- The Washington Times - Monday, July 14, 2003

Clearly, the innumerable naysayers in the media and the opponents of the war to topple Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist dictatorship underestimated the lightning speed it would take U.S. forces to reach Baghdad. Analogously, it is fair to say that postwar occupation forces may have underestimated the desperation of the remnants of the defeated Ba’athist regime. In fact, it was the rapidity and certainty of the overwhelming military victory of coalition forces that led to the dispersal of so many of the Ba’athist bitter-enders and Republican Guard forces who are now re-engaging coalition soldiers in hit-and-run attacks.

The desperation of the dead-enders is manifested in their determination to thwart any progress achieved by the postwar reconstruction process. That is why they have been perpetrating unrelenting sabotage against Iraq’s rickety power grid and its oil infrastructure. It explains why they killed an American soldier on the campus of Baghdad University, which re-opened barely two weeks following the end of major combat operations. They sought to thwart the obvious progress represented by the graduation of a coalition-trained police class by detonating a bomb that killed seven new Iraqi recruits.

The media have been having a field day reporting the undeniable achievements of these bitter-enders, who have killed more than 35 coalition soldiers since May 1. What has been unreported — or, at least, under-emphasized — are their motives.

Let us share the poignant comments of an engineer and soldier from the 4th Infantry Division whose observations recently found their way to this page. After reviewing the coalition’s reconstructive efforts at electrification, water purification, and refinery and pipeline rehabilitation, this soldier asked: “If we are doing all this for the Iraqis, why are they shooting at us?” He answered: “The general population isn’t. There are still bad guys who won’t let go of the old regime. They are Ba’ath Party members who know nothing but the regime. They were thugs for the regime that caused many to disappear in the night, and they have no other skills.”

President Bush and the U.S.-led occupation forces in Iraq have reacted appropriately and encouragingly to the unpredictable events that inevitably follow war. Circumstances change; so too must policy. When U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer arrived in Iraq, for example, one of his first decisions was to delay the formation of an Iraqi governing council. Recently, however, Mr. Bremer saw the need to reverse course and did so expeditiously. Over the weekend, he unveiled the 25-member Governing Council of Iraq, which comprises representatives from all strands of Iraq’s complex social network, including Shi’ites, Sunnis, Arabs, Kurds, Christians and Turkmen. Mr. Bremer has promised the council “real political power.” In addition to appointing interim ministers, the council will also begin devising procedures for writing a new constitution.

The future, both the immediate and long-term, holds many difficult challenges. It was 24 years ago tomorrow, for example, that Saddam seized the presidency of Iraq. Thursday marks the 35th anniversary of the Ba’ath (or Arab Renaissance Socialist) Party’s ascendancy to power. The bitter-enders are expected to celebrate these events by perpetrating mayhem and death. Whatever short-term victories they achieve, they are destined to fail over time. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld confirmed Sunday that more American troops would be dispatched if needed. It was the right thing to say at the right time. There is no acceptable substitute for long-term victory.

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