Why we fight, why we must stay

Yesterday on the third anniversary of the libeation of Iraq, our friend William J. Bennett gave a video commentary on CBS Sunday Morning. Bill is the Washington Fellow of the Claremont Institute and the host of the nationally syndicated radio show “Bill Bennett’s Morning in America.” He has kindly granted us permission to post the text of the column:

I pass by the Marine Corps Memorial on my way to work every day; it recalls and memorializes the taking of Iwo Jima. We honor the bravery and victory there, but too often we forget the tough struggle and the hard cost involved there. Almost 7,000 American soldiers died in one month at Iwo Jima. In the Battle of Okinawa, we lost over 12,000 men in two months. In Europe, on D-Day, we lost 2,500 of our brave men in just 24 hours. Those numbers are astounding to think about, but they are not the whole story: the whole story was the ultimate success born of our resolve, from not quitting when the going got tough-and we freed Europe and Japan from tyranny; from a treachery determined to blow out the moral lights around us.

What was Iraq before we went in? It was a place led by a ruthless barbarian who, thanks to our work, is now in jail. Today, the world is free of a tyrant who had not only attacked two of our allies but had run a regime where, as one observer in the Washington Post put it: “His police and intelligence services starve babies within sight of the agonizing mothers, gouge out the eyes of children before their parents, offer a male suspect the spectacle of the repeated rape of his wife and daughters, or slowly immerse a victim in a vat of acid.”

We can put all of that in the past-tense now. Or, if we leave, we will leave a vacuum of power and see that kind of regime take power again.

We are at war with terror in Iraq. Know that many many terrorists were in Iraq long before the American military got there. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who heads an organization he calls Al-Qaeda in Iraq, lived in Iraq freely at least a year before we arrived. So too did Abu Abbas, the mastermind of the Achille Lauro hijacking and Abu Nidal-perhaps the world’s worst terrorist until Osama bin Laden.

We cannot leave today. In three years, Iraq has gone from an entrenched tyranny to a fledgling democracy, but it cannot YET stand alone. Terrorists, insurgents, dead-enders, and tyrants either want Hussein back, or their own version of a perverted rule of Nazism. Don’t take my word for it, just read the last several messages of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri-they want us OUT, and they want us out NOW.

If we heed the desires of bin Laden, Zawahiri, and Zarqawi rather than our own soldiers and our allies, we will hand the terrorists a victory, we will endanger the entire region, and we will be taken less seriously on the world stage-something we cannot afford. Especially now. Radical Islam is on the march, we must stop that march.

Remember, bin Laden said we were a paper tiger: he said we would leave when the going got tough. We must prove him wrong. But, people say, “The War goes on too long; it’s cost is too terrible.” Well, no war has ever not been so –a nd no country can go from barbarism to democracy on somebody’s theoretical deadline. Terrorists who behead civilians, cannot be left alone to destroy our new ally, the first democracy in the Arab world.

What we have done in Iraq and what we are doing there now are among the noblest things we have ever done. You know, we truly are the last best hope of earth. We dare not quash that hope in Iraq, and, in the process, destroy our valiant, struggling friends–and their hope for peace and justice.

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