"Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid" - Ronald Reagan

New York

Al Qaeda's brutality alienates Iraqis

From Stuff.com.

From the slaughter of children to edicts against suggestively shaped vegetables, al Qaeda's brutality and its imposition of severe Islamic laws have been crucial to its decline in Iraq.

Its enforcement of a severe form of Sunni Islam in areas it controlled made everyday life miserable, sapping support among the people for its campaign against US and Iraqi forces.

"I saw them slaughter a nine-year old boy like a sheep because his family didn't pledge allegiance to them," said Sheikh Hameed al-Hayyes, an influential Sunni tribal leader from the former al Qaeda stronghold of Anbar province in Iraq's west.

Al Qaeda has worn out their welcome in Iraq due to their brutality. As I have stated before, Al Qaeda wears out their welcome wherever they house themselves due to their extremist ideology. Most folks just want the chance to earn a decent living for their family in a safe and secure environment. Iraqis, for the most part, now have this chance and this security. Another reason Al Qaeda wore out their welcome in Iraq so quickly is noted below.

Until the overthrow of former President Saddam Hussein in 2003 Iraq was largely secular in outlook. Iraqis of different sects and ethnicities intermarried, women would dress in jeans and T-shirts and Baghdad was packed with bars and discos.

Most Iraqis are Shi'ites, a Muslim denomination that al Qaeda's Sunnis consider heretical. The country is also home to Christians and members of other faiths, and al Qaeda has targeted Kurds even though many are Sunni Muslims.

Iraq has always been a generally secular country, deep with tribal tradition and influence. This situation is true of much of the muslim world and is a weakness for Al Qaeda which US strategy must pursue.

As we see in Iraq, Al Qaeda is extremely brutal. This brutality can only be defeated by a strong military presence which hunts down and destroys Al Qaeda cells and leaders. The surged helped Iraqis break the back of Al Qaeda in Iraq. Iraq is a lesson for Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other countries where Al Qaeda hangs it hat. Al Qaeda cannot be negotiated with. It cannot be cajoled. It must be hunted endlessly and destroyed. Just as it has been hunted and destroyed in Iraq, it must be hunted and destroyed in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

This new form of battle, namely an Islamic Insurgency, will be around for some time to come as it gains strength in this area, but loses it in that area. By putting a democracy in the heart of the Middle East, the US is providing all Islamic countries a beacon of freedom and democracy to emulate. Al Qaeda's defeat in Iraq is significant and a major setback for Al Qaeda, and other Islamic extremist organizations the world over. This extremist ideology must be fought by the free flow of information, not by weapons and Soldiers. Weapons and Soldiers can defeat Al Qaeda in a region, but only people freely conversing can destroy the core of Al Qaeda or other extremist organizations.

The US military did the right thing to unseat Saddam. It allowed Iraq to freely chose a way ahead for their country and their culture. Al Qaeda attempted to interfere with this free choice, as did Sadr's militia. Both have lost to the free flow of information and democracy.

The Iraqi model for destruction of a tyrant and subsequent defeat of an extremist insurgency is a model for all people who wish to be part of a free and democratic state in the future. Afghanistan is following this example. Pakistan is just starting to follow this model.

The old saying, "Freedom is not free" is just as true today as it has been in times past. Freedom and democracy must be defended, at times violently. Tyrants, whether in charge of a country, like Saddam, or a movement, like Bin Laden, must be destroyed. Democracy must be defended, sometimes with one's life. Only then, can democracy grow and flourish to benefit a people or a nation. Iraq is truly the model to defeat a tyranny and to grow a democracy.

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Violence Leaves Young Iraqis Doubting Clerics

From The New York Times.

After almost five years of war, many young people in Iraq, exhausted by constant firsthand exposure to the violence of religious extremism, say they have grown disillusioned with religious leaders and skeptical of the faith that they preach.

In two months of interviews with 40 young people in five Iraqi cities, a pattern of disenchantment emerged, in which young Iraqis, both poor and middle class, blamed clerics for the violence and the restrictions that have narrowed their lives.

This disillusionment with extremism is part of the "intellectual turbulence" discussed several times in this blog and continues to present itself in Islamic culture. This New York Times Article reflects first hand accounts of disillusionment with extremist Islam regardless of faith, whether Sunni or Shiite. This disillusionment was discussed in an earlier blog entitled, "Old Jihad, New Jihad". While the Al-Ahram Weekly article misses the true nature of the reformation which is occuring in Islam, it is an insightful article to discuss the intellectual turbulence which is happening in the Muslim world.

