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Preserving Our Freedom

By Jon Kyl

Our annual observance of Independence Day offers an important opportunity to reflect on our freedom and the sacrifice that has been made by Americans throughout our history to preserve it. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 clearly illustrated the threat to our freedom.

We are still engaged in a struggle against terrorists who wish to turn back our freedom, and the central battlefield in our war against terrorists is in Iraq. Our troops are fighting the terrorists overseas, so that the battle isn't waged on American soil.

On a visit to Iraq earlier this year, I had the opportunity to speak at length with U.S. troops, Iraqi leaders, and senior American officials, including General Petraeus, who is leading our mission there. Every person with whom I spoke expressed "cautious optimism" about our strategy and the country's future.

General Petraeus's new strategy, which is just now fully underway, is beginning to show signs of success. Iraqi forces are assuming more responsibility over their security, coalition forces are receiving more cooperation from Iraqi civilians, and humanitarian and economic conditions are improving.

Though no one can guarantee that General Petraeus's new plan will ultimately succeed, we do know what would happen if the United States were to permanently withdraw from Iraq. All of the progress that has been made thus far would be jeopardized.

There would be ethnic cleansing and genocide against Iraqi citizens who supported coalition forces. Iran and al Qaeda would be emboldened by our retreat, and terrorists would enjoy a new safe haven from which to plot terrorist attacks against the U.S. and its allies.

America's moderate allies in the Muslim world, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, would justifiably question our commitment to them and to the "long war" in which we find ourselves. All would begin to hedge their bets and cooperate less with the United States, further enabling and emboldening terrorists.

Withdrawing our forces will not end our war against the terrorists - they would simply follow us home, and we'd see attacks on our own soil. Congress must now determine whether we intend to win this war, or retreat in failure; and those who advocate an immediate withdrawal or other strategies for defeat are obligated to explain how they would deal with the resulting chaos.

Our work in Iraq is far from over, but we're seeing progress. On this Independence Day, we should honor the sacrifices of our men and women fighting overseas, and pause to reflect on what they're fighting for - it's not just to protect our nation, but it's to preserve our freedoms.

Sen. Kyl serves on the Senate Finance and Judiciary committees and chairs the Senate Republican Conference. Visit his website at

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