It’s difficult to know what’s happening in Iraq now — physically, on the ground — beyond precision bombing and the deliberate march toward Baghdad. Spiritually things are clearer. America’s essential benevolence and Iraq’s absolute tyranny continue. Geoff Hoon, the British defense secretary, described this situation well: “The lights stayed on in Baghdad, but the instruments of tyranny are collapsing.”
Not fast enough, of course. Never fast enough. Our soldiers are executed and tortured; Saddam has offered cash prizes for American and British flesh. We read reports of liberated Iraqis who have lived in such fear for so long, they are wary of celebration lest Saddam come back again.
But as our own defense secretary likes to note, our victory is assured and Saddam will soon be gone, if he is not already. His departure from the airwaves and his remaining lieutenants’ departure from reality — waving kalishnikovs at “news” conferences, then declaring President Bush to be “Al Capone” — are encouraging signs. And that absurd video last week, in which “Saddam” appeared wearing Tariq Aziz’s glasses and flipping searchingly through a schoolboy’s steno notepad, cannot inspire much morale.
Yet the regime’s iniquity continues: it is one thing there is no shortage of in Iraq. The way Saddam’s apparatchiks are treating our troops — death by execution, lynch mobs, “confessions” — give us an idea of what the Iraqi, and Kuwaiti, and Iranian, and Kurdish people have been subjected to for more than 20 years.
Amazingly, or not, some around the world are opposed to Operation Iraqi Freedom, even as the Iraqi people are liberated, more and more of them, day by day. Saddam’s personal armies fight, to be sure, but “the street” is lining up to welcome their American and British liberators.
This the protesters ignore, and instead concentrate their energies on near-pathological hatred of President Bush, fantasies about Republicans and oil, and an obsession with the United Nations.
When the U.S. military, commanded by Bill Clinton, unleashed weeks of bombing over Yugoslavia, including civilian targets — and without the sanction of the United Nations — there were no mass protests. But when George Bush orders the coalition to enforce 17 Security Council resolutions, protesters defecate in the streets.
Saddam made the decision not to cooperate with U.N. inspectors. These inspectors were not supposed to scurry around Iraq searching for weapons, but verify Iraq’s disarmament. Much the same as Yale fire inspections: marshals are not supposed to poke around our rooms but verify the situation we present to them. If their purpose were to investigate, they would find innumerable violations — microwaves covered by boxes, toasters under towels. If U.N. inspectors were supposed to investigate Iraq, they would find the weapons of mass destruction our troops will soon encounter: hopefully hidden away, God forbid on the battlefield.
Saddam’s brutality, the danger of him possessing weapons of mass destruction, the nexus between terror states and terror organizations, the violation of Security Council resolutions — these things the protesters ignore, because “peace” is better than “war.” But “peace” loses its meaning if its definition includes the maintenance of Saddam’s regime.
The persistence of Saddam’s reign of terror is the consequence of the protesters’ policy of peace. In their view, our system is no better than any other, our country a bigger threat to world peace than Iraq.
Terrorists should be understood, not confronted — if they’re angry with us, we must be at fault.
The protesters see a world of gray, with few absolutes, except the goodness of “peace.” But peace is not a policy: it must be maintained by America and our allies, sometimes by less than peaceful means, or else the future will be decided by those for whom violence and terror is ends, means, everything.
President Bush’s world is one of opposites in confrontation with one another — good versus evil, freedom versus tyranny — and the ends of his policy are upright absolutes. The means to the ends are not necessarily black and white, but gray, nuanced and sometimes messy.
Peaceful means, unfortunately, are not always the path to a peaceful end.
War is a grim means, but in this case the only way to an end of our choice. It will not be easy and it may not be quick, but our victory is certain — the victory of life and liberty, for us and for the Iraqi people.
Davi Bernstein is a senior in Ezra Stiles College. His column appears regularly on alternate Mondays.