Oliver North

 Last weekend, 3,000 U.S. troops and 2,000 newly trained Iraqi troops restored control of Samarra to Iraqi citizens and liberated the city of 250,000. U.S. and Iraqi troops killed over 100 insurgents, and Iraqi commandos captured 25 rebels hiding in a sacred shrine. Along the way, coalition forces rescued Yahlin Kaya, a hostage who was photographed in front of a black banner, who may have otherwise been beheaded. After the firefight, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld lauded the Samarra invasion as a model of how U.S.-trained Iraqi and American troops will liberate all of Iraq before the presidential election in January.

 But American troops are not just good at taking out would-be terrorists. They've brought hope to millions of Afghanis who previously lived under a totalitarian regime. Newly freed citizens head to the polls this week in the first real election in the nation's history. The field is crowded with 18 candidates, including a poet and a woman whose campaign theme is that she will be an independent leader who will restrain the Afghan warlords. Once the election has taken place, Kerry will undoubtedly complain about hanging Afghan chads and the lack of paper receipts at polling places. Don't be surprised to hear Kerry denounce the Afghan elections as not being perfect instead of hailing a major democratic achievement for a country that has been at war for the better part of 25 years.

 The American effort in Iraq, which has come under constant criticism from Kerry, has resulted in the reconstruction of Iraqi civilization and the revival of its economy. The U.S. military has renovated 2,500 schools for Iraqi children and distributed 8.7 million new textbooks. American troops have re-flooded 30 percent to 40 percent of the marshland that Saddam Hussein drained before Operation Iraqi Freedom. They have ensured that Iraqis have the means to think for themselves: Iraqis now have access to 100 newspapers and broadcast outlets -- each of which has the freedom of speech needed to report the truth -- and the number of Iraqis who are now subscribers to Al Gore's Internet in Baghdad has jumped from 3,000 before the war to 80,000 today.

 It's precisely this progress that makes Iraqi insurgents continue their suicide missions. They believe that increased violence will cause the coalition to retreat and relinquish the fledgling Iraqi democracy into the clutches of Hussein's henchmen.

 As one Marine officer put it: "Those achievements, more than anything else ? account for the surge in violence in recent days -- especially the violence directed at Iraqis by the insurgents. Both in Najaf and Samarra, ordinary people stepped out and took sides with the Iraqi government against the insurgents, and the bad guys are hopping mad. They are trying to instill fear once again."

 Whether he realizes it or not, in his impatience to win votes Kerry eagerly plays the defeatist role cast for him in a play written by the terrorists. I, for one, have heard enough of his pessimistic soliloquy.

Oliver North

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.