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78 Months After 9/11

Wednesday, March 19, 2008  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

MSM is full of five-year anniversary stories dating to the invasion of Iraq, and the Washington Post’s is typical in opposing the good news connected with the surge to the “tourniquet” school of retreatists among Democrats who can’t seem to embrace victory even as it unfolds before them.

It has been 78 months since radical jihadism struck America. We have not been struck since at home, and two countries which menaced the U.S. have had their regimes changed and the long, very difficult work of reconstructing them begun.Syria is out of Lebanon, Libya is disarmed, and Hezbollah badly smashed though Israel did not triumph in 2006.

The point is that it isn’t the fifth anniversary of the war, but the anniversary of the start of a central battle in a wider war, one that is going on around the world and which will continue for a very longtime. My lengthy interview with Robin Wright yesterday was an extended exercise in combatting tunnel vision about the wider war. (Transcript here. Audio for hour one here, hour two here, and hour three here.)

Here’s one exchange from yesterday’s interview that underscores the absurdity of trying to discuss Iraq outside of the context of the entire Middle East:

HH: Robin Wright, to set up our conversation about Palestine and Lebanon, I want to start with the very basic question. In your opinion, is radical jihadism metastasizing or contracting? And by that, I mean radical Islamists who are willing to use violence up to and including suicide violence in order to further their perceived agenda.

RW: There’s no question that it’s metastasizing in the sense that there are al Qaeda cells now operating in virtually every Arab country. But at the same time, one of the things that struck me in going back to the region after covering it for 35 years, trying to get an assessment of what’s going on inside countries, is the sense that people are growing increasingly angry or frustrated with militant Islam as a potential solution, because while the al Qaeda cells can destruct, they can’t provide constructive alternatives to the challenges of everyday life, be it jobs, education, some kind of independent future, housing, health care. There’s a recognition, and we’ve seen this even in Iraq, where the trial sheiks in Anbar Province, the most volatile of all Iraq’s regions, turned on al Qaeda after fostering them, aiding and abetting them, because they were just too brutal. The tribal sheik that turned the movement had lost his father and two brothers to al Qaeda. And there are people who were increasingly angry. And the tribal sheik, Sheik Sattar, mobilized not only his peers to form an awakening council, but also recruited 90,000 Iraqis, Sunnis, to form a police and a military unit to push al Qaeda back. So I think this plays out in so many regions, where they’re tired of the violence themselves, and they’re tired of living in fear.

Al Qaeda and other radical jihadists of the Sunni variety are trying to nest throughout the region, even as radical Shias, trained and exported by Iran and Hezbollah are engaged in the same export of terrorist cells. The only chance the region has, and thus Israel and the West, is by winning the race towards reform and economic growth throughout the Middle East. 2006 was a terrible year for that effort and not just because of the violence in Iraq but also because of Israel’s inability to defeat Hezbollah. 2007 was by contrast a great year even though the cost in lost lives was high because of the success of the surge and the beginnings of a world effort against Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

The Vets for Freedom I spoke with on Friday from the Midway are very clear eyed about this war. They know the terrible cost in lost lives and wounded comrades and they never fail to mention those Americans who died in the war and those who are recovering from wounds.

But unlike most Americans, they have seen the enemy and know the savagery and ruthlessness of radical jihadism. They also know that the Coalition is defeating them decisively in Iraq and needs to continue to do so until the Iraqi Defense Forces are fully capable of suppressing the jihadists by themselves.

As you read the various “look back” pieces, count the number of active duty military being quoted, or veterans of the combat operations there in 2007. If MSM is going to offer up assessments of the progress of the battle for Iraq and the wider war, more veterans of the recent battles please, and less pull quotes from Congressmen urging defeat.

The Vets for Freedom Heroes Tour is in San Antonio Texas today, and Austin tomorrow. That’s where the MSM ought to be if they want the full story on Iraq five years after the invasion, and the U.S. 78 months after 9/11.

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