Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Some Can't Handle Success in Iraq

When it comes to the war in Iraq, some on the left have invested themselves in our defeat. Politically speaking, there are those who simply can’t afford for us to be successful fighting against the turmoil created by terrorists.

There are also those who simply have their heads in the sand with regard to the realities of what we face in the world. We fight Al Qaeda every day in Iraq. Yet these same politicians from the left feel the fight against them is either not taking place or is not necessary in Iraq.

At a recent hearing of the Congressional Armed Services Committee, those two views from the left, which normally run parallel to each other, both headed in the direction of a U.S. defeat at the hands of the terrorists, crossed paths, and became too much for one Congresswoman to fathom or deal with.

Democratic Representative Nancy Boyda of Kansas had to remove herself from the hearing, frustrated and angry with the positive news being delivered about the progress being made in Iraq.

Invested in our defeat, while at the same time having to face the realities of who it is we’re up against in Iraq and the success we’re achieving against them was just too much for her to handle. So she left. She walked out of the hearing.

Retired Army General John Keane, serving as an adviser in Iraq, had been testifying to the Congressional Committee about the positive developments in Iraq. He went on to tell them that, “your actions here in the Congress appear to be in direct conflict with the realities on the ground where the trends are up and progress is being made."

That didn’t sit well with Democrats like Boyda.

But how could it? If you’ve staked your political career on our defeat in Iraq, if you’ve been arguing that it’s not worth fighting Al Qaeda there, and have put yourself into a position where progress can’t be acknowledged, the last few months wouldn’t be sitting well, at all.

Because as this column has chronicled, from journalists and Generals alike, the trends out of Iraq are positive, and the fight against Al Qaeda by Coalition forces and the Iraqi people has achieved remarkable success.

This last weekend, Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution, a left-leaning think tank, penned a column in the New York Times detailing the progress they’d seen on a recent trip to Iraq.

They have not been fans of the war but they stated, “As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw.” They went on to note that the critics of the war “seem unaware of the significant changes taking place” in Iraq.

They detailed an increase in the morale of our troops, gains in “political and economic arrangements at the local level,” and “civilian fatality rates down roughly a third.” They visited neighborhoods coming back to life and noted increasing civility between different sects. In some areas they witnessed Coalition troop levels being reduced because Iraqi’s have taken the ball and ran with it. There were improvements in Iraq’s security forces which are increasingly religiously integrated. They chronicled how the population has risen up against Al Qaeda and Muqtada al Sadr’s Army. (By the way, he recently fled to Iran in the wake of the uprising by the people against his group). They also noted the success of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams for rebuilding local economies and political structures, as well as the progress toward decentralizing power to the provinces and local governments. Sure there is still a ways to go, but for two previous non-believers, the trends are there for “A War We Just Might Win.”

But if you subscribe to the Nancy Pelosi school of cut and run, then, as her spokesman stated in a Washington Times story after the hearings, you can’t be “willing to concede there are positive things to point to” in Iraq.

That says it all. They can’t be “willing to concede there are positive things to point to” in Iraq, because it would mean they’re wrong and have been. They can’t be willing because it would be in direct conflict with their political ambitions.

They can’t be willing because it would be so disruptive to their unrealistic view of the world it might cause their heads to explode. Or at least cause them to leave a hearing where a picture of reality was being painted in direct conflict with both their world view and political ambitions.

When reality collides with their politically distorted, defeatist attitude, it becomes too hard for some to handle, too much for them to fathom.

So they run from the room, as Nancy Boyda did, providing a perfect representation of liberal views and their best solution for Iraq, terrorism in the rest of the world, or for any other fight not involving a domestic social issue: when it becomes too hard to deal with, deny reality, disengage from the problem, separate yourself from (maybe even try to silence) those they disagree with, and just leave. Cut and run.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Chuck and Harry Told Me The Surge Wasn't Working

“The Surge” isn’t working.

At least that’s what Harry Reid and Chuck Hagel would like us to believe. Of course they were telling us that before it even got going.

But our troops continue to prove them wrong.

