Hours before President Bush's speech Sunday night (Sept. 7), the top U.S. commander in Iraq summed up in a single sentence the importance of creating a free and democratic Iraq. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez said, "The only way we will fail in this country is if we decide to walk away in Iraq and fight the next battle in the war on terrorism in America."
That stark assessment was echoed by the president in his national address. George Bush demonstrated the kind of resolve that is necessary to prevail in Iraq and against the terrorism that is worldwide when he vowed to do and spend "whatever is necessary . to achieve this central victory in the war on terror, to promote freedom and to make our nation more secure."
The president's Sunday address was a needed reminder of the stakes in the global war on terrorism. He has repeatedly said (and did so again Sunday night) that this will be a long war with casualties and that it will take time and resolve to win it.
European nations, including France and Germany, that opposed the toppling of the serial murderer Saddam Hussein seem to be enjoying the difficulties faced by the United States in Iraq. But this should not be payback time for U.S. refusal to adopt a go-slower approach to Saddam's regime. Nations that enjoy the riches of freedom have a moral obligation, when possible, to share their political and spiritual assets with countries that suffer from the poverty of totalitarianism.
The president is right to ask the United Nations for military, humanitarian and financial assistance, though a resolution he will seek would properly leave the United States in overall control. Even those nations that opposed the war have an obligation, now that Saddam Hussein has been ousted from power, to give the Iraqis a future filled with hope and not fear.
The president said "great progress" has been made in Iraq. He invoked the image of post-war Germany and Japan and noted the amount of time and resources it took to rebuild those nations. He said he will ask Congress for an additional $87 billion to pay for the post-war effort. He has directed Secretary of State Colin Powell to meet with leaders from other nations and ask them to ante up for this effort. "All will benefit" from a free and stable Iraq, the president said.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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