Friday, October 22, 2004

Hep me

Anyone who wants can submit this to your hometown paper (or any paper) I'm looking for help getting it published. If they pay I'll kick you a third, no no, fair's fair. Like I said to the Kerry people, the Op/Ed floats the idea that no matter what the solution is to Iraq, a prerequisite is that Bush is gone. We need a hook to put that point on the airwaves/Sunday talk shows, and an article like this could be the hook. It's ready to go.


"What a Fresh Start Means"
by Ralph Lopez

Down here on the ground in the presidential campaign there is a barrier Kerry cannot seem to break: What exactly is he going to do to get us out of Iraq that Bush won't? Even in a conversation with a customer service agent for my cellphone company, I casually steer the chit-chat toward the presidential debates. I never to miss an opportunity to take the pulse of my countrymen, this one in El Paso, Texas. The very nice lady on the line tells me: "I'm a Republican girl, and the whole time I just listened for one thing from Kerry, how is he going to get us OUT OF THERE. And I didn't hear the answer." Door-to-door workers in swing states relate similar experiences.

Forget for a moment that this logic befuddles me. If a CEO runs his company into the ground, his days are numbered. No one asks what each candidate for the job would do differently. He's gone. If there's one thing we're beginning to agree on, it's that Iraq is a mess and we're in trouble. My gut is to say: why would you trust the person who got us into this mess to get us out? But that dodges the question.

In some ways the question is not fair. A candidate Kerry is not privy to the military and political intelligence on the ground that a president Kerry would be. But that's another dodge.

What makes Iraq so dangerous for America is that ordinary Muslims around the world who are not yet terrorists see proof of an attack on their religion. According to experts on Al Qaeda, such as CIA analyst and "Imperial Hubris" author Mark Scheuer, the invasion is a massive propoganda victory for bin Laden. "Capitalizing on growing anti-US animosity, Osama bin Laden's genius lies not simply in calling for jihad, but in articulating a clear and convincing case that Islam is under attack by America" he writes. In order to win the war on terror, this propoganda victory must be diluted, and its recruiting power halted or reversed.

German Defense Minister Peter Struck recently re-affirmed what many Americans suspect: the major allies want no part of combat operations in Iraq. Why would they want to be getting killed instead of us, especially after Donald Rumsfeld dissed them as "the old Europe?" President Bush is pinning his hopes on newly-trained Iraqi army and police units, but this is a classic quagmire. As in Vietnam, you're not sure if you are training a true national army, or simply funneling weapons and intelligence to the insurgents. The first order of business for an insurgency is to infiltrate the ranks of the opposing force. In a convoy ambush in Tikrit, a truck with Iraqi soldiers suddenly stopped and refused to follow. Moments later an IED exploded near an American Humvee. The Iraqis knew it was coming. Already we have seen Iraqi units refusing to fight, and their officers arrested for links to insurgents. As did the Viet Cong, the insurgents view anyone who works for or cooperates with the occupiers as collaborators. They know about "with us or against us." We cannot simply withdraw, for fear of civil war, but the longer we stay the longer we bleed. Dilemmas like these are among the reasons specialists in insurgencies are calling this one hell of a mess.

A possible part of the solution is Muslim peacekeeping troops under a UN flag. The Islamic world is vast, and with units that are neither Syrian, nor Turkish, nor Jordanian, nor Indonesian, but UN, the gravest humiliation to the insurgents can be removed. Armed, gibberish-speaking infidels with no knowledge of Arabic custom or religion, searching homes and patting down Muslim women is creating terrorists, and some American troops are admitting as much. There is no guarantee such a course will bring immediate peace. But it is the beginning of a political strategy to parallel the military one. When President Bush says, "freedom is a gift from the Almighty," he does untold damage to our cause. Although he declares that the Christian God and the God of the Koran are "the same God," the Muslim world knows it's not true. Christian theologians have also angrily denounced this remark as an incorrect Biblical interpretation.

There is no easy way out of Iraq. As Colin Powell said "you break it, you own it." Bush broke it, now we own it, and there are no good options, only less bad ones. Peter Beinart of the New Republic writes: "for the Bush administration to slam Kerry for lacking a convincing plan for victory in Iraq is like dropping him in the middle of he desert and slamming him for lacking a convincing plan for finding water."

The question we must ask is, who is best suited and equipped to navigate the way out? Bringing in the Muslim world will entail challenges in statesmanship the likes of which have rarely been faced. It will require extraordinary finesse, titanic resolve, and above all, credibility with the world. It will require "thinking outside the box" in foreign relations, and one of the most creative peace efforts in human history. CIA analyst Scheuer tells us the greatest disservice the adminisration performs is promoting the fiction that we were attacked on 9/11 for who we are, rather than what we do. He tells us Al Qaeda cares nothing for our freedom or belief in separation of church and state. The case bin Laden lays out is that we support tyrannical regimes in the Middle East in order to obtain favorable terms for Arab oil, and that we are Crusaders who want to convert them. Showing the Muslim world we are not interested in attacking their religion, or stealing their oil, will be a blow that will leave Al Qaeda and the terrorists vulnerable. Neutralizing the Iraq front will allow resources to go where they belong: in hunting down the enemies who attacked us on 9/11.

[Ralph Lopez is a novelist, political blogger, and graduate student in foreign policy. Contact:]


Mark Scheuer, "Capitalizing on growing anti-US animosity...", "Imperial Hubris" front inside jacket.

"German Defense Minister Peter Struck recently re-affirmed..." New York Times 10-14-04 pg. A15

"In an a convoy ambush in Tikrit..." New York Times, October 15, 2004, "Paralyzed, A Soldier Asks Why" by Bob Herbert

"Armed, gibberish-speaking infidels...some American troops are admitting as much..." Boston Globe 3-21-04 "New US troops realistic about mission" by Vivienne Walt

"When President Bush says, "freedom is a gift from the Almighty," he does untold damage...", "Imperial Hubris" pg.3.

Peter Beinart, "for the Bush administration to slam Kerry for lacking..." The New Republic, 10-18-04, "Past Imperfect" by Peter Beinart.


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