The old Jihad is external jihad against the infidel. It is the jihad that led to the World Trade Center attacks. It is the jihad which saw the rise to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan. It is the jihad which saw the rise of Al Qaeda in Iraq. The new jihad is an internal struggle. It is truly the "old" jihad discussed in the Koran but has been co-opted by radical Islamists as an external struggle.

The New York Times article provides a chronological account of changes among the faithful in Iraq. When freed from Saddam's tyranny, Shiites became extremely religious. The article notes in 2003, one could not find room to pray in a mosque. In 2004, many younger people took up Jihad, both Shiites and Sunnis. This jihad caused actions like the following.

Zane Mohammed, a gangly 19-year-old with an earnest face, watched with curiosity as the first Islamists in his Baghdad neighborhood came to barbershops, tea parlors and carpentry stores before taking over the mosques. They were neither uneducated nor poor, he said, though they focused on those who were.

Then, one morning while waiting for a bus to school, he watched a man walk up to a neighbor, a college professor whose sect Mr. Mohammed did not know, shoot the neighbor at point blank range three times, and walk back to his car as calmly “as if he was leaving a grocery store.”

Indiscriminant killings of innocent Muslims became the norm in 2004 and 2005. By 2006, many groups, most notably the Sunnis in Al Anbar begin to question this religious extremism. In response, Al Qaeda attacked and killed tribal leaders and their followers. Tribes turned to Marines for help and thus began the Awakening movement. The surge of 2007 provided the military resources to fight against extremists, not only Sunni, but also Shiite. The surge happened to occur during a time when Iraqis were beginning to questioning the more extreme members in their sects.

2008 is a year in which violence has subsided and people are looking back and wondering how all this death and destruction occurred over the last five years in Iraq. It was not at the hands of the Americans. It was, in fact, at the hands of the extremists, both Sunni and Shiite. What allows it to persist and gain followers is the unemployed and uneducated, as noted in the above quote from Zane Mohammed.

However, America has brought to Iraq democracy and freedom. With democracy, people have the right to choose. With democracy, economic strength of individuals grow and flourish. With freedom, people have the right pursue happiness. The war in Iraq for the last four years has been like a college education for most Iraqis. The Iraqi choice is a more secular, religiously tolerant society, not unlike the religious undertones present in American society today.

What we are seeing now is a backlash against Islamists noted by the quote below.

“I used to love Osama bin Laden,” proclaimed a 24-year-old Iraqi college student. She was referring to how she felt before the war took hold in her native Baghdad. The Sept. 11, 2001, strike at American supremacy was satisfying, and the deaths abstract.

Now, the student recites the familiar complaints: Her college has segregated the security checks; guards told her to stop wearing a revealing skirt; she covers her head for safety.

“Now I hate Islam,” she said, sitting in her family’s unadorned living room in central Baghdad. “Al Qaeda and the Mahdi Army are spreading hatred. People are being killed for nothing.”

It is not that this person hates Islam as she states. Instead, she hates what Islam has become. She hates the external jihad controlled by Islamists. She, and many other Iraqis, have began their internal jihad, questioning indiscriminant killings of not only fellow Iraqis, but also of American forces which brought her democracy and freedom. Iraqis are also questioning religious leaders. Why cannot she wear a skirt? Why cannot women go to beauty parlors which have gone underground in Iraq, but continue to flourish. Why indeed?

I have expressed several times in this blog that Iraq is the beacon of democracy continuing to shine brighter each day in the Middle East. It is becoming economically strong and will become the economic powerhouse in the Middle East due to the democracy that America established and the Iraqis have fought so hard to make work. It will change Islam since it has all faiths in it, Shiite, Sunni, Kurd, Turkman, Christian, and Jew. Due to the freedom which America gave it, it is beginning to change Islam back to the Islam of old, the internal jihad, or struggle, in which individuals look for spiritual enlightenment not by going to a mosque, wearing vails, or killing innocent people, but by trying to become a better person internally.

This same intellectual turbulence is expressing itself in Pakistan which is why tribal leaders are turning against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. This same intellectual turbulence is expressing itself in Lebanon which is why Hezbollah does not have the popularity to lead a revolt against the March 14 led government. This intellectual turbulence will shortly express itself in Iran in upcoming elections.

What is interesting is had not President Bush invaded Iraq and then had the fortitude to surge forces in 2007, this intellectual turbulence would have been suppressed and quite possibly stamped out. However, not only has the surge defeated Al Qaeda in Iraq, but it also weaken Shiite militias like Sadr's Mahdi Army. It prevented Hezbollah from siezing control in Lebanon. It allowed for the first democractically elected government to come to power in free and fair elections in Pakistan. It indirectly caused the splitting of Palestinian factions. It allowed for the propagation of intellectual turbulence. It will result in the reformation of Islam not unlike the reformation which occurred in Christianity hundreds of years ago. It will allow Islam to come into and be part of the 21st century and contribute to the global economy.

