TCS Daily

Iraq: The Warriors

By Charles Matthew Rousseaux - June 8, 2004 12:00 AM

Another long gray line of warriors has joined the battalions engaged in the war on terror. Their duties are still being determined; the country they are fighting for is still in existential jeopardy. But Iraq, under the leadership of new Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, has joined the battle. The rising of Iraq's free warriors gives a glimpse of the great possibilities that that government, and the governments of Coalition nations, might yet grasp in Iraq.

In his first speech to Iraq, Mr. Allawi declared, "Let us all be one hand, act as one man, with our heads held high to defeat terrorism and terrorists. This is the duty of all Iraqis and I call on you to stand against these criminal killers and to cooperate with government institutions to wipe out these evil forces." Those government institutions have already received formal endorsement from the Grand Ayatollah Al-Sistani; they may soon receive U.N. sanction.

While Coalition soldiers continue to provide most of the nation's security, new Iraqi units are being trained to battle with more mettle than many did at Falluja two months ago. The Iraqi National Task Force, a group of anti-guerrilla warriors, is being prepared for that role according to the New York Times. Their senior advisor is Maj. Gen Paul Eaton, who by self-admission learned from his failures at Falluja, "I didn't appreciate all the conflicting loyalties these guys have." Volunteers accepted into the new force -- a mix of Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds -- must agree to fight terrorists. 1,000 of a planned 7,000 have already joined. Task Force officer Col. Shafeen Abdul Majid, said that the key is "making sure your soldiers understand they are fighting for Iraq, not against it." That idea appears to have taken root in Lt. Hamid Kadem who said, "If we must fight them, we will wipe them out."

Fierce fights are likely ahead. The recent capture of Umar Baziyani, an associate of terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is only the latest demonstration that Iraq is a front in the war on terror. Al-Zarqawi's beheading of Nicholas Berg was another. Foreign fighters are known to have crossed into Iraq from Syria. Others may be coming from Iran.

Their presence is not surprising, since Saddam Hussein sponsored and succored terrorists as a matter of state policy. As Stephen Hayes points out in his recently published book, "The Connection," there is a long history of collaboration between Saddam Hussein and bin Laden and his minions. In a speech during the 1992 presidential campaign, the then mostly sane Al Gore made more than a dozen references to Iraq-sponsored terrorism. After the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Saddam gave shelter to Abdul Rahman Yasin, the man who mixed the chemicals. That year, Iraq also played a direct role in the attempted assassination of President George H.W. Bush. Hussein even offered bin Laden asylum in 1999. The connections seem countless.

The inversion of the situation -- terrorists are now going into Iraq and being captured or killed -- is of no small significance. That Iraqis are becoming freedom's warriors is even better, and due, at least in part, to the Bush administration's relentless push for Iraqi sovereignty. While many have said that the drive towards a quick handover is a dreadful mistake, it has almost certainly helped defuse radicals like Muqtada al-Sadr by removing nationalism as an explosive issue. The cleric has not been able to become another Ho Chi Minh because Mr. Bush has become a stronger voice for, and a better guarantor of Iraqi sovereignty. If anything, al-Sadr offers fewer liberties and less chance of independence. Terrorists and former Saddam loyalists offer the Iraqis even less -- either a return to the jackboots of an autocrat or a turn to the Islamo-fascism of the Taliban.

Iraqi leaders seem to recognize the stark nature of those choices. As Mr. Allawi said in his speech, "These cowardly terrorist acts have delayed and will delay the return of normal life and destroy the national economy and the souls of the people and their daily bread." Iraqi leaders also recognize that Coalition forces will have to remain until their freedoms have been established and ensconced. While Mr. Allawi said, "Iraqis can never accept occupation," he added, "The targeting of the multinational forces... to force them to leave would inflict a major disaster on Iraq."

As the security situation continues to stabilize, there is likely to be continued friction between Coalition leaders and Iraqi sovereigns about what forces should remain and who should be in charge of them. They will be delightful fights compared to what has come before.

Last week, President Bush remarked, "A free Iraq in the heart of the Middle East is going to be a game changer." If the country stays free, he is likely to be borne out. The president may have had in mind poet William Wordsworth's "The Happy Warrior," "Who, doomed to go in company with Pain, And Fear, and Bloodshed, miserable train!/Turns his necessity to glorious gain."

The happy warriors of a democratic Iraq, tied to the free peoples of the world by bonds of blood and love of liberty would be no small gain. Time will prove if the gain has been worth its pain.

Charles Rousseaux is a frequent TCS contributor. E-mail


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