- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 9, 2004

Pictures, stories and commentaries about American soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners are dominating the news. They’re everywhere. I agree this regrettable incident must be addressed, but let’s not lose our heads over it.

I understand the outrage. We must never condone this kind of behavior by our soldiers, even against human beings who have no respect for human life, know no bounds of decency and would gladly brutalize our soldiers in ways that would make our soldiers’ mistreatment of them look like child’s play. We must hold ourselves to a higher standard.

Perhaps we should apologize to the civilized world and to the Iraqi people, but I’m not so anxious to apologize to the “victims” themselves, who would probably have enjoyed eating our intestines for lunch well before the incident.

But let’s not fool ourselves into believing our genuine efforts to make amends will mollify the Arab street or foreign nations predisposed to think the worst of us. Surely we don’t think for a second the perversely biased Arab media outlet Al Jazeera, for example, will be impressed by our contrition.

Accountability means we accept responsibility, mete out swift and sure justice to the perpetrators and take corrective measures to prevent this kind of thing from recurring. It does not mean we beat ourselves to the point of questioning the righteousness or justice of our cause.

This incident is the exception and involves a very small fraction of soldiers. They do not represent the average soldier, who is honorable and puts his life on the line every day to protect American security and freedom and establish Iraqi self-rule. Let’s not paint our entire armed forces, the Defense Department, the Bush administration and the United States itself with a wide brush of condemnation.

Our brass never condones this type of behavior. We have conducted this war with serious restraint and utmost humanity. This episode is the last thing the Bush administration wanted to happen because it undermines troop and civilian morale.

Let’s have some perspective here. While a handful of abusive U.S. troops is an exception, the same is not true of our enemy, whose true nature we dare not forget. The ordinary enemy combatant is an unrepentant murderer.

The enemy and his sympathizers rejoiced as they mutilated our people and dragged them through the streets. Sex-related humiliation is one thing, but how about the deliberate killing of innocent women and children as a theological obsession?

Where’s the outrage for the actions against us? Where are the condemnations? Where are the apologies?

And speaking of the enemy, some choose to believe the hostilities in Iraq are wholly unrelated to the War on Terror. But the identity and character of the enemy we fight there conclusively proves otherwise. To see that the action in Iraq is part of the war on terror, we need only observe the cause uniting the enemy.

The enemy — terrorists, thugs and anarchists, local and international — is doing everything it can to obstruct self-rule for the Iraqis. We are not at war with the Iraqi people or the Iraqi soldiers helping us defend the Iraqi people. The ongoing fighting in Iraq isn’t between the United States and Iraq, but the United States and Iraq against the terrorists.

Sad to say, some of the president’s critics and political opponents are beginning to exploit this, energetically wringing their hands and resurrecting talk of the ugly American — though they are Americans themselves. Liberal columnists are using this isolated case to validate their preformed opinion that our entire war effort has been mismanaged and a failure.

Well, I’m not willing to concede everything has gone bad for us in Iraq or that we are guilty of poor planning because we didn’t accurately predict every terrorist strike against our troops. Do the critics really believe it’s possible to fight a casualty-free war, especially against an enemy that has less respect for the rules of war than it does for life itself?

I just don’t understand the logic behind allegations we are bungling the war because we sustain casualties or because a few of our soldiers get out of line. How easy it is for the armchair quarterbacks to condemn our whole military operation every time we have setbacks fighting an unpredictable urban war against an uncivilized, brutal, inhumane and evil enemy.

This is war. Let’s quit pretending it’s some kind of pristine chess match.

David Limbaugh is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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