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The real challenge of Iraq

The biggest challenge facing the United States in Iraq is not the insurgency. Rather it’s dealing with the misinformation that many in Congress, along with their media lackeys, spew on a daily basis. The successes in Iraq are numerous, but the American people are unaware of most them. Many Democrats in Congress want to make it appear that Iraq is a hopeless cause because that’s what opposition parties do – they probe for vulnerabilities and then exploit them. But the media is an entirely different matter. Responsible reporting requires the presentation of all aspects of a given issue, but the mainstream media seldom presents the entire picture of Iraq.Democratic Sen. and former vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman, who just returned from Iraq and who also understands the complexities there, tells us the administration has made numerous course corrections over the past two years and cites the positives. Yet U.S. Rep. John Murtha’s claim that “our military is broken” (without any supporting evidence, of course) receives 10 times the news coverage – why?Since the fall of Baghdad, 47 nations have re-established their embassies in Iraq, the Baghdad Stock Exchange opened over a year ago, and the country now has 85 independent radio and TV stations (where presidential candidates are debating the upcoming elections) to go along with its 180 independent newspapers. But by and large, the media continues to gloss over that information, along with the fact that there is no insurgency in 14 of Iraq’s 18 provinces. Nor do they tell us about the 4.3 million Iraqi children enrolled in school, or that almost every child under the age of 5 has received polio vaccinations.Instead they spotlight what America has done wrong – situations like Abu Ghraib. What occurred at Abu Ghraib was repugnant, and definitive guidelines prohibiting torture should be instituted. But at the same time, most of what occurred there and at Gitmo was mistreatment, not torture (there is a difference) and should have been presented as such. Part of the problem is that the administration hasn’t articulated what’s really happening in Iraq, either, which to me remains a greater mystery than the missing WMDs. Nevertheless, ever since the Vietnam War, the liberal press has told the American public that every exercise of American military power is little more than adventurism doomed to failure. That was the case in both Afghanistan and Iraq when within days after each conflict began The New York Times ran front page stories labeling each “a quagmire,” an oblique yet obvious reference to Vietnam. But we shouldn’t be surprised because as columnist Mona Charen reminds us, liberals always invoke “Vietnam.” They did it during the Reagan administration, during Ronald Reagan’s initial press conference after assuming office the first question asked was a query about El Salvador turning into a “Vietnam.” Later we were told during the Iran-contra affair that Nicaragua would become a “Vietnam” and after that it was “Let’s get out of Mogadishu lest it become a Vietnam.” And the beat goes on.But removing American troops before a stable government is established in Iraq would be disastrous for the simple reason that Iraq would plunge into chaos and become an unfettered terrorist state similar to Afghanistan during the reign of the Taliban. The short-sightedness of much of the press astounds me because geopolitical events cannot be assessed in the short term. Even 5- or 10-year increments don’t render the necessary perspective to conclusively appraise changes of such magnitude.When attempting to gain global perspectives, it is foolish to examine history in anything less than 20-year increments. The United States in 2005 is fundamentally the same as it was in the year 2000, but it’s significantly different than it was in 1985. Nevertheless, the press would have us believe that what exists in Iraq now is essentially what it will be 20 years from now.Ms. Charen also wrote: “It is obviously deeply painful to contemplate the more than 2,000 American dead, and many others gravely injured in Iraq. But one does not sense that members of the military share the belief so widespread in the press and Congress that the Iraq war is going very badly and that the original decision to fight was a mistake.”After a very bad start to the pacification process, the administration has modified many of its original policies and is now engaging with disparate sects of Sunnis, Shia and Kurds and the Iranians. They’ve also begun negotiating with former Baathists and non-jihadist Sunnis, but that NEVER makes it to the front page.Every war ever fought has been fluid. Battle plans always change because, as one famous general said, “The enemy gets a vote, too.” But the media dwells on the negative. Last week the president told us that troop-level decisions will be made by commanders on the ground, not politicians, and those commanders would determine troop rotation, which makes a world of sense. Nonetheless, the die is cast, which means for better or worse we are in Iraq and we cannot leave until a duly elected Iraqi government asks us to leave. Anything else would be catastrophic to our security.As regrettable as 2,000 dead Americans are, Iraq isn’t Vietnam. While the situation remains tenuous, it is far from hopeless. Iraq will never be an American style democracy. But it can be a “functioning democracy” in a region of the world that must begin taking steps toward democratic reforms if terrorism as a weapon is to be eliminated during our children’s lifetimes.Free speech is guaranteed by the First Amendment, and as such dissenting viewpoints are not only welcome but essential. However, they should appear in the editorial pages – not above the fold on page one. Butch Mazzuca, a local Realtor and ski instructor, can be reached at bmazz68@earthlink.net. He writes weekly.Vail, Colorado


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