As I was reading the IBDem's opening, I had to stop a few times and ask myself, "Self? Did you slip over to John Kerry's website by accident?". Truly, from beginning to the very end, the only thing that separated his opening from a Kerry campaign ad were the words "I'm John Kerry and I approve of this Opening Argument".
But that's pretty much what I expect on the issue of Iraq. In order for opposition to the President to gain the slightest bit of traction, our efforts in Iraq must be seen as a failure. And certainly, the IBDem has painted a pretty grim picture.
Unfortunately, it's not a picture of what's actually happening in Iraq.
In my opening, I addressed the question, "Have we won the war in Iraq?". The answer, of course, is yes - in stunning fashion. Coalition military forces managed to travel 300 miles into hostile territory in five days while incurring fewer casualties than in any other war in history. They did this without triggering the humanitarian disaster
the UN so stridently predicted. They did this while critics
and media personalities
were likening Iraq to Vietnam not even five days after forces entered the country. But their dire predictions turned out to be utterly false. We won the war in less than a month.
Now we're fighting a new conflict. Call it Iraq: Part II. Call it The War on Newly-Minted Terrorists (to borrow my brother's phrase). But know that it's a different war. It's the war my opponent would have you believe is question mark-intensive phase of President Bush's Underpants Gnome Strategy. I know this because I was actually visited by an Underpants Gnome
this afternoon. He tried to convince me of the very same thing the IBDem wants all of us to believe. He wants us to believe that we're fumbling around in the darkness, throwing away the lives of soldiers, and tossing inconceivable amounts of money down a black hole. But I didn't buy it and you shouldn't either?
The fight to root out the terrorists, disaffected Baathists, and foreign mercenaries and rebuild the country is the second part of the strategy - the new war that we have to fight in order for Iraq to emerge a democracy with any hope of stability. In this new war, we are looking at an entirely different situation. Our opponents are different. We have gone from one objective to several. The time frame for success has lengthened. That's all to be expected. As I said in my opening, cleaning out the rabble and helping a country rebuild and start a brand new government is not an overnight operation nor is it cheap. But guess what? We're winning this one, too.
My opponent has given us a series of points to illustrate that we're not winning. Taken at face value, he has pretty telling points. But there are a few things he's not telling you. Let's look at some of his points.
- We're incurring increasingly more casualties. Yes, that's true. Can't deny it. Then again, so are they. It is difficult, if not impossible, to get an accurate figure on how many "insurgents" Coalition forces have killed since April 3, 2003. I know because I looked all over the net for a couple hours today. So let's look at a few news stories to see what sort of numbers we can get from them.
In recent action near Tal Afar, Coalition forces killed between 67 and 100 insurgents with few casualties. British forces killed over 100 Mahdi militiamen in August with no casualties. In fact, that same article notes that a casualty toll of 1500-2500 dead militia during August alone "would not be unreasonable" yet Coalition forces lost 75 soldiers in that same amount of time, nationwide. We're killing terrorists at a rate of ten to one or greater in our engagements and you can see that with virtually any news story you choose to read.
If the numbers of their casualties compared to ours is a measure of victory, then we're winning.
- Reconstruction costs are "spiraling out of control". The source my opponent quoted puts the figure at 120 billion dollars this year and John Kerry deceptively puts the figure at 200 billion dollars. But is this really an out-of-control spiral?
Well, not exactly. After World War II, the Marshall Plan cost the United States between 2.5 and 5 percent of our national income - a good amount over 200 billion dollars a year. In 2003, our national income was 9707.8 billion dollars (!) and by my quick and dirty math, the 120 billion dollars we spent in one year on Iraq was only 1.2 percent of that. Even if we take the inflated figure of 200 billion dollars, we only come up to 2.1 percent - well under the lowest point of the Marshall Plan. We're spending a smaller percentage of our wealth today than we did to rebuild a new democratic Germany. If spending is a measure of victory, then we're winning.