Remember, the troop surge into Iraq was only one part of a larger, comprehensive plan for victory, a new way forward. There were many initiatives designed to address all aspects of such a complicated war. The increase in troop numbers, “The Surge,” was designed to quell the violence enough to allow the political and diplomatic processes to move forward.

And who have been the catalysts for violence in Iraq? Al Qaeda.

If tensions between Islamic sects and Iraqi tribes is gasoline, and has been for hundreds of years, always possessing the potential for volatility, then Al Qaeda has served as a seemingly endless box of matches, striking, and throwing themselves at the gas to cause so many explosions.

But what happens when you take the fire away from the gasoline? It quits exploding and goes back to being just another substance for the globo-warmers to fret over.

And that is precisely what is happening in Iraq now. It’s what’s been happening for at least the last 8 months or more. Coalition forces and the Iraqi people are taking Al Qaeda out of the equation.

During that time, Anbar province and its capital of Ramadi went from being “lost” to Al Qaeda as one intelligence report concluded, to being a model for what happens when the Iraqi people work with Coalition forces to take their country back. The number of attacks and acts of violence continue to decline in Anbar as the people turn on the terrorists and the tribal leaders work with our forces in a collective, concerted effort to drive out Al Qaeda.

Anbar has become an excellent example of what “The Surge” has accomplished. But “The Surge” isn’t working, right?

That same success is being reported elsewhere, outside of Anbar, especially in Diyala, around Baqouba, and now Taji.

On the 23rd, The Washington Times reported, as evidence of the ongoing cooperation of Iraqi’s with each other and our forces, at Taji, north of Baghdad, “U.S. forces have brokered an agreement between Sunni and Shi'ite tribal leaders to join forces against al Qaeda and other extremists, extending a policy that has transformed the security situation in western Anbar province to this area north of the capital.” “Members of the First Calvary Division based at nearby Camp Taji helped broker the deal on Saturday with the tribal leaders, who agreed to use members of more than 25 local tribes to protect the area around Taji from both Sunni and Shi'ite extremists.”

But “The Surge” isn’t working, right?

Also on the 23rd, The Times reported that dozens of Iraqi members of Al Qaeda, tired of the atrocities being committed by foreigners against Iraqi’s, have now become informants against Al Qaeda in the Baghdad neighborhood of Doura. The Times called this a “ground-breaking move in Doura” and “part of a wider trend that has started in other al-Qaeda hotspots across the country and in which Sunni insurgent groups and tribal sheikhs have stood together with the coalition against the extremist movement.” They go on to credit the increased presence of U.S. troops (The Surge) for making this happen.

But “The Surge” isn’t working, right?

Our increased presence is also opening the doors to the capturing and killing of many Al Qaeda terrorists in Iraq. On the 18th of this month we learned of the capture of Abu Shahid, the most senior Iraqi of Al Qaeda in Iraq. Abu Shahid has been serving as the go between for Al Qaeda headmen Osama bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahri, and Al Qaeda’s leadership in Iraq.

Abu Shahid has revealed to us an elaborate effort by Al Qaeda to put an Iraqi Sunni insurgency face on the terror group’s destruction in Iraq. As the Washington Post noted on the 18th, according to Brigadier General Kevin Bergner, Abu Shahid has told us, "In his words, the Islamic State of Iraq is a front organization that masks the foreign influence and leadership within al-Qaida in Iraq in an attempt to put an Iraqi face on the leadership of al-Qaida in Iraq." Much of what has been called a civil war is simply Al Qaeda in Iraq committing atrocities, disguising it as Iraqi’s attacking each other.

Catching terrorists like Abu Shahid and taking these struck matches away from the gasoline is made possible when you have enough boots on the ground to find the bad guys.

But “The Surge” isn’t working, right?

Wrong. Chuck and Harry are wrong.

“The Surge” is doing what it was designed to do. Our troops, as usual, are delivering on their part of the new way forward. They, along with the Iraqi’s, are taking Al Qaeda, the catalyst for the violence in Iraq, out of the picture. Now, the Iraqi politicians need to take a big deep breath in the room our troops have made for them to breathe, and get to work.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Amendments, Poor Timing, and Over-Reach

As anticipated, a flurry of amendments hit the Senate floor concerning the conduct of the war in Iraq. Some of them contained good ideas, some not so much.

