As we listen to General Petraeus’ testimony to Congress this week and mark, on Wednesday, the fifth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, we should keep in mind the number of young Americans who have sacrificed their lives for America. Any judgment we make about where we are and what we must do in Iraq must be conditioned by the courage and commitment of those who have volunteered to protect us.
Consider Mike Monsoor as just one example of those who believe in the cause of freedom and believe in protecting America.
He Yelled “Grenade!” but It Was Too Late
On the morning of September 29, 2006, Petty Officer 2nd Class Mike Monsoor was on duty with three fellow Navy SEALs on a rooftop in Ramadi.
Monsoor was 25 years old and already serving his country with more courage and more impact than most of us do in our lifetimes.
The SEALs’ job was to protect the coalition troops clearing the streets below their rooftop position. When they came under automatic weapon and rocket-propelled grenade fire, Monsoor and his fellow soldiers stood their posts. Suddenly, an insurgent lobbed a grenade up onto the roof. It hit Monsoor in the chest and bounced onto the floor. He yelled, “Grenade!” but it was too late to escape the rooftop. So Monsoor threw his body on the grenade and absorbed the blast. His three fellow SEALs survived. Michael Monsoor died thirty minutes later.
Wednesday Marks the Fifth Anniversary of the Fall of Baghdad
For his bravery and sacrifice — fully comprehensible only to brothers in arms — today Petty Officer 2nd Class Monsoor is posthumously being awarded the nation’s highest honor, the Medal of Honor.
It is fitting that this reminder of our permanent debt to young men and women like Mike Monsoor comes today. In addition to General Petraeus’ testimony this week, tomorrow marks the fifth anniversary of the fall of Saddam Hussein’s brutal tyranny.
In these five years of conflict, only three other Americans have been awarded the Medal of Honor for service: two in Iraq, and one in Afghanistan. Together with the thousands — indeed millions — of acts of honor, courage, and sacrifice of our other service men and women, they are the true story of this war. And keeping faith with them by completing our mission in Iraq is the great challenge we face.
The Iraq War Is a Battle in the Larger War against the Irreconcilable Wing of Islam
So where are we today, five years after we watched cheering crowds topple the statue of Saddam Hussein in central Baghdad?
As I warned in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute last fall, Iraq is just one battle in the global war against Islamic extremists. And the debate over success or failure in Iraq is crowding out a larger examination of what it will take for America to prevail in this real war.
The United States is in a long struggle with a vicious, determined enemy in the Irreconcilable Wing of Islam. This Irreconcilable Wing, what some have called Islamic Fascism, is a small minority of Muslims — 8 percent by one estimate. Still, this means a jihadist recruiting pool of over 100,000,000 people. This is a determined, hardened movement willing to kill innocent civilians — including women and children — and to engage in deliberately horrifying and brutal acts in order to impose its will through terrorism.
An American Faction That Would Prefer Defeat to Continued Struggle
Afghanistan and Iraq are two of the great battlefields of this struggle between freedom and modernity on the one side and terrorism and religious dictatorship on the other. Neither battle has been won. Both are still contests in which violent radicals seek to defeat America and her allies.
Here at home there is a faction that would prefer defeat to continued struggle.
This is nothing new.
There were a number of Americans who tired of the Revolutionary War and were prepared to surrender to the British Empire and resume their role as colonists. They thought freedom was simply too expensive.
“We Here Highly Resolve That These Dead Shall Not Have Died In Vain”
There were a number of people who tired of “Lincoln’s War” and were prepared to dissolve the Union and allow the South to secede. They were the people Lincoln was rejecting in his Gettysburg Address (which I have attached below as a reminder of how Americans honor those who have given the fullest sacrifice so they will not have died in vain).
Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives, that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate — we cannot hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
There were many Americans who believe the slogan “better red than dead.” From Henry Wallace’s 1948 Progressive Party campaign to the very end of the Cold War there were people prepared to give away American security and freedom to appease the Soviet Union.
