Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The speech that threw down the gauntlet

Yesterday President Bush addressed the VFW out of Kansas City. In his address he discussed this war we are currently fighting in, listed it's successes and it's failings. But in this address was a key area that many seemed to have overlooked:

After America entered the Vietnam War, the Graham Greene argument gathered some steam. As a matter of fact, many argued that if we pulled out there would be no consequences for the Vietnamese people.

In 1972, one antiwar senator put it this way: "What earthly difference does it make to nomadic tribes or uneducated subsistence farmers in Vietnam or Cambodia or Laos, whether they have a military dictator, a royal prince or a socialist commissar in some distant capital that they've never seen and may never heard of?" A columnist for The New York Times wrote in a similar vein in 1975, just as Cambodia and Vietnam were falling to the communists: "It's difficult to imagine," he said, "how their lives could be anything but better with the Americans gone." A headline on that story, date Phnom Penh, summed up the argument: "Indochina without Americans: For Most a Better Life."

The world would learn just how costly these misimpressions would be. In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge began a murderous rule in which hundreds of thousands of Cambodians died by starvation and torture and execution. In Vietnam, former allies of the United States and government workers and intellectuals and businessmen were sent off to prison camps, where tens of thousands perished. Hundreds of thousands more fled the country on rickety boats, many of them going to their graves in the South China Sea.

Three decades later, there is a legitimate debate about how we got into the Vietnam War and how we left. There's no debate in my mind that the veterans from Vietnam deserve the high praise of the United States of America. (Applause.) Whatever your position is on that debate, one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like "boat people," "re-education camps," and "killing fields."

There was another price to our withdrawal from Vietnam, and we can hear it in the words of the enemy we face in today's struggle -- those who came to our soil and killed thousands of citizens on September the 11th, 2001. In an interview with a Pakistani newspaper after the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden declared that "the American people had risen against their government's war in Vietnam. And they must do the same today."

His number two man, Zawahiri, has also invoked Vietnam. In a letter to al Qaeda's chief of operations in Iraq, Zawahiri pointed to "the aftermath of the collapse of the American power in Vietnam and how they ran and left their agents."

The enemy knows our history better than we do apparently. Hugh Hewitt has a lengthy post this morning where he observes the antiwar Left, and what their ultimate plans are. In a stirring comparison to then and now, Hugh caught this piece by Peter Rodman at NRO. Mr. Rodman explains the failures of the US departure from Vietnam, but more importantly, he highlights the aftermath.

After our departure an estimated 1 million people were imprisoned without formal charges or trials; 165,000 people died in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam's re-education camps (this number comes from a series of academic studies in the United States and Europe); in Cambodia, Pol Pot's murderous reign of terror became infamously known as the Killing Fields where an estimated 1.7 to 2.3 million were killed out of a population of seven million people.

I bring this up because it bears a level of notice in comparison to what could happen in Iraq with a precipitous withdrawal. There are just over twenty-six million people living in Iraq, based on 2006 numbers. Should we withdraw the radical Islamic elements in Iraq would be turned loose on the populace. The insurgency will have accomplished it's task of driving us away, in concert with AQI and Mookie al-Sadr's militia. Upon our departure there will be a power struggle in Iraq. Neither the native insurgency, al-Sadr's militia, or AQI will get along. They won't form a new government. It'll be a lot like Beirut in the eighties, and Somalia in the nineties -- the "Wild West."

A lot of civilians are going to be murdered int he cross-fire. Many will be maimed. The goal of those left in Iraq won't be to set up a stable government. They're going to go toe-to-toe with one another in a fight for dominance over Iraq, and it's vast wealth. And if the antiwar Left thinks that the civilian body counts will end when one of the dogs int he fight claims victory, and is able to hold onto power, think again. Given who may win the fight, the people will either be living in a Sunni or Shia extremist nightmare that makes Afghanistan pre-2002 look like a walk in the park. Twenty-six million people is a "target-rich" environment for the terrorists, and they will subjugate that nation for all it's worth in an effort to remake it in the image they desire: A bass-ackwards, Seventh Century Hellhole where they rule through the most extreme form of shari'a law. Those of us that saw the remnants of the Saddam regime in the mass graves discovered would be sickened a decade or two from now when more would be uncovered.

But, as Generalissimo Duane observes the antiwar Left has no intention of letting up. Harry Reid sounded off first earlier this year when before the surge had even come close to achieving full strength, he declared it was "lost." He stated that if General Petreus returned in September, he was more apt to disbelieve his report, and had serious misgivings that Petreus would be truthful about the situation on the ground. He's not the only one spouting off. Here are two quotes, the first from Senator Clinton, the second from Senator Kennedy, on their concerns about Iraq right now:

"The surge was designed to give the Iraqi government time to take steps to ensure a political solution to the situation. It has failed to do so."

"...political reconciliation continues to elude Iraq’s leaders."

They have turned on the success achieved by the surge, in military terms, and are now harping on the political side. First off, the surge had little to do with the political process. It's sole design was to end the terrorists stranglehold on a number of provinces and cities in Iraq, and it is doing just that. Secondly, the Iraqi Parliament, and overall government, has taken a month off from work to allow General Petreus to execute his plans. When they return in September, they will be returning to work with better security and less violence in Baghdad and surrounding areas, and they'd better be returning with a new zeal to accomplish the tasks they need to. Smaller aspects of the government, say at the "grass-roots" level have met with measured success in doing what needs to be done to get their communities back up to speed. We are working as quickly as we can to ensure water and electricity to these communities. When the Iraqis return, it'll be there turn at the table to accomplish the overall national goals, and Petreus will have given them the cover they need to do so.

The president was right to invoke the legacy of our withdrawal from Vietnam. That withdrawal had innumerable implications and repercussions that have haunted us until today. We ran from Vietnam. We ran from Beirut. We ran from Somalia. Every time someone took a rolled up newspaper to our nose, we ran. It foments the image of a craven nation that can't handle an animalistic enemy that still denies it's masses -- subjugated or voluntary -- the basic human rights that God gave mankind from the start. That is the mistake we can ill afford to make this time around. When we leave Iraq, we have to do it on the right terms, not the terms dictated by those that foster the perception of being on the side of our enemy. That includes the antiwar fever swamp, and the duplicitous elected officials in the Congress.

If we don't exit Iraq on our terms -- terms that include it's security and stability in the region -- ten we're only inviting another massacre in history. The people of Iraq will suffer like they never have before. The animals fighting us in Iraq would probably even allow the Turks to sweep into Northern Iraq to wipe out the Kurds while Sunni and Shia fight it out in the rest of the country. Iran would up the amount of weapons and terrorists flooding into Iraq, as would Syria from the north. The fallout of our withdrawal before the nation is ready to stand and defend itself would be disastrous. Now maybe the Left wants to see this, but I'd rather not. I missed the aftermath of Vietnam, and with good reason. (I was born in 1972.) But I don't want to see it unfold on a much larger scale across our TV at night. I also don't want the US to show the world they lack the will to defeat a bloodthirsty enemy that is determined to bring back the caliphate they once had.

We are in this for the long haul. It's time the antiwar nutters were silent, and the critics joined them. Let our troops do their job so they can come home. We do want them home as much as the next person, but I prefer they come home in victory, not cowardly retreat, as the Left is so fond of pushing. And certainly not in the form of a weakened nation which just invites more of the same violence into our nation and on our allies.

Publius II


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