Senator Nelson cosponsored an amendment which proposed to “protect Americans and American interests and facilities in Iraq, protect the integrity of Iraq’s borders – territorially, engage and eliminate Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations in Iraq, continue training of Iraqi military and security forces,” and called “for the transition of mission to begin immediately and sets a goal of completing redeployment (to new missions in Iraq) by March 31, 2008.”

Senator Hagel submitted an amendment which aims to “transition the mission of U.S. troops in Iraq to focus on protecting Americans in Iraq, protect the territorial integrity of Iraq, train and equip Iraqi Security Forces, and engage in targeted actions against members of al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups in Iraq; and establishes a goal of redeploying all U.S. combat forces from Iraq who are not essential to meeting the new limited mission by March 31, 2008.”

Senator Hagel’s amendment also calls for “the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN) to propose the appointment of an international mediator in Iraq, under the auspices of the UN Security Council.”

The calls by both for protecting the territorial integrity of Iraq are welcomed for the safety of our troops and Iraq’s stability.

The evidence continues to mount against Iran and its influence in Iraq. The last several months have seen a tremendous increase in the news directly tying Iran to bombings and attacks in Iraq. Many of our servicemen and women are dying as a direct result or Iranian made munitions or at the hands of Iranian trained insurgents. Press releases noting the capture of those involved with moving insurgents in and out of Iran for terrorist training have been common over the last few months.

The initial benchmark assessment report from the 12th indicated that 80 percent of the suicide bombers in Iraq have been foreign-born terrorists.

Efforts should be redoubled to keep our troops and the Iraqi people safe from these outside influences.

Both amendments rightfully call for continued actions against Al Qaeda. By wording, one would surmise that Senator Nelson envisions more aggressive action against them. The specifically “targeted” aspect proposed by Senator Hagel would be just a notch better than his previously neglecting to address this aspect of the conflict.

Senator Nelson calls for transitioning to the proposed mission within Iraq to be completed by March 31, 2008. Senator Hagel’s amendment emphasizes pulling troops not involved with “limited missions” out of Iraq by that same date. The difference between the two would be consistent with Senator Hagel’s preference to quit the fight, and reflective of comments from Senator Nelson’s office that he understands the consequences of not winning this war.

Senator Hagel’s calls for diplomacy within the region are redundant, as actions are taking place in that arena. They may not be happening at a level acceptable to someone whose focus is solely on diplomacy instead of the reality of having to balance the military-diplomatic-political aspects of such a conflict, but they are taking place.

Engaging the antagonists, specifically Iran and Syria is necessary, but mediating through the U.N. would likely prove to be an exercise in futility. The U.N. has proven time and again its ineffectiveness in dealing with issues of this magnitude.

In reflecting on any of these amendments that might contain good ideas for Iraq two items can’t be ignored.

First is the poor timing. These calls for a new direction in Iraq are being made as “The Surge” is just now finally fully under way. The calls to change direction have been made despite progress on 8 of 18 benchmarks in what was just an initial report and despite the Iraqi people now having Al Qaeda on the run in Anbar and Diyala. They have labeled it a failure despite news from ground commanders like Major General Lynch who just this week spoke of significant gains against the enemy and with the Iraqis. They have called General Petraeus’ plan a failure before it’s been executed.

Second, but more important, is the fact that Congress is overreaching. They have the power of the purse strings, not the power to dictate military strategy. They may not be trying to micromanage the military commanders who would be free to implement Congress’ plan as best they see fit, but that’s the problem, it’s Congress’ plan.

Congress is not the branch of our government which makes and dictates military strategy. They may not be micromanaging the generals on the ground, but they are trying to micromanage the war. Congress can not and should not insert itself into the chain of command this way.

It is Congress’ job to make recommendations and to approve or disapprove the money, maybe with benchmarks for its release, but not by dictating what strategy will be pursued.

