October 12, 2005
Bush administration officials thought establishing a democratic
Iraq would be quick work. In an essay I wrote for the Dec. 9, 2002,
issue of The Weekly Standard, I described what I thought
a very difficult path to peace:
Gen. Tommy Franks or, for that matter, any American military
commander tasked with overseeing a post-Saddam Baghdad. For
in that amorphous, dicey phase the Pentagon calls 'war termination'
... U.S. and allied forces liberating Iraq will attempt -- more
or less simultaneously -- to end combat operations, cork public
passions, disarm Iraqi battalions, bury the dead, generate electricity,
pump potable water, bring law out of embittering lawlessness,
empty jails of political prisoners, pack jails with criminals,
turn armed partisans into peaceful citizens, re-arm local cops
who were once enemy infantry, shoot terrorists, thwart chiselers,
carpetbaggers and black-marketeers, fix sewers, feed refugees,
patch potholes and get trash trucks rolling, and accomplish
all this under the lidless gaze of Peter Jennings and Al Jazeera."
with the nitty-gritty of governance and economics, the sentence
ends with a caustic reminder of the importance of media interpretation.
2005: Peter Jennings has passed away, Al Jazeera is still with
us -- though arguably less antagonistic since the Iraqi presidential
election of January 2005. The terror war within Iraq continues
to pit terrorist hell against democratic hope. A multitude of
economic and governmental challenges linger.
combat in Iraq is not simply the result of slapdash postwar planning.
The United States has two strategic goals that have taken years
to mesh in terms of political, economic and military operations.
engage Al-Qaida on military and political battlefields in order
to destroy its claim to "divine sanction" and to "speak
on behalf of Islam."
seed development of modern, democratic states in the politically
dysfunctional Arab Muslim Middle East.
both goals defeats Al-Qaida. Goal Two is a multi-decade project.
Reaching it requires sustained, courageous effort, but Iraq's
January election and its constitutional process are signs of progress.
Sensational carnage and "expert pessimism" dominated
the international media's January election coverage. Despite the
dour predictions, Iraqi voters responded, waving ink-stained fingers
-- a terror-defying demonstration of political change. Al Jazeera
didn't miss it.
defeat in Afghanistan dealt Al-Qaida's claim of "divine sanction"
a hard blow.
smashing Al-Qaida's claim to act on behalf of "all Muslims"
is far more complicated than killing or arresting terrorists.
Undermining its megalomaniacal appeal meant exposing it as the
inhuman, ungodly Mass Murder Inc. it is. The optimal outcome would
be to expose Al-Qaida as a threat to Muslims and detrimental to
the best ideals of Islam.
zealots blow up trains in Spain or subways in London, those are
attacks of their choosing conducted on "infidel terrain."
The genius of the war in Iraq is a brutal but necessary form of
strategic judo: It brought the War on Terror into the heart of
the Middle East and onto Arab Muslim turf. In Iraq, Abu Musab
al-Zarqawi's theo-fascists have been spilling Arab blood, and
Al Jazeera has noticed that, too.
also seen the Iraqi people's struggle and their emerging political
alternative to despotism and feudal autocracy.
murder spree has revealed fissures among Al-Qaida fanatics. Last
week, the United States released a letter coalition intelligence
believes Al-Qaida's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, sent
to Zarqawi. Zawahiri describes Iraq as "the greatest battle
for Islam in our era." But Iraq has become a political and
information battle that Zawahiri realizes Al-Qaida may be losing.
According to The New York Times, Zawahiri told Zarqawi
to attack Americans rather than Iraqi civilians and to "refrain
from the kind of gruesome beheadings and other executions that
have been posted on Al-Qaida websites. Those executions have been
condemned in parts of the Muslim world as violating tenets of
2004, Zarqawi acknowledged a democratic Iraqi state would mean
defeat for Al-Qaida in Iraq. To defeat democracy, he has pursued
a strategy of relentless, nihilistic bloodbath. It's a brutal
irony of war: In doing so, he is losing the war for the hearts
2005 Creators Syndicate