In that tradition the North Vietnamese had no better allies than the American Left and the demonstrations against the American effort to defeat communism in Southeast Asia.
Careers Invested in Bad News about America and Bad News about the War
Now once again we have those who are tired of the fight, afraid of the costs, and eager to appease our enemies.
As you listen to General Petraeus’ testimony tomorrow, remember that he is testifying to a Congress in which a significant number of people will actually be saddened if America wins. All too many Congressmen and Senators (and sadly too many editorial writers) have invested their careers in bad news about America and bad news about the war. They will be opposed to reports of progress and they will be opposed to any suggestion that, with determination, America can win.
Success Is Being Achieved in Iraq, and Victory is Possible
Despite the determined negativity of those who are invested in defeat in Iraq, the news from there is good.
As Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) pointed out yesterday in the Wall Street Journal, General Petraeus will testify in Washington this week “having led one of the most remarkably successful military operations in American history. His antiwar critics, meanwhile, face a crisis of credibility — having confidently predicted the failure of the surge, and been proven decidedly wrong.”
And my colleague at the American Enterprise Institute, Frederick Kagan, has a new report out that states confidently in its opening sentences:
The United States now has the opportunity to achieve its fundamental objectives in Iraq through the establishment of a peaceful, stable, secular, democratic state and a reliable ally in the struggle against both Sunni and Shiite terrorism. Such an accomplishment would allow the United States to begin to reorient its position in the Middle East from one that relies on antidemocratic states like Egypt and Saudi Arabia to one based on a strong democratic partner whose citizens have explicitly rejected al Qaeda and terrorism in general.
A Dark Cloud on the Horizon: The Continuing Threat of the Iranian Dictatorship
Despite the progress being made in Iraq, Iran remains a major source of violence, terrorism, and instability.
Speaking to reporters last week, Major General Rick Lynch, a U.S. Commander in Baghdad, described facing three enemies in Iraq: Sunni extremists, Shia extremists and Iranian influence.
Here’s what Lynch told reporters:
Last night I attended a memorial service for one of my soldiers; he was killed by an explosively-formed penetrator. Tonight I will do the same thing. These Iranian munitions, placed in the hands of the Shi’a extremists, are causing devastating affects on Iraqi security forces, on the coalition forces, and your innocent Iraqi people. And that just has to stop.
As you watch General Petraeus testify, note the details that are coming out about Iranian involvement in Iraq. And remember that Iran is a danger, not just to our troops in Iraq, but to our way of life. Here’s how I put it in my AEI speech: “As long as the current dictatorship runs Iran and works every day to create nuclear weapons and to sustain terrorists groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas, and the professional state-sponsored terrorists of the Iranian Guard units, our civilization will not be safe.”
Honor Those Who Have Sacrificed by Insisting on Victory
We will hear a lot of information and disinformation this week about America’s effort in Iraq and in the war against the Irreconcilable Wing of Islam.
Despite the demonstrable progress that has been made, we will hear more voices urging us to leave Iraq in defeat.
But here are the facts to remember:
The United States is engaged in the right fight in the right countries.
We are gradually winning those fights, but the road will be long and difficult.
Now is the time for Americans to insist that we honor the memory of those who have sacrificed for America — men and women like Petty Officer 2nd Class Mike Monsoor and his family — by insisting on victory for the cause of freedom.
P.S. — If you haven’t already seen this outrageous ad showing the American southwest as part of Mexico, I’m reprinting it here. Although the ad is only currently running in Mexico, as the LA Times blog notes, it seems almost “absolute” that it will hurt sales here north of the border.
P.P.S. Columnist and National Review Editor Rich Lowry has written an insightful article about how bad culture and bad government have destroyed the city of Detroit.
P.P.P.S. On Friday, May 2, I will speak to the 2008 Young Republican Leadership Conference in Washington, DC. Registration has been extended until April 11, so if you’re going to be in Washington visit yrlc2008.net to register and get more details.