That is the authority and responsibility of the Executive Branch. Allowing Congress to assume the role as a collective commander in chief and dictate war strategy would be wrong in this war or any other. It would be a dangerous precedent for our country; probably even fatal for our long term war fighting capability and national security.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Al Qaeda's Atrocity, Strategy, and Our Resolve

This was actually printed in newspapers starting 8 July, written the Sunday before; before all the amendments hit the floor.

On July 5th, freelance reporter Michael Yon, embedded with our troops in Iraq, shared an horrific Al Qaeda activity occurring in Baqubah. I remember becoming accustomed to the Iraqi people telling me about their friends being “slaughtered”, beheaded, or of terrorists forcing them to watch videos of such activity as a means to “persuade” them to join Al Qaeda’s way of thinking.

But Michael Yon’s dispatch describing Al Qaeda’s savagery was beyond comparison. In Baqubah, Al Qaeda would target a family they wanted to convert to their way of thinking, a family with a young son, invite them to lunch, and then try to serve them their son as lunch. I won’t describe the grotesque manner in which this was done, but I think you see my point.

Every day the major news outlets tell us of attacks against civilians in Iraq. But the context in which they’re described hides the true nature of those attacks. They’re reported as our failure in Iraq, not sickening terrorist attacks, targeting and murdering innocent lives.

Whether it’s a car bomb detonated among a group of women and children outside a wedding or something as horrific as described above, one common link remains, Al Qaeda.

We fight Al Qaeda in Iraq nearly every day. Multi-National Force – Iraq press releases from July show that coalition forces captured or killed Al Qaeda operatives 8 of the first 9 days in July. I know from reading the daily updates that it’s been that way for quite some time.

It is the same Al Qaeda we should have all sworn to defeat after September 11.

Yet this week Congress will again take up the attempt to surrender in Iraq, and the news cycle will be filled with liberals and Hagelites who want to cut and run.

They likely won’t address what to do about Al Qaeda in Iraq. At best, they’ll suggest we leave enough troops there to fight Al Qaeda. Our military planners have told us that it’s about the same number we have in Iraq now.

None of them will address the repercussions of a precipitous withdrawal for our country, the region, or the world. Nor will most reporters have the guts to press them on this issue.

At best, they may spin out an answer about a regional solution, as Senator Hagel does, but it will be obvious that the time-lines don’t jive. Moving, voting, and speaking to get out now before any other solution is developed is ultimately just wanting to cut and run, but with nuance.

Nor will they be pressed on why they were calling General Petraeus’ plan a failure before he had all his requested troops on the ground, or why they are now calling it a failure, just as his plan if being fully staffed.

Ultimately the position of the politicians will be similar to that of TroopsOutNow.org, the leftist organization which possesses an “overwhelming sentiment that it should be for immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.” Interestingly, it’s the same organization which also expresses “solidarity with the resistance movements in those countries and in Palestine and Lebanon.”

Yes, they express solidarity with terrorist organizations. They express solidarity with Al Qaeda. They express solidarity with those who have killed American citizens and target our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. I guess that’s one way to “support the troops, but not the mission.”

Although the politicians haven’t, nor do I believe they would, ever express solidarity with the resistance movements in Iraq and Afghanistan, is the effect on the outcome any different? After all, Al Qaeda targets them, as much as our troops or the Iraqi people, trying to convince them to give up the fight and run from Iraq.

Every time a politician expresses as much, it gives Al Qaeda yet another reason to keep fighting. It gives them yet another reason to detonate an EFP and kill another soldier. It’s yet another step closer to achieving their goal and fulfilling their strategy: don’t defeat the American troops (they know they can’t) but defeat the will of the Americans instead, especially their politicians.

The terrorists know that American news organizations won’t share the news about their atrocities in the context in which those atrocities are committed.

The terrorists know that American’s won’t otherwise get to hear about the success of our troops as described in the rest of Michael Yon’s dispatch, the jubilant people of Baqubah working with coalition forces to drive Al Qaeda from their city, making sure none of their children were ever served up by Al Qaeda again.

The terrorists believe it’s just a matter of time before they succeed in driving America from Iraq.

And they know they should be planning their next move. After all, if they can achieve success against America this time, why shouldn’t they be able to repeat that success?

