Time to take care of business in Iraq

There's an important question on the floor that all of us need to consider, and we need to do it sooner rather than later. The question is simple: should the United States as we've known it — and by extension, we as Americans as we've come to define ourselves — continue to survive over the long term?That's it.

By John Keller,
Chief Editor
Military & Aerospace Electronics

There's an important question on the floor that all of us need to consider, and we need to do it sooner rather than later. The question is simple: should the United States as we've known it — and by extension, we as Americans as we've come to define ourselves — continue to survive over the long term?That's it. Not a hard question at all, or shouldn't be.

The United States is a beacon of democracy and western culture throughout the world. The United States stands for the rights of the individual over the rights of select groups. The United States stands for strength, and respect, and for a burning desire always to make things better. Even more important, the United States is the shining example of being oneself, and standing up for oneself, without apologizing for it. We take care of our own, without much help from others. The United States, let's face it, is about tolerance — but only to a point. This nation — this culture — is simply one of those things, like the cops and the newspapers, that no one messes with if they've got any sense at all.

These are only a few of the things that we as Americans are all about. I could go on, but you get my point. These are also only a few of the things we stand to lose if the United States fails to prevail in our war on terrorism — chiefly on Radical Islamists such as those that hijacked airliners and crashed them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon last year.

Let's be clear: the road to victory in this fight runs straight through Iraq. Conquering that country and cutting out its malignant government is the next step in carrying out the war on terrorism.

Convincing evidence pours in every day that Iraq is the beating heart of worldwide terrorism, which aims at the United States, its citizens, and its interests. If Iraq and its repugnant government, led by the dictator Sadam Hussein, can survive to nurture global terrorists, we as Americans lose, and lose big. I'll ask again: should the United States as we've known it continue to survive? If the answer is yes, then our military goes into Iraq with guns blazing and doesn't leave until a stable government friendly to the United States is in place, and Sadam Hussein is at the end of a rope.

Maybe it's me, but this issue just doesn't seem entirely complex. Intelligence reports show that Iraqi is in the process of obtaining vast stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons that have the potential to kill tens of millions of people in the Middle East, on the U.S. mainland, and throughout the world. Officials of that government also are working night and day to acquire nuclear weapons, and the delivery systems to attack Iraq's neighbors and U.S. interests with nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons — the so-called weapons of mass destruction.

I could be accused of selfish motives; this is a military magazine, after all. But we represent a military electronics magazine, not simply a military magazine. When wars begin, military spending goes to beans, boots, and bullets, and not to electronics. I submit, it's in every American's interest, not just ours at Military & Aerospace Electronics, to expunge the existing Iraqi government and cut its lifeline to worldwide terror.

If U.S. forces attack Iraq soon, will Americans get killed? It's a virtual certainty. But look at the alternative. The longer the current Iraqi government is in power, the more weapons of mass destruction it acquires, and the sophistication of those weapons increases. And it's silly to think those weapons will stay in Iraq any more than television sets will stay on the shelves of Circuit City during a holiday sale. Iraq is the mall of terrorism, and the line of customers goes out the door and wraps around the block. With each passing week, American casualties would increase during an invasion, and the more likely is another catastrophic terror attack on U.S. citizens in our own country. Any hesitation simply puts off and compounds the inevitable.

The logic of critics of an invasion to stamp out Iraq's sponsorship of global terrorism seems to revolve around one flawed premise — invade Iraq, they say, and the entire Arab world rises up to concentrate its hatred against the United States. All right. And that would differ how from what the United States confronts today? There are plenty of folks in the Arab and Muslim worlds who hate the United States today, and couldn't hate America any more if U.S. forces were to invade Iraq.

Look at the potential oil riches locked up in Iraq, and then think about those riches spread out over the population of that country under a democratic government reasonably free of gross corruption. A friend tells me half jokingly that if Iraq were to convert to a democratically elected government, that those Iraqis riding bicycles today would be driving Mercedes cars in a year. I don't know if that's true, but I'll bet it's not far off the mark. And if that were to happen, do you think neighboring Arab peoples wouldn't notice?

If I'm under the thumb of Radical Islamist mullahs in Iran, the cultural police in Saudi Arabia, or Islamic zealots in Egypt and Syria, I wonder how I'd feel when I looked over at a democratic Iraq that offered broad economic opportunity, religious freedom, the ability to move about, and the freedom to work and build enviable homes and businesses? I think I know how I'd feel; I'd want some of that, and I wouldn't feel kindly towards anyone who tried to keep it from me.

All right, so a U.S. invasion of Iraq might plunge the Arab world into upheaval. Might the resulting change be for the good of the region? Maybe. But I'll be honest. The physical and social welfare of the average Arab citizen isn't at the top of my agenda, but the welfare of the average American is.

That physical and social welfare of the average American — my family, my friends, and my colleagues — will continue to be in jeopardy as long as Radical Islamist terrorists are able to slither from under rocks anywhere in the world. The place where these terrorists feed is Iraq. Would the conquest of Iraq spell the end of worldwide Radical Islamist terror? Probably not. But it would be an awfully productive start. And it's time to get started.

I apologize that the content of this column does not concern electronics specifically. But as debate builds on the merits of removing the Iraqi government of Sadam Hussein, I want everyone to know where we stand.

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