Clifford D. May:
When the Army of Ansar al Sunna – a group tied to al Qaeda – attacks an American base near Mosul it should be apparent that Iraq is the front line in the War on Terrorism.
When Christian churches are bombed – as they were on the same day and in the same part of Iraq – and Shia mosques in Karbala and Najaf are targeted as well, it should be clear that the bombers are waging a most unholy war.
When Iraqi election workers are shot dead in the streets, as they were last weekend, the murderers' hatred for democracy ought to be obvious.
Yet somehow the debate goes on about whether those fighting us are really enemies of freedom, about whether or not it is imperative they be defeated.
The charge that Americans came to Iraq to steal oil is not much heard these days. Instead, the suicide bombers and throat slitters are romanticized as “militants” -- or even “nationalists” and “patriots” -- who are “resisting American occupation.”
When those “militants” do something particularly barbaric – summarily executing civilians, blowing up police stations, beheading aid workers – the conversation never dwells long on their crimes. Instead, controversy swirls around America's failure to control “the security situation.”
Then, too, there are those who do not defend the killers but argue that the continuing carnage proves the United States can't overcome this foe. If that's true, we might as well convert the Pentagon into condominiums.
What need is there for a multi-billion dollar defense establishment designed to roll back an attack by the Soviet Union? What's the point of a military machine that can topple Saddam Hussein in a few weeks but has to give Iraq back to his cronies a few years later?
Our current enemies, by contrast, are fighting an “unconventional” war. The combatants who attacked the Forward Operating Base Marez outside Mosul were not attempting to win a battle in the conventional sense; they did not hope to seize the camp any more than the suicide-terrorists who attacked on 9/11 planned to station tanks in New York and Washington.
Instead, the goal of terrorists is simply to slaughter and, of course, terrorize. By so doing, they mean to destroy our will to fight. Lose the will to fight and, by definition, you have been defeated – no matter how high-tech your weaponry, no matter how many troops you have riding in armored Humvees.
On a visit to Iraq this week, British Prime Minister Blair succinctly characterized the state of this conflict. “There surely is only one side to be on in what is now very clearly a battle between democracy and terror,” he said.
The enemy in Iraq is brutal, ruthless and, yes, evil. There's no other word for people who murder civilians organizing elections, bomb churches and mosques, and saw the heads off innocents while screaming slogans and making home videos.
But they are not stupid. They know that every time they stage a massacre, millions of people get angry – not at them, but at Don Rumsfeld and President Bush and Prime Minister Blair and the “neo-cons.”