The Bush Doctrine was a bold experiment. It has had many trials and tribulations. It has however succeeded in establishing an Islamic democracy in the center of the Middle East which will continue to shine brighter and brighter each day. It will drastically change the Middle East in the years to come.

Democracy is not something which can be given to a people. It must be earned. It must be fought for and in the fight for democracy, people engage in war and unfortunately die. But in the end, those who successfuly fight for democracy are blessed by those inalienable rights so eloquently written by Thomas Jefferson: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness causes intellectual turbulence in strict societies which is precisely what is now occurring in Islam and what occurred in Christianity several hundred years ago.

One final note. The reason I tie the Protestant Reformation of 1517, the American Declaration of Independence of 1776, and Operation Enduring/Iraqi Freedom of 2001 together is because they so vastly changed (and will change) the world.

Adam and Eve not only gave us original sin, but they also gave us choice, choice to do right and wrong. Jesus Christ gave us forgiveness of our sins and asked us only to do unto others as we would have them do to us. The Protestant Reformation of 1517 began by Luther expressed that sinners must have a genuine change of heart to be forgiven by Christ and allowed into heaven. The Declaration of Independence 0f 1776 more specifically laid out that we were endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To ensure these rights, government are instituted among people and derive their power from the consent of the governed. If a government becomes destructive to these ends, we have a right to alter it and abolish it. This abolition of extremism is precisely what President Bush gave to Aghanis and Iraqis. This abolition of extremism is creating intellectual turbulence in the Muslim world today. In the future, Iraq will return the favor as it frees countless others living in tyranny in the Middle East.

The process of enlightenment that began several millennia ago with Adam and Eve, possibly in the very country of Iraq, has now come full circle. It is noteworthy to remember Adam and Eve did not eat from the Tree of Life, but instead ate from the Tree of Knowledge. Knowledge gave humankind liberty, the ability to chose right and wrong. Democracy gave humankind the ability to pursue happiness. Both together will give us ability to enjoy everlasting life. One can only imagine God's joy in what his children have learned.

While I like many others would rather see life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness occur without death and violence, it must be remembered that freedom isn't free. It is born out of the sweat, blood, and death of the brave.

For President Bush, I salute you for the bold undertaking to instill democracy in the Muslim world. More importantly, I salute you for having the fortitude to surge forces when many were crying for withdraw. For all who have made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, you enjoy everlasting life because you gave liberty and allowed others to pursue happiness. You had a genuine change of heart, a compassion for others, as described by Martin Luther. You chose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, a choice given to us by Adam and Eve, in their orignal home.

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Iraq vows to "crush terrorists" after 99 killed

From Yahoo via Reuters.

Iraq's prime minister vowed on Saturday that improved security would not be derailed after two female bombers killed 99 people in the deadliest attacks in Baghdad since last April.

Nuri al-Maliki said Friday's bombings at popular pet markets in the capital would not herald a return to the savage violence that took Iraq to the brink of all-out sectarian civil war. The U.S. military blamed al Qaeda in Iraq for the attacks.

"I swear on the blood (of the victims), we will achieve all our goals in securing a stable Iraq. We will continue to ... crush the terrorists and target their strongholds," Maliki said in a statement.

Two items are of particular note in this article.

1. The Prime Minister, not US Commanders, is being quoted. Until recently, the Maliki government was seen as ineffectual and powerless, yet with more capable Iraqi troops on the ground and a less visible US presence, (relative to Iraqi forces), reporters more and more are quoting the leader of the government.

2. While Maliki is most likely talking about crushing Al Qaeda, he also is moving away from Shiite terrorists, like Sadr and his militia, because over time he has realized whether Sunni or Shia, terrorism is terrorism. The only way Iraq will survive, grow, and florish as a democracy is to have a non-secular, national unity government representative of Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurd. Terrorists (whether Al Qaeda or the Mahdi Army) have no place in Iraq.

It is interesting how several muslim leaders, whether it is Maliki in Iraq, Musharraf in Pakistan, Karzai in Afghanistan, Siniora in Lebanon, Mubarak in Egypt, Yudhoyono in Indonesia, Bouteflika in Algeria, Saleh in Yemen, or Gül in Turkey are all moving to either crush, defeat, or contain radical Islamists and pursue democracy more and more.

The Bush Doctrine is by no means dead. In fact, it is flourishing precisely where it was meant to flourish. It is flourishing not only in our country, but also in several countries in the "Non-Integrating Gap."

