Quote of the Day

Still, five years on, this endeavor in Iraq is taking hold. The U.S. military was invariably the great corrector. In their stoic acceptance of the mission given them and in the tender mercies they showed Iraqis on a daily basis, our soldiers held out the example of benevolent rule. (In extended travel in and out of Iraq over the last five years, I heard little talk of Abu Ghraib. The people of Iraq understood that Charles Graner and Lynndie England were psychopaths at odds with American military norms.)
In those five years, the scaffolding of the war came under steady assault. People said that there was no connection between al Qaeda and Saddam, that no “smoking gun” had been discovered, and that the invasion of Iraq had turned that country into a breeding ground of jihadists.
But those looking for that smoking gun did not understand that the distinction between secular and religious terror in that Arab landscape was a distinction without a difference. The impulse that took America from Kabul to Baghdad was a correct one. Radical Arabs attacked America on 9/11, and a war of deterrence had to be waged against Arab radicalism.
Baghdad was the proper return address, as a notice was served on the purveyors of terror that a price would be paid by those who aid and abet it. It was Saddam Hussein’s choice — and fate — that he would not duck and stay out of harm’s way in the aftermath of 9/11. We have not fully repaired the ways of the radicals in the intervening years. But the spectacle of the dictator’s defeat, and the sight of him being sent to the gallows, have worked wonders on the temper of the Arab street.
So we did not turn Baghdad into a democratic city on a hill, and we learned that the dismantling of Sunni tyranny would leave the Arab world’s Shiite stepchildren with primacy in Iraq. A better country has nonetheless risen, midwifed by this American war. It is not a flawless democracy. But compare it to the prison it was under Saddam, the tyranny next door in Damascus and the norms of the region, and we can have a measure of pride in what America has brought forth in Baghdad.

Fouad Ajami

17 thoughts on “Quote of the Day”

  1. and you believe this nonsense? I chatted with a new hire at a local Trader Joe’as this morning. Back from Afghanistan and did time in Iraq. Said we were wrong in going in and are wrong in staying in. Said CIA involved in poppy stuff in Afghanistan to fatten war chest for their operations.

    Now:” how many Americans have died? How many Iraquis? what is the quality of services? How many Iraqis fled country? How has Iran got a strong hold in the region now that Saddam out?
    Simply put: we are losing if there is no political settlement among warring factions and it is time for tough love!We are enabling tIraq politicians and it is time for them to get their country back together.

    American going into deep deficit because of this war and it is endless.
    Now if you are hawkish, then you go or send your relatives. There is no end in sight, and McCain and Joe L. are carefully guarded in a tough area as they announce that all is going well.

  2. oh ye of little faith! my story as you call it is true. Why would I bother to make up this sort of thing? It is, by the way, anecdotal, and I am sure you can find military who would say they are doing a good thing in being there. But the Am erican public no longer feels this way, and, the Dems, if clever, will tie in the war and its costs to the current state of the economy.

  3. Well, maybe Fred (and CNN) are right that most of America will gladly vote for one of the two who argues that whatever the situation on the ground, indeed, whatever, they will pull troops out as soon as they are in office. But, then again, maybe not. I do suspect such statements come from someone either naive or rigidly ideological.

    And while Fred may not have a lot of credibility, Michael Totten and John Burns have retained my respect – and not just because I’m more likely to agree with them. I love anecdotes but their reporting is on a bit higher level.

  4. Fred, and Iraqi war opponents in general, remind me of people who don’t notice that the house needs painting. Someone else begins the job, they still don’t see that the task needs to be done, and, furthermore, obstruct those who do the repair and modification and finally, in the end, won’t admit that the place looks better.

    In a lot of ways Iraq was the lowest common denominator in a dangerous part of the world, and it could have been, readily enough, some other mid-east place where a modernity was imposed upon a dangerous medievalism. If I were President I probably wouldn’t have done it. It was a high-priced and bold move which, however, may be worth the cost and more. If successful, it’s a world changing legacy for GWB that leaves a better chance for all the world’s next generation of children to lead peaceful lives.

  5. take a moment and go through the comments and note how many Are nothing more than name calling.

    you think Iraq going ok? then ask why home owners here losing homes while would-be insurgents are being paid big bucks simply not to attack.and that in part is why the cost is outrageous. in every other war, the economy goes UP…but not now.
    so call names. Afghanistan going back to Taliban…Now you can continue to call me this or that because you support a war that is now 5 years old and has no political settlement in sight…in passing, I served in a war…so perhaps I am a bit jaded.

  6. Hey Fred, you dope – when you sockpuppet threads you automatically give up any right to make legitimate comments forever as far as I am concerned, and at that point I automatically receive the right to taunt you or call you names. You don’t respect this forum so I will not respect you – ever.

