By Richard Larsen
Published – Idaho State Journal, 06/10/07
Osama bin Laden, the villain of 9/11, has said explicitly, “the most serious issue today for the whole world is this Third World War that is raging in Iraq.” Al Qaeda’s number two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, said that “Iraq is now the place for the greatest battle of Islam in this era.”
Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of Multi-National Force-Iraq, confirmed in April, that “Iraq is, in fact, the central front of al Qaeda's global campaign and we devote considerable resources to the fight against al Qaeda Iraq.”
It should be obvious to all that the principal front in the global effort against Islamo-fascist terrorism is in Iraq. Not only can we see from the statements of Al Qaeda’s leadership, but the fruits of their efforts are splashed across the headlines of newspapers on a nearly daily basis. Their words articulate their objectives, and their efforts validate those claims.
In light of these facts, it’s difficult to comprehend why so many Americans seem to think we should withdraw before the foe is vanquished. Not only in light of the fact that Iraq is the central battlefield for the war against terrorism, but whether we would be better off by leaving with so many of the enemy congregated there.
Those of you who have served in the military know this better than any of the rest of us: the battlefield is where the enemy is. It is not defined or limited by artificial geographic boundaries. In military operations, you go where the enemy is. Although there remain stubborn vestiges of Al Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan, the primary concentration of Al Qaeda-led terrorists is now in Iraq.
Withdrawing from the fight in Iraq because that wasn’t where the original fight was would be like withdrawing from France during World War II for the same reason.
Regardless of the debate over whether we should have toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime or not, and regardless of how we may feel individually over the conflict there, that’s where the enemy is. It’s obvious from the bin Laden and Zawahiri comments that they see Iraq as their primary focus for victory over the infidel. If they succeed in forcing our removal from Iraq, it will be indeed a huge victory for them. How could we not think that they would be emboldened by forcing our retreat prematurely? How could we not think they would be stronger after we left without defeating them, and consequently, how could we not think they would strive to attack us here on our homeland again with them so emboldened and perhaps stronger than ever?
Some of the documents recovered in Iraq illustrate further how important Al Qaeda’s victory over us is. In a letter from Zawahiri to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq until his death a year ago, Zawahiri said that in order to achieve their goal of establishing a caliphate in the heart of Islam, that the first stage for success is: “Expel the Americans from Iraq. The second stage: Establish an Islamic authority or emirate, then develop it and support it until it achieves the level of a caliphate- over as much territory as you can to spread its power in Iraq, i.e., in Sunni areas, is in order to fill the void stemming from the departure of the Americans, immediately upon their exit...” He went on in his letter to outline the strategy to force American withdrawal using propaganda and mass media to turn the American people against operations there. Not surprisingly, many political leaders have fallen into this trap as well.
Consider a milieu where a Taliban-like extremist group governs Iraq, sacrificed at the altar of public opinion by political opportunists in D.C., with control over the 2nd largest source of world oil, and then teaming up with Iran, the 4th largest source of oil, to create an extremist theocratic Islamic caliphate, not only sympathetic with the intent of terrorists against the West, but in a position to fund, arm, and perpetuate global terrorism like never before. You think oil prices are high now, wait until that happens. They would have us literally “over a barrel.” This frightens me, as it should you.
Zawahiri continues, “The Americans will exit soon, God willing…Things may develop faster than we imagine. The aftermath of the collapse of American power in Vietnam-and how they ran and left their agents-is noteworthy.” It would appear that terrorists are better students of U.S. history than many of us are.
And what do the Iraqis themselves say? Anbar is one of the two provinces (Iraq has 18, 16 of which are stable) where so much of the insurgency is occuring. Yet with General Petraeus’ new methods of securing the last two provinces, much progress has been made in part because of assistance from local tribal and ecclesiastical leaders in the region. A tribal leader, Sheikh Hussein echoes the desires of local leaders: “We would like America, a friend, to rebuild the country. This is what we want, what the tribes want.” He continues, “Please, tell the Democrats for now to stop pressuring Bush.”
The Zobai tribe in Anbar province, which has been tolerant of Al Qaeda’s insurgency and terrorism, is now turning against them. A Zobai leader estimates that “98% of the people are now against Al Qaeda.”
We have a vested interest and a national security stake in a stable, democratic Iraq. Not only for decent oil prices, which is the “engine” that drives global capitalistic markets, but for national security, to stem the tide against an enemy that has proven that he’s willing to die for his cause. President Bush has warned us repeatedly that this will be a long struggle against Islamic extremism. For now, the primary front is in Iraq. We need to remain there long enough for the Iraqi government to take care of itself.
Victory in Iraq is just as important, if not more so, than victory in Afghanistan. They are, after all, simply different battlefields in the same war. There may be arguably a moral distinction between the two in terms of how we became militarily engaged, but there is no distinction in why we are there now and how critical it is to be successful on both fronts.