Its three basic tenets are being adhered to by all the leaders and nations listed above.

The Threat: political and religious extremists.

The Response: irregular forces require anticipatory self-defense using all instruments of National Power (Diplomatic, Informational, Military, and Economic)

The Process: support and pursue democratic reform.

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Dubya's Middle East Agenda - Can He Consolidate His Revolution.

From Amir Taheri.

Once again, Amir Taheri has his hand on the pulse of the Middle East and apparently a better understanding of President Bush's purpose of his Middle East visit.

GEORGE W. Bush will set a new presidential record on his Middle East grand tour, visiting at least 10 countries in a short period. In some, he'll be the first US president to make a state visit. But what is the visit for?

Cynics would suggest that Bush is looking for photo opportunities that might add some spice to his future memoirs. More generous commentators might see the tour as the continuation of an American tradition: All US presidents since Woodrow Wilson have dreamed of themselves as peacemakers and tried to help others sort out ancient disputes.

While he states that both of these opinions may be true, he point to a larger reason.

But Bush realized post-9/11 that it was the very status quo that America had helped preserve that had produced its deadliest foes. He became the first US president to adopt an anti-status quo, not to say revolutionary, posture toward the Middle East.

While he notes that Iran, Russia, and China (America's chief rival) seem to have benefitted most from the change in the status quo, I believe he misses the point of a capitalistic democracy emerging in Iraq. Yes, countries such as Iran, Russia, and China have benefitted, in the short run. However, as the beacon of democracy which is Iraq begins to shine brighter each day and becomes a new model of government in the Middle East to replace the historic models of Turkey and Iran, the rest of the countries in the Middle East will benefit as will the rest of the world, to include the United States.

The United States always benefits where freedom and democracy prevail. While the war is costly, the benefits from a free, democratic Iraq will pay the United States back tenfold in commerce, which is our true benefit. Whether or not we own the corporations currently coming into Iraq is immaterial because the United States always benefit from more commerce as does the rest of the world.

President Bush has indeed kick started a revolution in the Middle East by bucking the status quo. Over time, more and more countries will become free, some may need to be forced, others will turn to freedom and democracy on their own. All transitions will be painful, as they should be since in order to remain free, a people need to have the courage to stand up to tyrannical forces that will appear and reappear in their country to challenge their freedom.

For a full read, click here.

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The Wane of the Insurgency in Iraq and the Growth of Feedom.

In an interesting report, Kuwait News Agency (KUNA), reports:

Armed groups have sought the government's support to chase Al-Qaeda members in some areas in Iraq, the Iraqi official Al-Sabah newspaper has revealed on Monday.

"Negotiations have taken place between the government and armed groups as part of the reconciliation process. Positive outcome is near," the paper, issued by the official Iraqi Media Network, added.

The paper quoted sources close to the government as saying that the negotiations had involved the Islamic Army in Iraq, the 1920s Revolution Brigades, Al-Fatah Brigades, the Armed Forces General Command, and Al-Rashedeen Army. Other groups revealed desire to join in but the report did not disclose if they were included already.

According to the paper, the Islamic Army in Iraq has sought the government's support to hunt members of Al-Qaeda in Al-Tarmiya, Al-Taji, and other areas where they are headed by the terrorist Abu-Ghazwan. The Revolution Brigades would meanwhile chase terrorist Abu Sufian Al-Afghani in Abu Ghraib, Al-Dora, and Fallujah, the paper said citing sources.

Iraqi president Jalal Talabani earlier said five armed groups wanted to lay arms down and get involved in the political process. A presidential source revealed that Wafiq Al-Samarae, security adviser to Talabani, played a significant role in the negotiations.

This article makes one wonder why are anti-Iraqi insurgent forces looking for government support to battle Al Qaeda in Iraq? There exists only one possible scenario.

  • Al Qaeda in Iraq has targeted these organizations.
  • These groups are no longer supporting (actively or passively) the insurgency.
  • These groups must be afraid of being killed or captured by Iraqi Government and Coalition forces should they mass as armed groups.
  • These groups will request the Iraqi government get American airpower to assist them should they need it to battle Al Qaeda in Iraq.
  • These groups must being seeing firsthand the growth in power of the democratically elected Iraqi government.
These are remarkable changes from this time last year when these five armed insurgent groups were actively engaged in battles against the Maliki government. It also shows that the government in Iraq, for all its failings, is the recognized, legitimate government in Iraq.

These facts taken together with the Anbar Salvation Council's recent growth in Anbar shows not only does the insurgency not have passive support from the populace (which it needs to persist), it has actually garnered active resistance against it, especially in the once closely aligned Anbar Province.

