View Full Version : The Turnaround

03-06-05, 09:57 AM

From the Editor:

The Turnaround

By Ed Offley

What do Hillary Clinton, journalist Daniel Schorr and the editorial board of The New York Times have in common?

Brace yourself: They have all recently broken ranks with the blame-America-first crowd to say that Operation Iraqi Freedom just may – gasp – be succeeding, and on a scale far beyond the conversion of Iraq from a Stalinist dictatorship to a working democracy.

Sen. Clinton was the first out of the gate several weeks ago when she and four other senators visited Iraq. They had just arrived in Baghdad when a terrorist murderer set off a car bomb in the city of Hilla that killed more than 125 civilians, the type of butchery that the Sunnis and jihadists have employed over the past two years in an attempt to dominate the news coverage, traumatize the Iraqis and dishearten public morale back here at home.

To her credit, Clinton did not engage in the usual hand-wringing. Far from it: She said that most of Iraq was “functioning quite well” and that the terrorists were losing. “The fact that you have these suicide bombers now, wreaking such hatred and violence while people pray, is to me an indication of their failure,” she added.

The sudden quickening of events in Iraq and the wider Middle East since the Marines’ offensive to drive the terrorists out of Fallujah four months ago is nothing less than stunning:

* The terrorists (one of my New Year’s resolutions has been to drop the word, “insurgents,” from my vocabulary) abjectly failed to prevent the resounding sight of millions of Iraqis peacefully voting for a transitional national government on Jan. 30. A sizable number of Sunni Arab politicians now admit they made a big mistake in boycotting the election, and are pleading to be included in the political process. Some ex-Ba’athists are even seeking terms for laying down their arms.

* Despite the lamentable reality that U.S. military casualties are continuing – the official death count passed 1,500 this week – the rate has fallen for two months in a row, and our commanders say improved tactics and specialized equipment appear to be suppressing the effectiveness of roadside bombs, the killers’ favorite weapon against the troops.

* While there are still about 50-60 attacks a day on coalition forces – the vast majority within the Sunni Triangle – this represents only about one-half the number recorded before the Fallujah operation, U.S. officials say. Most are ineffective, further suggesting that the perps are losing. And the apparent terrorists’ decision to go after Iraqi civilians instead of American soldiers and Marines is showing signs of backfiring.

Here’s a good example: Lt. Col. Jim Stockmoe, chief intelligence officer for the 1st Infantry Division, recently described one such attack to a British reporter. “There were three brothers down in Baghdad who had a mortar tube and were firing into the Green Zone,” the officer said. “They were storing the mortar rounds in the car engine compartment and the rounds got overheated. Two of these clowns dropped them in the tube and they exploded, blowing their legs off.” A third perp ran to a nearby house to hide, but its occupants “beat the crap out of him and turned him over to the Iraqi police,” Stockmoe said with satisfaction.

* The recent apprehension of several senior aides to terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has been credited to improved tactical intelligence on the ground in Iraq, prompting U.S. officials to predict that Zarqawi’s days as the John Galt of the Sunni Triangle may soon be over. Soon thereafter, either Syria or Iraq (depending on your news source) nabbed Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hasan al-Tikriti, Saddam Hussein’s half-brother and a suspected financier of the Sunni-backed terrorists.

And events in Iraq have sparked a sudden outpouring of a public yearning for democracy that has spread like ripples on a pond throughout the Middle East. In Lebanon, citizens from disparate ethnic groups that 20 years ago were locked in a brutal civil war have united in anger in response to the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri to demand that Syria end its long military occupation of their country, and the Quisling pro-Syrian government in Beirut has resigned. From Egypt to the Palestinian West Bank, ordinary Arab citizens are looking at the successful elections in Afghanistan and Iraq and asking, “Why not here?”

All of this prompted The New York Times editorial board this week to set aside its usual recitation of the Democratic Party’s daily talking points memo in order to recognize the obvious:

“It’s not even spring yet, but a long-frozen political order seems to be cracking all over the Middle East. Cautious hopes for something new and better are stirring along the Tigris and the Nile, the elegant boulevards of Beirut, and the sand-swept towns of the Gaza Strip. … ”

The editorial promptly cautioned that all is fragile, citing the deadly Tel Aviv bombing on Feb. 25 that was clearly intended to derail a nascent accord between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. But, it continued:

“Still, this has so far been a year of heartening surprises - each one remarkable in itself, and taken together truly astonishing. The Bush administration is entitled to claim a healthy share of the credit for many of these advances. It boldly proclaimed the cause of Middle East democracy at a time when few in the West thought it had any realistic chance. And for all the negative consequences that flowed from the American invasion of Iraq, there could have been no democratic elections there this January if Saddam Hussein had still been in power.”

Then Mr. Schorr, a commentator for National Public Radio, said this:

“The movements for democratic change in Egypt and Lebanon have happened since the successful Iraqi election on Jan. 30. … During the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, President Bush said that ‘a liberated Iraq can show the power of freedom to transform that vital region.’ He may have had it right.”

The struggle for Iraq is not over. Nor is the global war against al Qaeda and its proxy terrorist groups. But after two years of strife made worse by the seemingly inevitable mistakes, errors in judgment, insufficient advance planning and occasional bad luck on our side, it is becoming clear: We are on our way to victory and the results could be as historic as the fall of the Berlin Wall 15 years ago.

Credit President Bush for sticking to his guns. But especially thank the troops and their families for keeping the faith when so many who should have known better had lost theirs.

Ed Offley is Editor of DefenseWatch. He can be reached at dweditor@yahoo.com. Please send Feedback responses to dwfeedback@yahoo.com. © 2005 Ed Offley.