WASHINGTON, D.C. -- This week in Iraq, U.S. Marines came under heavy fire in such cities as Fallujah and Ramadi. Amid gunfire and rocket propelled grenade attacks, their mission was to search for the terrorists who killed and desecrated the bodies of four American contractors killed last week and quell an uprising of radical Shiites, who are being lead by Sheik Muqtada al-Sadr, a fanatical cleric and a pawn of Hezbollah. At least 15 Marines were killed and 20 more were wounded in the battles.
And while some of the Marine Corps' finest were taking gunfire and dying, back at home, Sen. Teddy Kennedy wandered from his palatial Senate office on Capitol Hill to the plush and friendly surroundings of the Brookings Institute, a liberal Washington think tank, to unleash a verbal carpet bombing on the president of the United States. Kennedy, whose own honesty, integrity and judgment have been called into question on numerous occasions throughout his career, charged the Bush administration with "creat(ing) the largest credibility gap since Richard Nixon." Kennedy accused the president of breaking "the basic bond of trust with the American people," and said that Iraq is "George Bush's Vietnam."
It's an effort on the part of John Kerry's hatchet man to exploit one of the more challenging weeks in Iraq since the end of major hostilities nearly a year ago. Though they find it hard to accept, Democrats like Teddy Kennedy know the president continues to enjoy the trust of the American people on matters of national security. Their terrorism czar turned Kerry flack, Richard Clarke, had his day in the Beltway sunshine, but they realize Clarke's testimony and book will barely warrant a footnote in its impact on the president. Based on last week's economic reports, the Democrats' not-so-secret desires for the economy to turn south so they might have an issue to exploit are now a pipe dream.
So they have turned up the rhetoric to try to equate Iraq with Vietnam. And the Senate's resident Klan Man, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, was happy and eager to participate: "Surely, I am not the only one who hears echoes of Vietnam in this development. Surely this administration recognizes that increasing the U.S. troop presence in Iraq will only suck us deeper, deeper into the maelstrom, into the quicksand of violence that has become the hallmark of that unfortunate, miserable country," said the Senate's oratorical Grand Wizard.
What is truly unfortunate is that those who hear the "echoes" of such pessimistic Pooh Bahs are the terrorists who are emboldened by it. It is also heard by young Americans who toppled a brutal dictator and liberated the people in "that unfortunate, miserable country" from an evil regime. These young Americans who are away from their families during Easter deserve better from the so-called elder statesmen of the liberal establishment.
Before those Marines went into Ramadi and Fallujah, they spent months at Camp Pendleton in California. The operations they are conducting now -- working in and around civilian areas -- required far more intensive training than what they had when they first went in March 2003.
Contrary to how the media make it out, this has not been an effort to take down a city of over 300,000 people -- the Marines are only firing when fired upon. They did not prep it with an artillery barrage beforehand.
It is also important to note that this has not been just a U.S. Marine Corps operation, but a joint U.S.-Iraqi operation. The timing of it was such that they could collect adequate intelligence on the city and use the videotape that was shot by Arab journalists, which is now in the hands of Iraqi authorities, to capture and bring to justice those who perpetrated that terrible crime. And that heinous crime and the way it was captured on television was no accident.
The murder of those four defense contractors was planned and phoned in to the Arab media beforehand so that the pictures broadcast around the world might have the same effect that the train bombing in Madrid had on the Spanish elections -- to instill fear and generate calls for retreat. Thus terrorists in Iraq who use bullets and bombs have now added a public relations component as another asset in their quiver. And their latest offensive, which combined murder and its broadcast on television, has apparently worked on people like Ted Kennedy and Bob Byrd.
Those who continue to carp and complain about the war defend themselves by saying they have a First Amendment right to do so, but there is an inherent duty of responsibility in the exercise of free speech. Now that terrorists are mastering the manipulation of the media, war critics must consider the consequences that their criticisms may have on their countrymen who are fighting for freedom.