There are currently two surges going on in Iraq.

The first surge is happening in and around Baghdad where Iraqi and Coalition forces have greatly increased security in the city and caused the insurgency to either move their bases of operations out of Baghdad or eventually be hunted down by Iraqi and Coalition forces.

The second surge is that at least five anti-Iraqi insurgent groups have now switch sides and are actively working with the Maliki government and pursuing Al Qaeda in Iraq. Furthermore, ranks in the Anbar Salvation Council are swelling everyday. To say the least, Iraqis are taking control of their own destiny. It will be interesting to see the size of this organization in mid-summer as many recruits return from basic training.

While a surge of over 20,000 American troops may not be enough to bring peace, security, and stability to Iraq in and of itself, the addition of these five armed groups and the Anbar Salvation Council will provide the forces necessary to not only secure Baghdad, but defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq and promise their eventual destruction militarily.

Additionally, these groups, once focused on resistance to a democratically elected Iraqi government, are becoming part of the governmental and political process. As support from the Maliki government to these once insurgent groups expand, so shall their loyalty to this democratically elected government.

While many of these groups may never be pro-American, they understand they need America's intelligence and airpower and the Iraqi government to effectively fight a much greater evil, namely, Al Qaeda in Iraq.

2007 is proving to be a monumental year in Iraq.

1. The American troop surge is resulting in and will result in Baghdad, the center of gravity for the battle in Iraq, to be more secure. Even though not fully implemented, security has already greatly improved and will continue to improve.

2. At the beginning of the American surge in Iraq, Sadr went into hiding in Iran causing his militia to fracture and wonder about their future. While some members may become more active against the government, many members will seek to join the government. Recently, Sadr pulled his six cabinet members from the government. Many of these ministers were quite possibly going to be fired by Maliki anyhow. Three of these ministers controlled the important Health, Education, and Transportion ministries and were not doing banner jobs in these ministries.

3. Economic growth is surging forward in Iraq which like all other democracies will cause the populous to actively seek law, order, and stability in order for it to continue. Actively seeking law and order results in normal citizens not sitting on the fence but instead actively providing intelligence to Iraqi and Coalition as to insurgent activities.

4. Many reconstruction processes are in the final phase of completion. Along with improvements in security, improvements in water, electicity, academics, transportation, medical and sanitation (SWEAT-MS) are very recognizable to Iraqis. This especially true in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq and in the Shi'ite Southern Region. It is becoming more and more recognizable to Baghdadis, the center of gravity in Iraq. It will start to become more and more recognizable to Iraqis in the Anbar Province as they are now actively working with Coalition forces against Al Qaeda in Iraq.

While mistakes have been made by Iraqi and Coalition forces in Iraq, Coalition forces have maintained their objectives in Iraq. Namely, they have captured and killed the once bloody dictator, Saddam. They allowed Iraqis to vote for and install a democratically elected government. They have provided for the security of this infant government. They begin building back the Iraqi Army. They are starting to provide for security of the populous. They have engaged in and completed many reconstruction initiatives.

The fruits of this labor has produced economic prosperity despite a deadly insurgency. Once hardened insurgent groups are changing sides and now actively pursuing Al Qaeda in Iraq. Once hardened insurgent groups are now asking for the support of the ever stronger democratically elected Iraqi government.

The death of all insurgency in Iraq, to include Al Qaeda in Iraq, is nearing ever closer. Since Al Qaeda decided to make Iraq the center of its global war, its global reach will shrink accordingly as Al Qaeda in Iraq shrinks. As democracy becomes stronger and bolder in Iraq, it will naturally flow to the rest of the Middle East. It will be interesting to see what Iraq looks like in 2008 and the rest of the Middle East by the end of the decade.

In my time in the military, I have seen the fall of the Iron Curtain, changes in the free flow of information brought about by the computer age, but the dictatorships in the Middle East persisted. Now all that is changing. As my career comes to a close at the end of this decade, it will be exilarating to see what my country and my military has accomplished. It inspires me and I know inspires the newest generation of American Soldiers how this great country has freed over 300 million people from tyranny.

It will be interesting to see if this next generation of Americans and their Soldiers can embolden and free the rest of the world. Or will the defeatist democrats rise to power and clutch defeat from the jaws of victory in Iraq. If they do, I fear not only for the 30 million freed Iraqis and Afghanistanis, but also for the 300 million people freed from tyranny during my military career. Finally, I fear for the freedom of the 300 million people in America. This is the land of the free, because it is the home of the brave. For the six billion people in the world, I hope the people of my country never forget this fact.

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