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If you grew up in Iraq — or many other places in the Arab world — you might think an authority is just someone with a gun. Or on the other hand you might think that no one with a gun could have any moral standing or should have any authority.
Iraqis and many others in the Arab world need our help in learning what the rule of law looks like.
That's what we came to Iraq to do: to throw out a dictator and set the groundwork for a government of laws, not men. The Iraqis need to see that a legitimate government has a monopoly on force within its borders. Iraqis need to see the American armed forces prevent armed thugs from hijacking the political process in their country. The decent majority knows this. What they want from us is not an invitation to anarchy, but the security in which a fledgling democracy can grow. As one Iraqi told frequent NRO contributor Steve Vincent recently, "If you're going to occupy us, occupy us!"
This means rule and make it clear that we alone rule until June 30. We must show zero tolerance for private militias and motor-mouthed and ultimately cowardly opportunists like Muqtada al-Sadr who terrorize their fellow citizens and incite murder while hiding behind the protection of a sacred site. We owe this to the Iraqi people we are trying to protect.
We've been too reluctant to make it clear that the United States became the only source of legitimate authority in Iraq by overthrowing the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, just as the allies became the only source of legitimate authority in postwar Germany by overthrowing the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler...
We have a lot to be proud of in Iraq. We did something very few governments — and no Arab governments — have ever done. We accepted another very different people as our brothers and sisters, as individuals just as worthy of freedom and justice as we are. Every day, we are showing the Arab world that we hold the lives of the law-abiding Iraqi population to be worth just as much as American lives.