EN ROUTE TO IRAQ.
As I make my way to Iraq, once again, to cover the progress U.S. troops have made in rebuilding that country, I have mixed emotions. Of course, I’m pleased and honored to spend time with some of the finest young Americans our country has produced. Relating the stories of brave soldiers and Marines as they protect innocent Iraqis who will go to the polls for their third election in a year is a job a I look forward to doing.
These young men and women have worked tirelessly to remove a brutal dictator from power — a dictator who systematically tortured, repressed and killed his own people. They have been fighting terrorists who have infiltrated the country to try to take over where Saddam left off.
These young Americans, who have left their friends and families, have not only provided security to the Iraqi people, they have been training Iraqi security forces and rebuilding schools, hospitals and communities. They deserve our prayers, support and respect.
And that’s where the mixed emotions come into play. When I arrive, I can confidently tell our young people in uniform most of the country supports them and is praying for them. But there is a vocal and influential group of people who don’t. They are led by Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic Party.
Speaking on WOIA Radio in San Antonio, Texas, last week, Mr. Dean predicted America would lose the war in Iraq. Just a week before Iraqis hold historic elections to select representatives in the nation’s legislature, Mr. Dean assured us defeat is the only scenario on the horizon for Americans. Just three weeks before Christmas, as the troops and their families spend the holiday apart, Mr. Dean told our young men and women in uniform the time they spend away from their families is time spent in vain.
“The idea that we’re going to win the war in Iraq,” Howard Dean explained to the San Antonio station, “is an idea which is just plain wrong.” He went on to say, “I’ve seen this before in my life, and it cost us 25,000 brave American soldiers in Vietnam.”
Mr. Dean is wrong about the number of troops killed in Vietnam — it was not 25,000 but 58,178. He is also wrong about the prospects for victory in Iraq.
Mr. Dean, like other leading Democrats, wants to abandon the Iraqis and begin withdrawing, damn the consequences. According to the head of the Democratic Party, we should begin a “strategic redeployment” in which we “bring the 80,000 National Guard and reserve troops home immediately. They don’t belong in a conflict like this anyway,” he said.
I guess Mr. Dean would prefer our National Guard units deployed to places where they can really make a difference — like some far corner of the globe where they would take their orders from Kofi Annan or some Belgian brigadier in a blue beret.
But the Democrats were only getting started. When their leader was not calling our troops losers, their party’s 2004 presidential nominee, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, was characterizing U.S. soldiers as terrorists. Speaking to Bob Schieffer on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Mr. Kerry accused U.S. forces of “terrorizing kids and children,” in Iraq.
“And there is no reason,” Mr. Kerry said, “that young American soldiers need to be going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children, you know, women, breaking sort of the customs of the — of — the historical customs, religious customs,” he explained.
So let’s get this straight. American soldiers are terrorists, but there is no need for them to be, because the kind of late-night terrorism Mr. Kerry apparently condones, is the kind of terrorism “Iraqis should be doing.”
Also over the weekend, Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold, who was the first Democrat to set a date certain for withdrawal, said victory in Iraq is not a paramount concern of his. Appearing on “This Week,” Mr. Feingold said of Iraq, “This is not a war that we should really think in terms of winning or losing.” Typical liberal feel-good mumbo jumbo. We must not damage the terrorists’ self-esteem by defeating them. Let’s just call it a tie and vow, like Rodney King, “to just get along” in the future.
Those who put their lives on the line to defend America and solidify the liberation of Iraq deserve better than what they are getting from the leaders of the Democratic Party. Three weeks ago, after months of carping that the United States needed to withdraw immediately from Iraq, the House of Representatives put the measure to a vote. It was overwhelmingly defeated.
Withdrawing from Iraq without complete victory is a dim-witted and dangerous idea. It will harm the Iraqis whom we have liberated. It will endanger America’s national security and it will undermine the sacrifice our troops have made.
It is time for Democrats to start speaking responsibly or not at all.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist and founder and honorary chairman of Freedom Alliance.