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A message of hope

Today is a day to reflect and remember. It’s a day to honor those who perished as a result of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Unlike previous wars, those who died were not soldiers. Rather, they were civilians who became casualties of the most despicable, unprovoked attack in modern history. Equally important is that today is a day to recommit our selves to ensure that such an event never occurs again.

Consider-ing today’s significance, I wasn’t certain what to write about. But then last Saturday, Jon McMaster of Vail wrote in a letter to the editor asking, “How can a man like Butch Mazzuca who served his country valiantly in an unpopular war (Vietnam) mouth the party line of the Bush administration?”

I respect Mr. McMaster for crafting his words in such a manner as to disagree with me without impugning my intelligence or character. Also, it should be known that I served no more valiantly in Vietnam than the other pilots in my squadron, but I sincerely thank Mr. McMaster for acknowledging my service there. His reference to Vietnam was also a propitious segue into this commentary.

At the conclusion of the Vietnam War the United States undertook a long and painful process of self-evaluation. The fact that Americans undertook such an introspective challenge through national debate spoke volumes about us as a people because it’s essential to the long-term viability of a society to engage in self-examination in the aftermath of significant social or cultural events.

Continuing with that concept, I believe that a relevant benchmark to quantify our progress in the war on terror is to ascertain if any self-examination is occurring in the Arab world. Unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge there has been no public debate or self-examination by the Arabs regarding their culpability for the events of Sept. 11. Until such self-examination occurs, there will be no end to terrorism emanating from the Middle East.

So the question becomes how does the world induce the Middle East to examine itself and modify its own abhorrent behavior? The overall strategy of using Iraq as a showpiece to set an example for the rest of the region remains sound. But the devil is always in the details. Winning on the battlefield was easier than expected, but stabilizing Iraq is proving much more difficult.

The administration should have involved the United Nations in peacekeeping sooner, but hindsight is always 20-20 and no war (or peace) in history has ever gone as planned. However, when confronted with an ineffective strategy, responsible leaders change their tactics, which the administration is now working to accomplish in conjunction with the United Nations.

Lest we forget, the great weakness of terrorism is that it does not have a platform. It offers no hope for the future. It offers no plans for building schools, hospitals or other civic infrastructure, educating the masses, or promoting women’s rights. All terrorism does is tear at the fabric of society.

Prominent Iranian cleric Sayyid Iyad Jamaleddine recently said, “Iraq has the ability to teach democratic values to the Islamic world because Iraq has both Sunnis and Shiites, and it has Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen. If democratization succeeds in Iraq, it can succeed elsewhere.” This is the crux of the war on terror.

Iraqis must begin self-governance as soon as possible. Iraq needs its own cabinet and Iraqis must begin running their own ministries and re-build their own infrastructure. It’s only when Iraqis see first hand that a progressive government run and defended by Iraqis can and will function, that we’ll begin to see legitimate transformation in the region.

Harvard’s president, Larry Summers, said it best: “In the history of the world, no one has ever washed a rented car.” This is another way of saying that until the Iraqis take ownership in their own country, the violence and discontent will continue.

Foreign terrorists will continue to disrupt Iraqi society and kill American and other peacekeeping soldiers, but as quoted in The New York Times, “If a representative government in Iraq is elected within two years, the effort will be a success.”

The United States provided the muscle to begin the process of moving Arab societies toward civilized behavior. We had no choice but to take action because America and its citizens were the primary targets of terrorism and the U.N. would have equivocated forever without removing Saddam and giving the Free World its foothold in the Islamic world. Considering the intransigence of the U.N. before the war, four months of trying to stabilize Iraq with a few allies was certainly understandable. But now that the administration has witnessed so many unforeseen realities, it has changed its position and is endeavoring to actively involve the U.N.

Finding and eliminating Osama bin Laden and his top 20 lieutenants will not end terrorism any more than removing the yellow flowers of dandelions will rid your lawn of weeds. The Arab world egregiously lags behind the rest of the planet in fundamental human rights, basic freedoms, jobs, education and all things progressive. Until those cultural aberrations are redressed, the weeds will keep coming back.

The singular way to eliminate terrorism is to involve the only people on earth who have the power to do it, and that’s the Arabs themselves. Until a progressive model of government that can be emulated is established in the region, our nation will remain at grave risk. That process has begun in Iraq.

Quote of the day: “Never let a difficulty stop you; it may be only sand on your track to prevent your skidding.”

Butch Mazzuca is a local real estate broker and a ski instructor for the Vail Ski School. He writes a weekly column for the Daily. E-mail bmazz@centurytel.net


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