Thursday, August 28, 2003


Fresh back from Baghdad, and not impressed with the view from here.
Perceptions make reality, so the saying goes. Sitting in Iraq, trying to bring stability to a nation that has mostly known fear and violence, I was struck by the daily reports and opinions across our nation's airwaves. The almost-daily deaths, coupled with a pessimistic portrayal of U.S. activities in Iraq, leave me bewildered.

Just a few months ago, we had toppled one of the world's worst dictators since Stalin, who killed more Muslims in the 20th century than the rest of the world combined. We were embarking upon our new mission of rebuilding a country from the ground up, a task more difficult than war, as destruction is always easier than creation.

In those few months, if I am to believe the media, we have seen our nation's resolve stagger, support dwindle and heard that our Congress is upset over the costs of rebuilding. We seem to be more focused on politics than on giving some real constructive critiques to our reconstruction efforts...

I know it is getting close to an election year, but let's keep our eyes on the ball. We have embarked on a massive project that has the possibility of turning the Middle East away from being a breeding ground for al-Qaida and despots.

The Iraqis that I saw on the streets every day do not want us to stay beyond what is necessary, but they also do not want to be Saddamed, Khomeinied or Talibanned.

That is our current choice. Do we leave the Iraqi people to be ruled by the Guilds of Violence, who have no concept of economics, politics and humanity beyond "might makes right?" If we do, we will not be able to isolate ourselves from their reach, but only force our children and grandchildren to bear the burden that we shirked.

Our leaders and soldiers are working long hours in austere conditions to help the Iraqi people. We are policing the streets to allow average Iraqis to return to jobs, go to school and do significantly more than guard their houses...

Our tasks are broad and we are working diligently to build Iraq. Our biggest constraint -- we are not a nation of Saddams. Our values restrain us from brutalizing and terrorizing the populace into compliance. Some of the thugs see this as weakness. I see it as why their cousins and brothers spend most of their time trying to get immigration visas and escape the degradation that exists in their homeland.

Therefore, there is a race here between freedom and oppression. Time will determine which side had the most resolve.

Our daily progress is having a positive impact, but I guess the reporters and politicians sitting in their royal offices in the United States can't see beyond their next career move.

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