Our Goal is Victory

As Iraqis, in the latest of their heroic achievements, began voting for a permanent constitution and government, President George W. Bush delivered a speech Monday in the birthplace of America's constitution, Philadelphia.  It was the  latest in a series of speeches detailing the administration's Victory in Iraq strategy, which rests upon three 'pillars' — security, economic, political.  Yesterday, President Bush explained its political pillar.

He began by reminding Americans of the turbulent period of our Revolution, that

'the eight years from the end of the Revolutionary War to the election of a constitutional government were a time of disorder and upheaval.' 

The challenges were many and our Founders made mistakes, e.g. the failed Articles of Confederation.  But in the end they crafted that superb document, that bulwark of our republic, the Constitution.  

President Bush then reminded us all that Iraq has gone from a tyrannized populace to a sovereign citizenry determined to establish a representative, democratic government in only two—and—a—half years.  During that period things didn't always go as planned or as expected, but the coalition, working with Iraqis, adjusted their plans and policies and moved forward successfully. For the elections now underway a new system was instituted that allocates representation by province, more than 300 political parties registered  to participate.  Campaign posters are everywhere and more than 100 newspapers dicuss electioneering on a daily basis. As the President noted, this is

'a remarkable transformation for a country that has virtually no experience with democracy.' 

And Iraqis are pursuing this noble goal in the face of a murderous evil.  The United States and its Coalition partners are doing everything possible to help Iraq become an independent democracy, to meet and defeat that evil, because our united goal is victory.  

The evil factions, Saddamists, rejectionists and Al Qaeda terrorists, constitute one of the four key challenges to the democratic process. The enunciated strategy seeks to persuade the mostly Sunni rejectionists to join the political process. Saddamists and terrorists, on the other hand, will be defeated, over time, by the Iraqi people and their security forces. The other challenges for Iraqis are: forming an inclusive government, establishing the rule of law and a culture of reconciliation and 'maintaining their newfound freedom in a tough neighborhood.'

Establishing the rule of law might be seen as the most crucial, as that is the constitutional bedrock upon which a democratic Iraq must be built. Iraqis have already established an independent judiciary and Saddam Hussein is on trial.  The Central Criminal Court of Iraq prosecuted more than 50 multi—defendant trials during the first two weeks of September, and conducted over 100 investigative hearings.  Since liberation, hundreds of judges have been trained.  They are now hearing cases under Iraqi law.  In calendar year 2005, it is estimated that 10,000 felony cases will be resolved.  On December 10, three members of the al Qaeda in Iraq terror cell were convicted by the Central Criminal Court and handed sentences ranging from 10—15 years imprisonment. Their cell was responsible for bringing foreign terrorists from Morocco, Tunisia and elsewhere in North Africa into Iraq.

Maintaining freedom in that tough neighborhood will require Iraq's neighbors and the international community to be as supportive as possible.   President Bush noted that support from the latter is growing; that the World Bank approved its first loan to Iraq in over 30 years; that the Arab League recently sponsored a conference for Iraqi political parties; that the UN recently extended the mandate for the Multi—National Force in Iraq through 2006.

President Bush reiterated the stated terrorist's goal:

'to drive U.S. and coalition forces out of Iraq... then use that country as a base from which to launch attacks against America, overthrow moderate governments in the Middle East, and establish a totalitarian empire that reaches from Spain to Indonesia.' 

America's strategy has the answer to that: 

'By fighting terrorism in Iraq, we are confronting a direct threat to the American people, and we will accept nothing less than complete victory.'  

Victory will be achieved when 'terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq's democracy, when Iraqi security forces can provide for the safety of its own citizens, and when Iraq is not a safe haven for terrorists to plot new attacks against our nation.'

As in his previous speeches, the President did not sugar—coat the nature of the tough, sometimes gruesome, weeks and months to come as Iraq moves with irreversible momentum down the road to a fully functioning democracy: 

'The challenges ahead are complex and difficult, yet Iraqis are determined to overcome them and build a free nation.  And they require our support.  Millions of Iraqis will put their lives on the line this Thursday in the name of liberty and democracy. And 160,000 of America's finest are putting their lives on the line so Iraqis can succeed.  The American and Iraqi people share the same interests and the same enemies...by helping Iraqis build a strong democracy, we're adding to our own security, and, like a generation before us, we're laying the foundation of peace for generations to come.'

John B. Dwyer is a military historian.