Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his band of roving terrorists remain a threat, in large part because they are supported and promoted in mosques here in Iraq and throughout the region -- Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia -- by imams who hate the freedom they see taking root in Iraq and anyone -- Muslim or not -- who supports it. They concoct stories of American atrocities against Muslims -- or they just read Newsweek -- to recruit kids to go blow themselves to smithereens in an Iraqi marketplace, in the ghastly hope of taking a few peace-loving fellow Muslims -- or possibly a few Americans -- with them. In a new level of depravity, the terrorists have taken to videotaping the self-destruction of their own youth and the ensuing mayhem, seemingly to be used later as propaganda to recruit the next batch of suicide bombers.
But this wave of violence, real as it is, represents neither the people, nor the future, of Iraq. The people of Iraq see it contrasted against the hope Americans bring, and they are siding with us. This violence is a "hearts and minds" campaign, aimed at the all-too-eager international media, itching for a story to show how the Americans are "failing" and to dishearten freedom's allies.
It won't work. During Operation Matador, I asked Marine Lt. Col. Tim Mundy, commanding officer of the Third Battalion, Second Marine Regiment, if he thought the terrorists actually had a hope or if they were acting out of desperation. He told me, "It's more desperation than anything. They know that things are going well in other parts of Iraq and they think it's time to make a last-ditch effort out here, and it's my job to make sure they don't succeed."
Thanks to the professionalism, dedication, skill and incredible character of the men and women wearing the uniform of the U.S. military, he's got a good chance.
The United States still does not have an ambassador in Baghdad, a vacancy that hampers communications and coordination between the U.S. military and the Iraqi government, but in the battle for the people of Iraq, our men and women in uniform -- in the towns and on the front lines -- are our best ambassadors. Our Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen rescue wounded comrades; weep openly over loss; pass out candy, teddy bears and soccer balls; and share their food, water, hugs, smiles, and dreams for a better future for all God's children. They are the best ambassadors we have, and they are doing yeoman's work in assuring a brighter future here in this dusty, unforgiving land. Marine Staff Sgt. Darin Patterson of the Fifth Civil Affairs Group said, "it's always a step forward, whether it's just one 1or 2 inches, it has to start somewhere." It starts in the heart of an American -- the dedicated, tenacious, devoted, tender heart of an American.
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.