Opponents of President Bush and his Iraq policy have jumped on a comment last week by Gen. John Abizaid, commander, U.S. Central Command, before the Senate Armed Services Committee: "I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I've seen it, in Baghdad in particular, and that if not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move toward civil war."
Ignored in most of the media coverage was what Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at the same hearing: "I believe that we do have the possibility of that devolving to a civil war, but that does not have to be a fact." Gen. Pace added: "Our enemy knows they cannot defeat us in battle. They do believe, however, that they can wear down our will as a nation." Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY.) called the administration's Iraq policy a failure, which can only encourage the terrorist insurgents to keep on fighting and killing Iraqis and American soldiers. Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI.) seemed fixated on timetables for withdrawal instead of defeating those who want to destroy the elected government of Iraq.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld reminded the panel that the United States and the free world are in a "global struggle against violent extremists." Rumsfeld's testimony bears reading and repeating to a large number of people who, in their quest for pleasure and personal peace, appear to lack the staying power required to defeat perhaps the greatest evil the world has ever faced.
Taking note of the differences between the way the United States and terrorists fight, Rumsfeld said, "one side puts their men and women at risk in uniform and obeys the laws of war, while the other side uses them against us." We have seen that in the world's reaction to Guantanamo Bay prison and Abu Ghraib. Terrorists use torture and murder and no court of public opinion or judicial entity holds them accountable. The rare instance of abuse by American soldiers is punished.
Rumsfeld elaborated on the difference between the two sides: "One side does all it can to avoid civilian casualties, while the other side uses civilians as shields, and then skillfully orchestrates a public outcry when the other side accidentally kills civilians in their midst. One side is held to exacting standards of near perfection; the other side is held to no standards and no accountability at all."
Rumsfeld noted how the enemy uses our media to undermine American resolve, "planning attacks to gain the maximum media coverage and the maximum public outcry." And then, most importantly, he said: "If we left Iraq prematurely - as the terrorists demand - the enemy would tell us to leave Afghanistan and then withdraw from the Middle East. And if we left the Middle East, they'd order us - and all those who don't share their militant ideology - to leave what they call occupied Muslim lands, from Spain to the Philippines, and then we would face not only the evil ideology of these violent extremists, but an enemy that will have grown accustomed to succeeding in telling free people everywhere what to do."
For those who claim Iraq has nothing to do with the war on terrorism, Rumsfeld noted, "This enemy has called Iraq the central front in the war on terrorism."
During World War II, U.S. and German forces fought the battle of Hurtgen Forest. It began Sept. 19, 1944 and ended Feb. 10, 1945. That was one battle in a strategically insignificant corridor of barely 50 square miles east of the Belgium-Germany border. The Germans inflicted more than 24,000 casualties on American forces, while another 9,000 Americans were sidelined due to illness, fatigue and friendly fire. Had live TV beamed this battle to America, there might have been an outcry that the policy was failing and somehow a cease-fire and an accommodation with Hitler should be achieved. Amer
ica won that war because the objective wasn't to understand the Nazis, or to reach an accommodation with them; the objective was to win the war. Anything less in this war - against an equally evil and unrelenting enemy - will mean defeat for the United States and for freedom everywhere. That's what Rumsfeld was getting at when he said, "We can persevere in Iraq or we can withdraw prematurely, until they force us to make a stand nearer home. But make no mistake: They are not going to give up, whether we acquiesce in their immediate demands or not."
Rumsfeld is right.