Won’t these same politicians still lack the resolve to lead America through more tough fights in the future?

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Senate Failed America

Before I left for Iraq, a friend of mine shared his reservations about me going. Not because of the inherent dangers of combat, but because of his strong mistrust of the government.

The events in the Senate last week surrounding the immigration bill probably only served to deepen his misgivings about our government, especially as the calls to change or kill the bill were loud and clear, yet so many Senators charged forward regardless of the voices crying out, imploring them to stop.

As a result of those events and the final outcome, on one hand, my friend can take heart in knowing that our system worked. But on the other hand, maybe he should also be alarmed at the elitism of their actions and negative responses of so many Senators to the voices of their constituents.

In The Federalist Number 62, James Madison commented that “It is a misfortune incident to republican government…that those who administer it, may forget their obligations to their constituents, and prove unfaithful to their important trust.”

Madison was referring to the inherent danger of a single legislative body. To balance against possible misfortunes, he went on to describe one purpose of the Senate: “as a second branch of the legislative assembly, distinct from, and dividing power with, a first, must be in all cases a salutary check on the government.”

The Senate, by the length of term of those elected, serves as a check and a stabilizing force within the legislative branch. It counters the relative inexperience and wide, potentially calamitous swings in public opinion expressed from the House. The Senate is designed to bring a sense of prudence and consistency to what might otherwise be a constantly set of changing rules from a newly composed House of Representatives every two years.

In considering the events of the previous week, isn’t it interesting how the Senate was the body on a calamitous course, the one which needed checked, and how it finally served as a check upon itself?

Ultimately, our republican form of government worked and there were enough Senators from all political stripes who listened to the people, and acted with prudence, in the spirit and manner intended by our Founders, for what they felt was best for the country.

In that, we can take hope.

But, that hope must be guarded because the reaction of the Senator’s, who in many cases ignored their constituents, was to belittle or demean the speech, intentions, and intelligence of the citizenry.

Several Senators expressed a possible need to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine in pursuit of muting the voices of some who disagreed with them. Others belittled media not sympathetic to their cause. Others accused those who stood in opposition (and did he also imply those who voted in opposition?), as Chuck Hagel did, of “appealing to the lowest political denominator,” as described in the Lincoln Journal Star on June 28.

Illegal immigration is a serious issue for which we must find a solution. But the American people were calling for it to be dealt with in a manner other than that being pursued. They saw this bill as Senator Nelson saw it, as being “fatally flawed.” They were demanding a different course or no course at all. Ultimately the people won, but had to settle for nothing.

Subsequently, the best the proponents of the bill could do was to express an interest in exploring avenues for silencing their opposition. Interest arose from several Senators for possibly reinstating the Fairness Doctrine. Because they couldn’t make an intelligent case for passage of their law, they proposed muting those who were able to make an intelligent case against it.

Fortunately, the First Amendment was put in place specifically to guard against such censorship of political speech and guarantee the people the right to publicly disagree with their government. If the First Amendment can now protect pornographers and those who burn the flag, surely it can still protect the speech of those who disagree with their elected officials.

Yet the willingness of the defeated politicians to begin an examination of ways to have their opposition silenced should give us all pause.

The manner in which so many Senators charged forward with tunnel vision and who now propose to silence the people whose voices finally brought them to a halt certainly produces a certain sense of mistrust. So does their inability to begin to resolve difficult issues.

Senator Hagel is right in that the Senate “failed America,” but not just because it failed to find a solution to the problem. It failed America because so many Senators failed to listen to their constituents and better ideas for such a length of time. It failed America because so few were able to bulldoze so many others and push a “fatally flawed” piece of legislation so far through the process before finally being checked.

The Senate failed America because it forced the system to have to work backwards upon itself. Instead of the Senate standing as a check upon the House driven by a dangerous swing in public opinion, it was the voice of the people which had to keep them in check. Our elected representatives should respond to their constituents, but we should also expect the Senate to act with prudence when others fail. But the Senate failed because it acted imprudently.

And now it continues to fail America because instead of seeking acceptable solutions to the problem, the defeated propose to silence those who disagree with them.