies. How foolish. How well has this worked for Israel and the Palestinians? Check out and watch the John Ford movie, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Some people simply cannot be reasoned with, and to pretend so makes one even more naive than our president and his team of advisors regarding the aftermath of toppling Saddam.

Could things have been done differently? Certainly. Could they have been done better? Who knows? It is easy to point the finger in hindsight. It is quite difficult however to be the one charged with leading during such harrowing times. To spend our energy criticizing and condemning demonstrates the weakness of our own character. Note I did not say questioning and debating, I said "criticizing and condemning." There is a difference.

At this moment in history, like it or not, the battle for Western civilization is in Iraq. Regardless of whether our invasion was merited, we are there now, and must prevail if we are to hope for any long-term peace. Rogue nations like Iran and North Korea are building and collecting arsenals of great destruction, awaiting our capitulation. Their intent is to further intimidate and one day conquer the West. A defeat in Iraq will do nothing but embolden these evil men, and we will soon be fighting a more difficult, costly battle somewhere else.

Freedom is a wonderful gift. But it comes with great responsibility. Many confuse freedom with license, and live only to please themselves. The image which these debauched and self-serving lifestyles provide is surely fodder for our enemies. They see Christianity as vulgar and corrupt. This is the picture our “Christian” nation and the West have painted for the world.

Freedom, our greatest strength, also makes us vulnerable. An unidentified Muslim leader is reported to have said, "Thanks to your democratic laws we will invade you; thanks to our religious laws we will dominate you."

Likewise, the West’s desire for a multicultural utopia is both foolish and ignorant. While all people are equal in the sight of God, all cultures are not equal. Nor are all nations. Nor are all ideas. Where do our enemies get their arms, their weapons? They were invented and built first in the West. Almost all technology has its origins in the West, much of it right here in our own nation. Only freedom can liberate men and women to use their imaginations to the fullest, to invent and create products of all kinds to better our lives--from agricultural innovations to the automobile, from the refrigerator to the kidney dialysis machine.

Americans must decide if Western Civilization is worth preserving, what vices we are willing to let go of to keep it, and what price we are willing to pay to defend it. If multiculturalism is superior to "Christian civilization" as Churchill once called it, then we have nothing to fear, for we have nothing to defend.

The gods of our present age in the West are prosperity and personal peace. “Give me my stuff and leave me alone.” Many of us have forgotten the cost of freedom. Just this week, my daughter and I spent a day in Washington DC on a photography junket. One of our stops was the new WWII Memorial on the nation’s mall. Arrested by its beauty and power, we stood silent, chills running up and down our spines as we read the quotations carved into the stones. One of the quotes we read was penned at the conclusion of the war, by General Douglas MacArthur:

"Today the guns are silent. A great tragedy has ended. A great victory has been won. The skies no longer rain death. The seas bear only commerce. Men everywhere walk upright in the sunlight. The entire world is quietly at peace."

May we all walk upright in the sunlight, cowed neither by fear nor selfishness.

Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts. May God have mercy on us all.

Mark W. Weaver

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