- The Washington Times - Friday, June 22, 2007

The largest offensive combat operation in Iraq since the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 is now underway outside Baghdad and in the city of Baquba, the command center of al Qaeda in Iraq. The Baquba operation is an offensive involving 10,000 U.S. soldiers backed by attack helicopters, close-air support, Strykers and Bradley fighting vehicles. Their mission is to capture or kill members of Al Qaeda in Iraq in and around the capital of the terrorist regime calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq. There are thought to be as many as 2,000 of them in and around Baquba.

Meanwhile, additional offensive actions are taking place in or near Fallujah, Salman Pak, eastern Anbar, the belts around Baghdad and areas of Diyala province, of which Baquba is the capital. These operations, undertaken with the aid of Iraqi forces and the 1920 Revolution Brigade( a Sunni insurgent group which has turned against Al Qaeda in Iraq, its onetime ally), are some of the early-stage dividends of the troop “surge.”

“The end state is to destroy the al-Qaeda influences in this province and eliminate their threat against the people,” said Brig. Gen. Mick Bednarek, deputy commanding general, operations, 25th Infantry Division. “That is the number one, bottom-line, up-front, in-your-face, task and purpose.” U.S. forces have spent weeks blocking expected escape routes in an effort to ensure that this time, unlike previous flawed engagements, the mistake of allowing terrorist fighters to slip away is not repeated.

These offensives are the product of months of preparation and intelligence gathering, and they provide an opportunity to move from the current bloody stalemate to conditions which make possible the emergence of a sovereign, U.S.-allied Iraq free of terrorist and insurgent violence. This is no moment for the kind of defeatist rhetoric we have heard in recent weeks from politicians like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. All good, patriotic Americans — whatever their position on the war in Iraq — should be hoping for its success.

But unfortunately, there are many in the country’s cultural elite who seem more interested in getting a cheap laugh out of the sacrifices of the American men and women carrying out this very dangerous operation. There’s the regrettable example of the court jester of American politics, Jon Stewart. Mr. Stewart, the professional cynic and trader in ridicule, now serves as news provider for an uncomfortably large swath of the country. Sneering at “our sophisticated strategy” between clips of Tim Russert and John Roberts calling U.S. strategy a game of “whack-a-mole,” he prompts laughs at Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, who inadvisably sustained the metaphor: “What we are now positioned to do with the surge at full strength is whack a whole lot of moles simultaneously.” The omniscient Mr. Stewart in response, going for what his writers ostensibly believe to be the jugular: “When we win the war, we’ll get a plastic comb!… Hopefully at that point the United States and its coalition allies will land the ping pong ball of justice into the fishbowl of Islamofascism.”

Supporting this war in the current toxic political climate opens a person to no end of caustic ridicule from ivory-tower elitists who seem to care less about winning than about getting a cheap laugh at the expense of the war effort. The troops deserve better. Right now, the country must win a war against a cowardly enemy determined to kill us anywhere they can — today it will be in Baquba and Baghdad; in the future it could well be in New York or Washington.