Got to hand it to the new Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. Here's a guy who, less than two months on the job, has discovered the real enemy of his country. It's not, of course, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- he's dead. It's not other mass murderers of jihad who blow up markets and shoot up schools, who kidnap and maim and chop off heads. It's neither Baathist party holdouts nor "sectarian" violence. It doesn't come from Al Qaeda, and it doesn't come from Iran.
The enemy of Iraq comes from Haditha.
Haditha, of course, is the Iraqi town where American troops are alleged to have killed civilians on Nov. 19, 2005. If American society were not suicidal and self-loathing, this singular incident would be seen in the context of the greater war effort. If American society were not suicidal and self-loathing, the rush to judgment would halt in the imagined tracks of fellow Americans on patrol among hostile, even murderous townspeople. But no. American society is indeed suicidal and self-loathing, so Haditha is portrayed as the culmination of the war even as we giddily judge ourselves guilty as thrillingly charged. But that hardly excuses al-Maliki.
The New York Times reported his reaction to Haditha on its front page. The prime minister "lashed out at the American military," the newspaper wrote, "denouncing what he characterized as habitual attacks by troops against Iraqi civilians." The Times quoted al-Maliki as saying violence against civilians had become "a daily phenomenon" -- the next edition of the paper corrected this phrase to "regular occurrence" -- by many American troops who "do not respect the Iraqi people." al-Maliki went on: "They (the Americans) crush them with their vehicles and kill them just on suspicion. This is completely unacceptable."
What's completely unacceptable are al-Maliki's hyperbolic remarks. Iraq, drenched in American blood, littered with American limbs, is a land of American sacrifice. The goal of this sacrifice is a stable and peaceable Iraq that is no party to Islamic terrorism. Frankly, this is all very generous of us because, as far as strictly American interests go, we could certainly achieve an Iraq that is no party to Islamic terrorism without bothering with the stable and peaceable part -- and at much less American sacrifice.
This fact makes me wish to reconsider al-Maliki's ungrateful and slanderous statements -- at least as far as his apparent dissatisfaction with our presence goes. After all, the American mission has indeed been accomplished. Saddam Hussein no longer poses a threat to the region. His WMD programs, such as they are, have been destroyed. The idiotic U.N. Security Council resolutions, all 17 of them, have been upheld. Now the hydra-head of jihad in Iraq (Zarqawi) has been killed. Our only failure -- to create, say, Switzerland in Iraq -- is, to say the least, not for want of trying. It is high time to redefine the mission: What we should aim for is an Iraq that is not a terrorist threat, not an Iraq that is a democratic paradigm.
Would such a change in mission mark a defeat for the United States in the so-called war on terror? Only if we failed to rethink our overall strategy, particularly as it pertains to our assessment of Islam. That is, if Jeffersonian democracy remains a strategic goal for Iraq, anything short of that goal will be scored as a failure. But what if we accept the politically incorrect fact that our failure to establish liberty and justice for all in Iraq -- namely, freedom of conscience and equality before the law -- is due to the nature of Islamic culture, not to the efficacy of American efforts? If, five years after Sept. 11, we finally faced the fact that liberty in Islam -- defined, literally, as "freedom from unbelief" -- has nothing to do with liberty in the West, we could finally understand why an Iraqi constitution enshrining sharia is wholly incompatible with everything our own democracy stands for, and is thus not something worth dying for.
Such a reassessment would remove the "political transformation" of the Muslim Middle East from our war strategy. This would let us focus on the formidable military task of fighting jihad in Iraq and beyond -- eliminating, deporting and containing the threat as needed. This is a global war with many fronts, from Iran to Syria to Gaza to quite a few neighborhoods in Toronto, London and elsewhere. It is time to arrive at new ways and means to fight on them.