- Our Coalition is shrinking "almost by the day". Well, if "by the day" you mean "over the course of five months" then sure. We had 33 nations in the Coalition in April, 2004. Now we have 31. That's no real cause for alarm since it's far more nations than are currently involved in Afghanistan. If the size of our coalition is a measure of victory, then we're winning.
- The populations centers are out of control. Well, unless you happen to ask the Iraqi Interim Prime Minister. He seems to believe that:
"...Najaf now is back to normality, the people are going about doing their own business. People are going to the mosques, to the shrines, to restaurants, hotels, so on. The same applies to Samarra, which was even probably more than Fallujah, problems there. Likewise in Basra. There are -- the vast majority of Iraq is really calm, no problems. Samarra, Diwaniya (ph), Hilla, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), Kut, Basra, Najaf, Karbala, Suleimaniya (ph), Erbil, Tahuk (ph), these are all calm places, and the government is in full control."
If the stability of the country, as voiced by the leader of that country, is a measure of victory, then we're winning.
There are a couple of points my opponent mentioned which I will not address because I don't see them as germane to the topic at hand, though they may be germane to other discussions (having terrorists operating against soldiers with guns as oppposed to unarmed civilians, or the specific reliability of the National Intelligence Estimate).
My opponent also says that our losing is an "inescapable conclusion". Well, that conclusion seems to have broken free and is now climbing the Empire State Bulding. I expect him to dispatch the biplanes to shoot it down, so let's see if I can wrap this up by clipping the wings of the IBDem's Air Force.
My opponent says that not only are we losing in Iraq but also that we can never win as long as President Bush stays in office. He stakes that argument on three reasons, which I will boil down into a nice tomato-ey reduction for you: 1) the President was delusional, 2) the President was grossly unprepared, and 3) the President lied. Well, how can I possibly argue with those? I'm going to need something just as classy and with every bit as much factual information as I can muster.
How about this? I know you are but what am I?
Really, I can't seriously respond to an argument that purports to be intellectual, but in reality is the same old ad hominem
attack we've heard about George W. Bush since he ran for Governor of Texas. And I suspect that it'll prove every bit as effective as it has in the past. Don't believe me? Ask Ann Richards or Al Gore.
But still, one point does need rebutting. It's common anti-Bush mythology that people weren't celebrating in the streets and giving us a ticker-tape parade as we liberated their country. Well, go back and read the two articles I posted about the Coalition taking of Baghdad. Note the opening of one article: "As jubilant crowds danced and cheered in the streets of Baghdad...". Look at the photos on the sidebar. Check out the headline of one of those stories, "U.S. Troops Cheered in Baghdad" and look at the photo. Or read this article
. Or you could read the words of Iraqis themselves, like these
, or him
. It seems that even for a people "skeptical of all authority and wary of the Americans' insistence that they were liberators" they were pretty willing to whoop it up now that they could without ending up in a shallow mass grave. We'll have to forgive them for learning how to live a torture-free life before they planned our Liberation Shindig.
As for the lack of a ticker-tape parade, well, he's got me there. On the other hand, I'm sure we'd settle for the archving of the ten million documents
we've taken from Hussein's governmental strongholds or the documents we're using to uncover his bribery program
undertaken under the watchful eye of the UN. It ain't ticker tape but it'll do just fine I think.
I'm not sure it needs to be said, but I'll say it anyway. If uncovering tens of millions of documents outlining the depravity of an ousted dictator and his long efforts to bribe the world into complacence is a measure of victory, then we're winning.
To conclude, I'd have to say that we're winning this new war in Iraq as well. It's not an easy victory as was the first, but it's happening. We have a long way to go before it's won, but we get a little closer every day. A lot of people, my opponent included, would have you believe otherwise - often for the most crass political reasons. But don't be fooled.
We are winning.
-Jimmie Bise, Jr., Challenger