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Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Battle Victory Iraq - Challenger - Opening Statement

First, I want to apologize for the delay. Not noticing the timestamp on The Chairman's e-mail, I was working on the belief that the deadline for my opening statement was Wednesday at midnight instead of Tuesday. But thanks to his gentle correction and forebearance, I'm here. I also wish to apologize for the comparative brevity of my opening post. working on a short turnaround time in the most harried part of my week isn't going to lead to a lot of words. I hope that will not be held against me - not greatly at least.

So now, on with the Fiesta!

Iraq. Is the war won? If not, are we winning it? If not, why not and what can we do to win it? The questions we might consider in this Battle seem predicated on the answer to the last one being "no". So I'm going to shortcut the process a bit.

The Chairman asked if we were winning the war in Iraq. My answer is that we already won the war there. You could say that we won the day the commanding general in Iraq recommended the President declare major combat operations over, thus paving the way for nations who had promised us aid but not during those military operations to fulfill their promises. You could say we won the war the day we dragged Saddam Hussein from his spider hole and imprisoned him for a later Iraqi trial. You could say that we won the war the day we gave Iraq back to the Iraqis, returned their nation to a soverign status and gave them control over their own government and destinies again.

For my money, though, I opt for the first. We won the war when, after watching the Iraqi armies rout before Coalition forces and hearing of Saddan Hussein's panicked flight from Baghdad, our troops rode into Baghdad and a cheering crowd topped a statue of Saddam Hussein. That day was April 9, 2003.

I can understand confusion about Iraq. After all, war isn't always so definitive and the aftereffects of a war can last for months, years, or even decades. For instance, we still maintain troops in Japan and Germany 60 years after defeating them in World War II. Our troops still patrol the Korean DMZ 50 years after the armistice. Toppling a country and rebuilding it is a long process fraught with pitfalls and more than ample opportunity for mistakes. Oftentimes forces that oppose the rebuilding blend and change until it's not clear exactly who we're fighting. Vietnam was an excellent example of that and that even happened during the war itself. What we're facing in Iraq right now is one of those blends - a few leftovers of Saddam's regime, a dash of Sunni militants looking to grab a handful of power, a healthy dollop of terrorists who flow over the Iranian and Syrian borders like water, seasoned by the occasional cleric backed by Iranian mullahs. But that's a different fight with different enemies, different tactics, and an entirely different goal than the war we won in April, 2003.

There's a difference between "winning the war" and "winning the peace". I suspect the debate this week will center far more on the rebuilding operations in Iraq than the actual war itself. Conflating those two things to equal importance, or blending them together until they are indistinguishable is not only not useful, but also ultimately harmful. It is that blending that so easily brings the word "quagmire" to the lips of critics (and indeed had them using the term even while Iraqi forces were running so fast many left their weapons behind them and Saddam Hussein was shopping for spiderhole furniture) and gives critics of the President the comfort and safety of 30-year old war protest slogans in which to wrap themselves. I suspect that my opponent is going to blend these two more and faster than a bartender trying to win a Daquiri-making contest while hopped up on crystal meth. Don't be fooled.

We won the war.
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