BAGHDAD, Iraq -- To listen to John Kerry explain his position(s) on Iraq is to submit oneself to mental torture. In the first debate between the presidential candidates, Kerry explained that President Bush embarked upon a grand diversion from the War on Terror -- a grand diversion that Kerry said he would continue.
Bush, Kerry says, made a "colossal error of judgment" on Iraq -- a "colossal error of judgment" that Kerry voted to support. Kerry accused the president of alienating our allies -- i.e., the French and Germans -- only to then trash our staunchest allies in the War on Terror.
Kerry accused Bush of having a "go-it-alone" attitude that he employed to arrogantly attack Saddam Hussein instead of allowing the United Nations to direct America's national security. His running mate, John Edwards, joined the attack during his debate with Vice President Dick Cheney, alleging that Operation Iraqi Freedom is a catastrophic failure and a military operation totally unrelated to the War on Terror.
These guys could use two front row seats at a good motivational seminar. They clearly don't understand the tenets of leadership when they change their positions as often as they do. They don't understand the effect their carping criticisms have on the troops on the ground and their families back home when they charge that Americans are dying for a mistake.
They don't understand the nature of warfare or the nature of this enemy when they suggest that the War on Terror can be neatly wrapped up in a matter of months. The United States will be engaged in a prolonged offensive against terrorists at home and abroad for many years. That offensive is, and will continue to be, fought with military, diplomatic, legal, financial, law enforcement and homeland security efforts.
Our commander in chief understands that and has conveyed that message not only to our troops on the ground but also to the citizens of this country. Bush understands that victory is made more difficult when carping critics like Kerry and Edwards rally the masses to the cause of appeasement.
In spite of what the naysayers preach, there are positive signs to be embraced. After the attacks of Sept. 11, the Bush administration moved the war front from New York, Washington and Pennsylvania to Afghanistan and then Iraq. Would Kerry rather fight the terrorists here in our own country? The administration also rounded up thousands of Al Qaeda members who would have carried out attacks in the United States, and neutralized the danger they posed to American citizens.
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 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.