Prepare to celebrate an important anniversary, someting to mark with pride. Rest assured the loony left has its own colorful plans in the works.
On March 19 three years ago President Bush addressed the nation, and the world, from the Oval Office:
'My fellow citizens, at this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger. On my orders, coalition forces have begun striking selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein's ability to wage war. These are the opening stages of what will be a broad and concerted campaign. More than 35 countries are giving crucial support...every nation in this coalition has chosen to bear the duty and share the honor of serving in our common defense.'
Operation Iraqi Freedom had begun.
Taking the decision to go to war is always a grave one. The reasons, the casus belli, President Bush considered before acting were more than sufficient to justify that decision.
The grounds for war
Let us return to 1990, after the US—led coalition drove Iraqi forces out of Kuwait in Operation Desert Storm. Besides liberating Kuwait, the stated war aims were
1. defend American national security; and
2. enforce UN resolutions.
In Desert Storm's aftermath, Iraq agreed to a UN—sponsored cease—fire agreement to eliminate unequivocally all of its nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs, their means of delivery, and to end support for international terrorist organizations.
Iraq proceeded to violate those 1991 UN agreements.
Weapons inspectors were never given full access and in 1998, Saddam kicked them out. That same year Congress concluded that Iraq's WMD program threatened US national security interests, declaring Iraq to 'be in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations' and urged the president to 'take appropriate action in accordance with the constitution and US laws to bring Iraq into compliance' [Public Law 105—235].
Iraq, meanwhile, continued to harbor terrorists and terrorist organizations as subsequent released documents have proven.
Saddam and al Qaeda had ties. Then came 9/11 which riveted American attention on the deadly nature of terrorism and focused national will on fighting and defeating it.
UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 678 authorized the use of all necessary means to enforce UNSCR 660 and subsequent resolutions compelling Iraq to cease all activities threatening international peace and security. At that time, Iraq was in violation of UNSCRs 687, 688 and 949.
House Joint Resolution 114 of Oct. 2, 2002 took note of this, stating:
'The United States is determined to prosecute the war on terrorism and Iraq's ongoing support for international terrorist groups combined with its development of WMD...it is in the national security interests of the United States...that all relevant UN Security Council resolutions be enforced...through the use of force if necessary.'
It averred that the president
'has the authority under the Constitution to take action in order deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States.'
I italicized those words because they clearly recognize presidential authority to take pre—emptive action.
Then came Security Council resolution 1441, which recapitulated all previous and violated resolutions.
President Bush, in a February 26, 2003 speech at the Washington Hilton Hotel challenged the UN to act, stressing the point that:
'The threat to peace does not come from those who seek to enforce the just demands of the civilized world; the threat to peace comes from those who flout those demands. If we act, we will act to restrain the violent... and by acting, we will signal to outlaw regimes that in this new century, the boundaries of civilized behavior will be respected.'
The President went on to warn that the way ahead will be difficult and demanding, that
'it will be difficult to help freedom take hold in a country that has known three decades of dictatorship, secret police, internal divisions, and war.'
On March 1, 2003 in his radio address, President Bush told Americans that the US is determined to enforce UN Security Council demands by
'confronting the grave and growing danger of Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction. The safety of the American people depends on ending this threat.'
On March 15, 2003 the President commented that 'the moment of truth' had arrived. Two days later, he gave Saddam 48 hours to leave Iraq. Two days after that, Operation Iraqi Freedom began.
The execution of Gen. Tommy Franks' war plan in Operation Iraqi Freedom was an event of historic proportions, a tribute to superbly trained, equipped and dedicated Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines.
In the van of General William Wallace's V Corps, who with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force conducted the lightning drive on Baghdad, were 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 69th Armor Regiment. 2nd Battalion commander, LTC Sanderson later wrote of his men:
'They conducted a 600 mile road march, stopping only for fuel; they attacked over an escarpment at An Najaf; days later they attacked again in a blinding sandstorm at night...to defeat major enemy forces at Al Kifl. They attacked at night under zero moon illumination, isolating the eastern side of Karbala, allowing secure passage of coalition forces through the Gap. They attacked yet again over 110 kilometers, with over 60 being in direct combat with the enemy, to isolate the northwest side of Baghdad... they then attacked into the heart of the city, securing key intersections, helping to ensure the regime's downfall...these Soldiers are tough and disciplined and proud of their accomplishments, but not as proud as I am of them. They will go down in history as the finest caliber of men, soldiers and liberators.'
Of his men. 3rd Battalion commander, LTC Rock Marcone wrote:
'We fought 3 major battles, defeated 7 enemy brigades and sustained only 3 killed and 60 wounded total. The task force's (Task Force 3/69th Armor) accomplishments were historic in proportion. It was given more responsibility, covered more ground, fought more battles, accounted for more enemy formations destroyed and took fewer casualties than any other task force in the theater. We were a 'perfect storm' of men and machines combined into an unbeatable force.'
Many of America's very best have given their last full measure of devotion in fighting terrorists in Iraq. A new battalion of heroes, equal to those of the passing greatest generation, has risen to the occasion with persevering dedication, valor and actions above and beyond the call of duty.
Iraq moves forward
Even more Iraqi police, security and Army force members have died for their country. Nevertheless, they continue to volunteer to defend their country. Many innocent Iraqi men, women and children have been killed by the ruthless forces of evil.
Less than a year after its liberation the once brutally repressed country of Iraq declared its independence. In the words of its Transitional Administrative Law:
'The people of Iraq, striving to reclaim their freedom, which was usurped by the previous tyrannical regime, rejecting violence and coercion in all their forms, particularly when used as instruments of governance, have determined that they shall hereafter remain a free people governed under the rule of law.'
Since then there have been several successful nationwide elections with Sunnis participating more fully in each successive plebiscite. The transitional government was seated and the most democratic and progressive constitution in the Arab world was approved.
Terrorists attempted to foil each stage of this evolving democratic process. They failed every time. Brave and determined Iraqis with purple fingers yearning for freedom, security and democracy said "No" to the purveyors of fear, death and enslaving tyranny. Taken in historical context, specifically that of our own revolutionary past, what Iraqis have accomplished in so short a time is truly remarkable and commendable.
Three years into Operation Iraqi Freedom terrorists continue their murderous ways, even as more and more of them are being captured or killed. More and more Iraqis are stepping forward, providing information to make that possible.
Iraqi politicians are locked in rancorous debates as they struggle form a national unity government. So when haven't politicians engaged in such activity over critical issues? Meantime, attempts to provoke civil war have failed.
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld assessed the situation in a March 14 news conference. He posed three questions to evaluate that situation:
Are the vast majority of Iraqis supporting the coalition effort?
Are the Iraqi people taking on more security responsibilities in their country?
Is the coalition effort in Iraq contributing to US security?
The answers are yes, yes and yes. The Defense Secretary then asked people to consider where this country, where the world, would be if America hadn't met the 'when the going gets tough, the tough get going' challenge throughout our history.
The center of gravity, the strategic focus, for Al Qaeda is the will, the staying power, of the American people. They've made no secret of their goal to weaken and destroy it, to force President Bush to abandon Iraq. We cannot, we should not, we must not allow this to happen. We are the Americans who fought and died to gain our own independence. We are the Americans who waged a bloody Civil War to preserve our national unity. We are the Americans who defeated fascism and then totalitarianism through WW2 and the Cold War. Therefore, on this third anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom, let us triple our determination, our fortitude, and our resolve until victory in Iraq is achieved.
John B. Dwyer is a military historian.