    On my threads I will simply delete or alter your comments, but others seem to be a bit more generous than myself in that regard. To each their own. As far as I am concerned, behavior like sockpuppeting is the very worst thing you can do on a blog. You got caught, therefore you are not taken seriously by me anymore. Quit cluttering up this space with your vapid thoughts and junior high sockpuppeting commenting techniques.

  7. And Mr Ajami’s return address is … in the good ‘ol USA. It is always easy to be patriotic from afar. I think a more credible “opinion” would be from Iraqis currently living in Iraq. Not news reporters tethered to the Green Zone or a presidential candidate’s heavily guarded photo-op. Where can readers find such information is the question.

  8. I think a more credible “opinion” would be from Iraqis currently living in Iraq.

    Well, the BBC disagrees, especially when the opinion is rather positive.

    then ask why home owners here losing homes hmm. Perhaps one thing has nothing to do with another. Perhaps those shows on HGTV were peddling false hope.

  9. an easy task would be to search for the number of Iraq citizens who have fled the country…As one former general has said: if you ;must pay people not to shoot at you then you are losing, after all, it makes more sense to get money for not doing something than for possibly getting killed.

    My assumption is actually very simple: the war will be “won” when (1) the Iraq army or police can protect a nation united by a political settlement. And that should free up the Americans to return home. It has been 5 years now and I see no such possibilty in sight.

  10. sorry for this added on. I had forgot this material. Over a million Iraq citizens have fled the country (2006) and nearly none have returned. Addtionally:
    “ive years after the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, many Iraqis still lack access to basic health care, sanitation and clean water, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Monday.

    The humanitarian situation in Iraq is among the most critical in the world, the Red Cross said. The conflict has worsened the impact of previous wars and years of international sanctions that caused severe hardship in the country.

    Iraqi hospitals are among the hardest hit, with many lacking qualified staff, basic drugs and facilities that are not properly maintained, the Red Cross said. Public hospitals only provide 30,000 beds — less than half of the 80,000 needed.

    With an average daily wage of less than $5, few Iraqis can afford to seek help in private clinics where consultations cost from $2 to $7.

    The Red Cross said Iraqi officials estimate that more than 2,200 doctors and nurses have been killed and more than 250 kidnapped since 2003. Of the 34,000 doctors registered in 1990, at least 20,000 have left the country….


  11. Who do you think the refugees are? Kurds? Most of the refugees are probably Sunnis — i.e., the people who lost the war. If some of them leave afterwards it doesn’t necessarily mean the war was a bad idea. And, as usual, your anecdote is stale. It’s well known that Iraqi refugees have been returning to Iraq recently. You are cherry-picking anecdotes while ignoring big trends. Do you deny that Iraq is in better shape now than it was a year ago? Have you noticed that Iraq is barely a political issue now? That’s obviously because the situation there has improved to such an extent that domestic war-opponents no longer see political advantage in using the war outcome to criticize the Bush administration.

    The ICRC quotes are a joke. First, you are quoting a fund-raising advertisement. Have you ever seen a fund-raising advertisement that acknowledged that things were improving? Of course not. Second, where was the ICRC when Saddam Hussein was throwing people into shredding machines and filling hundreds of mass-graves? If I recall, the ICRC was then blaming the USA for starving babies by imposing sanctions on the regime. The ICRC has no credibility.

  12. I have not said things are not better–after all, we have some 140 thousand troops in Iraq. But things are not good. The refugee situation?http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7307191.stm
    and this is what the president of Iraq has to say:

    Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has singled out violence and corruption as the main problems facing his country on the fifth anniversary of the invasion.

    Mr Talabani welcomed the end of Saddam Hussein’s era of “torture and tyranny”, but warned that violence, terrorism and corruption had now become a “disease”.

    He also said any further progress would not be possible without reconciliation.

  13. Iraq and Afghanistan are simply theaters in a major war. Islamic fundamentalists are killing people in almost every country and certainly in everyone with any significant Islamic population. In fact most of the victims of this war have been Muslims killed by other Muslims. Fundamentalism is an Islamic heresy and Jihadism a war for world domination.

    Much of the inspiration for this war comes from Wahabism – the other major export of Saudi Arabia. Iran feels a need to compete via its brand of extremism.

    A look at a map will make the reason for going into Iraq clear. It puts a large, fast moving, aggressive, nasty, military force a relatively short road trip from just about any local capital. Strong US formations are on several sides of Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan, and even Egypt by way of the Med and the Horn of Africa. US forces are also on the Pakistan boarder with major air bases a few minutes away. Why wouldn’t you expect this to provoke a certain level of resistance from the basically hostile local states? Why would anyone expect this to be over in 5 years? Why would anyone expect a war to go according to some plan or timetable – has one ever?

    Clearly we have the capability to turn the area to glass – but that is not why we are there. We’re in the neighborhood to influence behavior. We weren’t there in any significant strength on 9-11 and we got hit. Being there has a cost. I suspect not being there would have a hell of a lot higher cost.

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