It's clearly been a bad couple of weeks in Iraq. The process of birthing ? if you will ? a democracy among a people who never have lived under one is proving to be as messy as one might expect.
Dozens of brave American soldiers have been killed so far this month; an upstart cleric seems to be gaining support throughout the country for his virulent anti-Americanism; and the specter of al-Qaida's recent successes in Madrid hangs in the air like a dark, foreboding cloud. As the June 30 deadline to turn over power to the Iraqi people draws closer, the country seems less ready for the handover than it was two or three months ago.
But as these darkest moments in the death and remaking of Iraq unfold, I think back on the words of Bill Bennett, author, radio host, former U.S. secretary of education, distinguished fellow in cultural policy studies at the Heritage Foundation and all-around wise man of the modern conservative movement. Yes, the situation in Iraq is messy, Bennett said in a magnificent, powerful speech he gave in November to Heritage Foundation members. And yes, President Bush and his aides sometimes have seemed reluctant to defend their actions.
"But let's be clear on this," he said that day. "In the issue that matters most ? our survival, the civilized world's survival, the spread of democracy, the war against terrorism and radical Islam ? the president is right and his critics wrong."
I strongly urge you to read the entire text of this brilliant speech. It is the single greatest defense of the war for freedom in Iraq simply because it lays out the truth about what America and her allies have done on behalf of our own freedom and that of the Iraqi people. The truth is the most powerful defense of the war ? and it is the truth that is missing from the vast majority of news reports on the conflict.
Here's a summary of what Bennett said:
He rattled off the undisputed evidence of our success: We have not been attacked again ? even though our adversaries have tried. We've radically disrupted al-Qaida. We've arrested or killed two-thirds of its leadership and have its top man ? Osama bin Laden ? on the run, in hiding. We've expelled the Taliban and laid the groundwork for a free, democratic Afghanistan.
As Bennett bluntly pointed out, we've also stopped pretending the terrorist murderer Yasser Arafat can ever be a partner in peace in the Middle East.