-- "... the guerilla insurgency churns on ..." There is no doubt that the level of combat has increased since I was last in Iraq in April and May. Bombings, ambushes and indirect fire attacks against coalition and Iraqi government forces have multiplied because the militant sheikhs and imams who foment the fighting know their day is done if the Iraqis successfully hold a democratic election next year. Their only hope is to cause enough casualties that we withdraw before the ballots are cast, so the closer we get to that election, the greater the violence.
But this is no "guerilla insurgency." By definition, "guerillas" or "insurgents" represent an organized political alternative to an established regime. Radical Sunni and Shi'ite clerics like Muqtada Al-Sadr, who tortured and killed 200 men, women and children, and buried them in a mass grave in Najaf, don't promise to make things better for the Iraqi people. Nor do the remaining Baath Party warlords or foreign extremists like Abu Musab Al Zarqawi. These men inciting gunfights in Iraq aren't "insurgents," they are anarchists. They offer no unified "platform" other than "jihad!" When they aren't shooting at coalition or Iraqi security forces, they are trying to kill each other. Dangerous? Yes. A "guerilla army"? No.
-- President Bush has failed to "... take the target off American troops ..." Kerry should take a few minutes on Sunday evening to listen to some of the scores of "American troops" I interviewed in Iraq just a few weeks ago. They tell a much better story than Dan Rather -- and it would give the Massachusetts senator an idea of what combat is really like. Not one of them complains about being a "target." Instead, they all believe that the terrorists are the "targets" -- and explain that they would rather fight them in Iraq than here.
-- "... equipment deficiencies," a "lack of body armor ..." What are these people talking about? Watch "War Stories" this Sunday and see if Marine Capt. Mark Carlton, wounded by an enemy RPG -- and alive because of his body armor -- would agree. The same goes for the troops. All those I was with certainly seemed to be well enough equipped to survive terrorist I.E.D.s and fight back -- using some of the best technology and equipment in the world -- weapons, UAVs, helicopters, communications ... and guts.
-- "?deeply diminished morale?" Where? In the Kerry camp, maybe. But not in Ramadi, Iraq. The best barometer of troop morale is the re-enlistment rate. It's been that way since Valley Forge in 1777-78. When things are going badly and morale is down, so are extensions and re-enlistments. But in the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines that we documented in Iraq, so many Marines have asked to stay in the service that the battalion commander, Lt. Col. P.J. Kennedy, has had to request a waiver from established limits.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.