The enemy – a combination of former regime loyalists and foreign fighters – has a clear strategy: Bleed the United States to the point where the American people and/or their elected repesentatives feel compelled to abandon Iraq. They hope that the cumulative effects of daily roadside ambushes, together with more spectacular attacks on UN and other aid organizations’ headquarters, a hotel housing many Coalition Provisional Authority personnel (and a visiting top official from Washington) and most especially Iraqi police stations, will have the desired effect.
Inevitably, some will suggest that the death of roughly a score of Americans in the Chinook blown out of the sky last weekend, should be a tipping point – like the loss of the ill-fated Blackhawk helicopter in Mogadishu a decade ago. Call it the “Chinook Down” syndrome. That is, of course, precisely the hope of the Hussein loyalists and their imported, Islamist allies.
It was, therefore, providential that the Sunday television talk shows had previously decided to feature Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld this weekend. It, therefore, fell to him first and foremost to discuss the loss of the Chinook and to put this setback into context.
With the candor and directness the American people have come to expect from – and admire in – their Pentagon chief, Secretary Rumsfeld said: "It's clearly a tragic day for America. In a long, hard war, we're going to have tragic days. But they're necessary. They're part of a war that's difficult and complicated."
Mr. Rumsfeld also reiterated the essential character of this war: It is far preferable to be fighting it in places like Baghdad than “in Baltimore or Boise.” Like the words of our Chinook’s crew chief, those of the Secretary of Defense convey a grim determination that acknowledges the hard reality of our present circumstance, but cannot help but impress those who hear them with our commitment to take the battle to our enemies.
Something unsaid by Secretary Rumsfeld should also be kept in mind. Nothing we do now could more seriously besmirch the memory of those whose lives have been lost in attacks like this weekend’s than to signal that their sacrifice was in vain. Should the United States respond to the mayhem inflicted in recent days by communicating that our will to prevail is flagging, we can be sure not only that our enemies will be emboldened to redouble their efforts. We will also be saying to relatives and friends of the dead and wounded that their loved ones could have been spared if only we had cut and run earlier.
Fortunately, not only Donald Rumsfeld understands this point. So, apparently, does our Commander-in-Chief. On Fox News Sunday, commentator Bill Kristol recounted a recent White House conversation between President Bush and CPA chief Paul Bremmer and Central Command commander General John Abizaid. According to Kristol’s source who was reportedly in the room, the President made absolutely clear his determination to stay the course in Iraq, without regard to election-year politics. That is surely the best way to honor our fallen, to lead the American people and to secure the defeat of our adversaries.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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