31 May 2011

This Memorial Day and the War in Iraq

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Walter Russell Mead thinks the American intellectual establishment ought to have taken the occasion of this year’s Memorial Day to face the truth and applaud the victory delivered by American servicemen in the face of their own betrayal.

The story of Iraq has yet to be told. It is too politically sensitive for the intelligentsia to handle just yet; passions need to cool before the professors and the pundits who worked themselves into paroxysms of hatred and disdain for the Bush administration can come to grips with how wrongheaded they’ve been. It took decades for the intelligentsia to face the possibility that the cretinous Reagan-monster might have, um, helped win the Cold War, and even now they haven’t asked themselves any tough questions about the Left’s blind hatred of the man who did more than any other human being to save the world from nuclear war.

It may take that long for the truth about the war in Iraq to dawn, but dawn it will. America’s victory in Iraq broke the back of Al-Qaeda and left Osama bin Laden’s dream in ruins. He died a defeated fanatic in his Abbotabad hideaway; his dream was crushed in the Mesopotamian flatlands where he swore it would win.

Osama’s goal was to launch the Clash of Civilizations against the West. He would be Captain Islam, fighting against the Crusader-in-Chief George W. Bush. By his purity, wisdom, daring and above all by his special knowledge of the hidden ways of God, Captain Islam would crush and humiliate the evil Bush-fiend and unite the Muslim world behind the Truth. Osama would complete at a spiritual level the mission his father undertook on the physical plane. His father’s construction company rebuilt and modernized the ancient holy city of Mecca; Osama would rebuild and restore the entire Muslim world.

The 9/11 attacks propelled Osama to the historical height he sought: in the minds of many he had become a caliph-in-waiting, the fierce servant of God whose claims to leadership were vindicated by the dramatic success of his plans. Angry young people across the Islamic world, frustrated by a host of frustrations and privations, wondered if this was the charismatic, God-aided figure who would overturn the world order and lead Islam to its old place on the commanding heights of the world.

9/11 was the trumpet, Iraq was the test. The US invaded an Arab country, overthrew its government, and found itself condemned to the hardest task in international politics: nation building under hostile fire. More, the US had taken a country run by its Sunni minority and put power into the hands of an inexperienced and fractious Shi’a majority. Then the US occupation began to fail: the government institutions fell apart, there was no security in country or in town, the economy went into free fall, and basic services like electricity and health failed across the land. The provocations were serious and real; the Americans were clumsy and awkward. US checkpoints and raids were humiliating and degrading; the scalding Abu Ghraib scandal was a propagandist’s dream come true. The ham-handed diplomacy and tongue-tied defense of American policy from Washington created a sense of rising, unstoppable global opposition to Bush’s War. …

For roughly three years America writhed in the toils of our predicament in Iraq. The Democratic establishment had supported the war. Some leading Democrats did so out of conviction, some out of a political calculation that no other stand was viable in the post 9/11 atmosphere. Now the grand panjandrums of the Democratic Party, one after another, made their pilgrimage to Canossa. Some came to believe and perhaps more came to say that the war was lost and that their original backing for it had been a mistake.

Well do I remember the many impassioned statements in those dark years by leading politicians and pundits that the war was lost, lost, irretrievably lost. It was over now, they wailed on television and in print. The Iraqi government was a farce and could never take hold. These clowns made Diem look like Charles de Gaulle. We had no option but to get out as quickly as possible. On and on rolled the great choir of doom, smarter than the rest of us, deeper thinkers, capable of holding more complex thoughts behind their furrowed brows.

Now they have glibly moved on to other subjects; the mostly complicit media is helping us all to forget just how wrong — and how intolerant and moralistic — so many people were about the ‘lost’ war.

While the politicians washed their hands and hung up white flags, and while the press lords gibbered and foamed, the brass kept their heads and the troops stood tall. And gradually, a miracle happened. America started winning the war.

The French scholar Gilles Kepel, no friend of the war in Iraq and no admirer of George Bush, makes the core point. Osama’s dream was to shift history into the realm of myth. He passionately believed that the ordinary course of mundane history wasn’t what really mattered: there was a divine and a miraculous history just behind the veil. Osama aimed to pierce the veil, to bring hundreds of millions of Muslims into his reality, transfixed and transported by the vision of a climactic fight of good against evil, of God against America and its local allies.

That dream died in Iraq.

But on this Memorial Day it is not enough to remember, and give thanks, that Osama’s dream died before he did and that the terror movement has been gravely wounded at its heart.

Because the dream didn’t just die.

It was killed. ..

All wars are tragic; some are also victorious. The tragedies of Iraq are real and well known. The victory is equally real — but the politically fastidious don’t want to look. The minimum we owe our lost and wounded warriors is to tell the story of what they so gloriously achieved.

On ths Memorial Day, a truth needs to be told.

We have not yet done justice to our dead.

Read the whole thing.

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