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Will Embarrassing the President Make Us Safer?

By Ed Koch

Over the last few years I have written of my fears that we Americans, as a people, have lost our will to fight for our freedom.

We have come to expect that wars can be fought without casualties, even the relatively modest casualties we have suffered in Iraq. During World War Two, more Americans were killed or wounded on Iwo Jima in one month than have fallen in Iraq in almost four years. Of course, every military death and severe injury is a tragedy. Nevertheless, former Secretary of State Colin Powell has said that our army in Iraq is "about broken," which appalled and frightened me. Added to those two disturbing dangers to our national security is a new and third factor: denial of a military threat to our armed forces. Such a denial allows us to avoid addressing the threat with an appropriate military response.

We are not at war with Iran, but Iran seems to be at war with us. In the last year we have suffered at least 170 American military deaths in Iraq and 640 American soldiers have been injured as a result of Iranian manufactured and supplied explosives supplied to Iraqi insurgents and terrorists. These explosives are planted at the side of the road and are activated when U.S. military vehicles pass by. They are especially dangerous because their high technology design allows them to penetrate armored vehicles and kill and maim the occupants.

All American leaders, including the President, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Chairman of the Joint chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, agree that these weapons are manufactured in Iran. They are provided to Iraqi insurgents and terrorists by an Iranian military unit known as the Quds Force. What we are not able to state with certainty is whether, according to The New York Times, "senior leaders of Iran's government are directly involved in the attacks."

The Times states, "Based on evidence gathered inside Iraq, American intelligence analysts have concluded that a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps known as the Quds Force is supplying Shiite groups with Iranian-designed weapons, called explosively formed penetrators."

The Times reported, "Because the Quds Force, which operates outside Iran, has historically fallen under the command of Iran's senior religious leaders, intelligence agencies have concluded that top leaders in Tehran are directing the attacks."

General Peter Pace is quoted in The Times as saying "that American forces had confirmed that some bomb materials found inside Iraq were made in Iran, but 'that does not translate that the Iranian government per se, for sure, is directly involved in doing this.'"

The Times points out the [Iranian revolutionary] "Guard has also been accused of supporting terrorist attacks outside Iran, notably the 1996 truck bomb attack on the Khobar Towers complex in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 American service members. In December, a federal judge ruled that the government of Iran bore responsibility for the Khobar Towers attack and ordered Tehran to pay survivors of those killed more than $253 million."

So what do we know with certainty? There are those in Iran, on a significant scale, supplying Iraqi insurgents and terrorists with deadly bombs responsible for killing and injuring 820 American soldiers in the last year. Is it reasonable to believe that is possible without the approval of sectors of the Iranian government? I refer to the civil government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the theocratic and supreme government of the religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the dominant government official.

In dictatorships where dissidents seek to engage in activities prohibited by the state, those so engaged usually end up on the gallows. They are enemies of the state. It is beyond the realm of common sense to believe the Iranian government is aware of the supply activity as it is, the U.S. having made it public on several occasions, and is neither actively or passively, and knowledgably engaged in that activity. In fascist, Nazi, communist, theocratic and totalitarian states that extensively control the lives and political conduct of their citizens, there is very little crime, and practically zero crime against the state.

The Times reports why the Iranian government is engaging in this kind of behavior, writing, "Still American intelligence agencies have concluded that over the past year the Iranian government had adopted a new policy of directly confronting the United States inside Iraq. The policy officials assess is aimed partly at raising the cost of American involvement in the Middle East, teaching the Bush administration a lesson about the cost of regime change and putting pressure on American forces to leave.

"But another reason, they say, is to dissuade the Bush administration from taking a more confrontational policy toward Tehran by sending a message that Iran can ratchet up the attacks on American forces in Iraq."

It appears that Iran has succeeded in staring us down and preventing us from taking appropriate military action to protect our troops and punish those seeking to harm them. Iran will not be required to pay a price because our army is "about broken" and is not capable of responding. How awful and unnerving for the U.S., the sole remaining superpower in the world.

Democrats and some Republicans in Congress are seeking to humble, embarrass and, if they can, destroy the President and the prestige of his position as the Commander-in-Chief who is responsible for the safety of our military forces and the nation's defenses. By doing so, they are adding to the dangers that face our nation. And so I ask again them again: do you think that leaving a power vacuum in Iraq will make us safer? If, as a result of the power vacuum, the terrorists are emboldened and God forbid we sustain here in the U.S. civilian casualties comparable to those caused in Iraq by car bombs, will you publicly accept responsibility?

Ed Koch is the former Mayor of New York City.

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