You say Fallujah, I say Rambo!

Posted: Apr 03, 2004 12:00 AM

I suppose it would be considered lacking in nuance to nuke the Sunni Triangle.

But so goes the unanimous vote around my household - and I'm betting millions of others - in the aftermath of what forevermore will be remembered simply as "Fallujah."

Wouldn't it be lovely were justice so available and so simple? If we were but creatures like those zoo animals we witnessed gleefully jumping up and down after stomping, dragging, dismembering and hanging the charred remains of American civilians whose only crime was to try to help them.

These are the times that try Americans' souls.

By now we're all saturated with the images of the four dead, members of a security team who escorted American convoys carrying food supplies to an ungrateful town. The four were killed by gunmen who ambushed and torched their vehicles before an angry mob, including children as young as 10, hauled out and mutilated the burning bodies.

It is hard at such times to keep one's head, to remain calm, to rise above the impulse to exact immediate revenge. Or to cut and run, as we did under similar circumstances in Somalia not so long ago. But keep our heads we must. Calmly we must transcend the primitive lust that compels ignorant others to mug idiotically for cameras.

Our revenge will be in facing down enemies who, though unworthy adversaries, impede the worthy goal of stabilizing a country whose future may predict our own. To retreat now would merely feed the terrorists' appetite for America's immediate failure en route to her ultimate demise.

Trust me when I say, I sorely want to leave. I want every mother's son and daughter home for dinner tonight. I want no malevolent Islamist fanatic in my thoughts or dreams ever again. I want to roll over and drift into careless sleep, mumbling, "Not this millennium, dear."

Sadly, we have no such option. We've learned that much. Retreating from the kind of evil we witnessed in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993, where a mob dragged a U.S. Army Ranger's body through the streets, and now Fallujah serves only to nourish people for whom brutality is a pastime.

Moreover, we've seen the sort of chaos we'd be leaving other Iraqis - the good, decent Iraqi people who trusted us once again - to face alone. We have no choice but to stay the course and fulfill our commitment. That said, it would be nice if the international community would step up to the plate and insist on justice. This isn't just America's war, but America's response to a war that was brought to us.

Fast-forwarding through all the familiar arguments against going to war in Iraq - and at great risk of boring myself into an irreversible nap - suffice it to say that Iraq was, as weapons investigator David Kay reported, in a position to create weapons of mass destruction and historically inclined to do so.

Yes, mistakes were made; intelligence was bad; stay tuned for 9-11 commission revelations to come. But post-Sept. 11, we couldn't afford to hope Saddam Hussein discovered his inner Mr. Rogers, even as he refused to cooperate with U.N. inspectors or to abide by resolutions demanding proof of disarmament.

We live in a terrifying new world - and we're justified in not liking it - but we get no breaks for denial. The terrorists who rained hell on our country two-and-a-half years ago were agents of America's reluctant maturation.

Until Sept. 11, we couldn't imagine that people purposely would fly airplanes into our buildings. Until Tuesday, we couldn't imagine that people we're trying to feed would murder and mutilate us.

Americans have the appealing if self-defeating habit of projecting their values onto others who haven't enjoyed centuries of self-enlightenment. But we learn and mean well.

What we know, and what we tell the rest of the world by our steadfastness, is that we will help even the unworthy; we will not back down from a just cause even when appalled and afraid; we mean what we say.

Still, a well-placed MOAB smack in the Sunni Triangle ... but then, we are not animals. A reel of Rambo will have to do.