- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 13, 2003

The first jab at the Bush administration from the “peace at any price” crowd — the charge of “unilateralism” — had a rather elastic definition, but then hooey always has a high rubber content.

Unilateral? The United States had spent 12 years providing the spine behind U.N. Security Council Resolution 687 (which ended Desert Storm and sanctioned Saddam). Mr. Bush also put Resolution 1444 through the Security Council — a last chance for Saddam to meet 687’s requirements.

Before and after the Taliban collapse in Afghanistan, the Bush administration coordinated humanitarian aid with the United Nations and a host of organizations. Humanitarian cooperation across the spectrum of aid and development organizations is standard procedure for America, no matter who runs the White House. Frankly, the World Food Program and similar agencies would flop without extensive U.S. political, financial and logistical support. The Bush administration provides that support to these “multilateral” agencies.

So scotch “unilateral.”

Then came the “rush to war” hokum, a charge utterly ignoring the long war with Saddam that began Aug. 2, 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait. In retrospect, the U.S. reaction to Saddam’s provocations in 1994 and 1996 was slow and inadequate. Rush to war? In early 2003, leftist “human shields” rushed to Baghdad, to protect Iraqis from U.S. bombs. In November 2003, however, there’s no peacenik rush to put their bodies between U.N. facilities and al Qaeda car bombers.

Once Operation Iraqi Freedom kicked off, the defeatist cant became “quagmire.” The New York Times’ R W Apple declared in late March (on the front page) that Central Command’s attack was a “quagmire.” Of course, CENTCOM pulled off one of the most successful military offensives in history.

Pundits dub the next tripe theme “The Imminent Lie.” This hogwash maintains Mr. Bush “lied,” alleging the president said Saddam was an imminent threat to attack with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. Actually, in his 2003 State of the Union address, Mr. Bush said just the opposite, that we couldn’t wait until the threat was imminent.

Now we’ve come to the long trial in Iraq. Dictatorships are the biggest cause of terrorism and the biggest cause of poverty on this planet. The Iraqi people have a truly blessed opportunity — the chance to build a democracy in the politically dysfunctional Middle East. However, defeatist poohbahs chant, “No one told us the job would be tough.”

Malarkey. Early on, defense and policy analysts publicly vetted post-Saddam challenges. In a recent column, I trotted out a quote from an article I wrote in the Weekly Standard’s Dec. 9, 2002, issue. Forgive me, it must trot again:

“U.S. and allied forces liberating Iraq will attempt — more or less simultaneously — to end combat operations, cork public passions, disarm Iraqi battalions, bury the dead, generate electricity, pump potable water, bring law out of embittering lawlessness, empty jails of political prisoners, pack jails with criminals, turn armed partisans into peaceful citizens, rearm local cops who were once enemy infantry, shoot terrorists, thwart chiselers, carpetbaggers and black marketeers, fix sewers, feed refugees, patch potholes, get trash trucks rolling, and accomplish all this under the lidless gaze of Peter Jennings and Al Jazeera.”

Winning a war is difficult. Ask the World War II generation.

Every experienced strategist understands warfare is, at its most basic, a clash of human wills. The motive will of a man who spends years preparing to smash a jet into a skyscraper is large in big letters. His cohorts are betting America is a sitcom nation with a short attention span. We’ll change channels, cut and run.

Mature Americans recognize everyone has a leadership role, especially in times of crisis. The cooperation and common trust demonstrated by Americans evacuating the World Trade Center not only saved thousands of lives, it was indicative of America’s capacity for individual leadership.

Self-critique is one thing, the acid of self-doubt spurred by lies is something else. It’s time for every American to be a leader, to bury these lies — from unilateralism, to quagmire, to “no one told us” — and get on with the hard business of winning the War on Terror.

Austin Bay is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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