For those to whom we owe thanks

The victory that U.S. and United Kingdom armed forces have earned in Iraq brings to an end the long and grisly string of repressive, predatory dictatorships that scarred our world of the 20th century.

May 1st, 2003

By John Keller, chief editor
Military & Aerospace Electronics

The victory that U.S. and United Kingdom armed forces have earned in Iraq brings to an end the long and grisly string of repressive, predatory dictatorships that scarred our world of the 20th century.

When historians catalogue the icons of government-sponsored brutality and murder of the last 100 years, three names will top the list: Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Saddam Hussein. All three posed direct and specific threats not only to their own populations, but also to citizens throughout the world.

All three are gone now; only a few of their toppled, disgraced statues remain to remind every one of us what those evil men stole from humanity, and what we all stand to gain from their collective defeat. The threat that Saddam Hussein posed to the world with his chemical and biological weapons, his nascent atomic weapons program, and his encouragement and funding of Radical Islamist terrorists is diminished now, if not gone entirely.

For this we can be grateful to thousands of soldiers, marines, airmen, and sailors from the United States and the United Kingdom. We owe a particular and heartfelt debt of thanks to the 141 American and British service members who gave their last full measures of devotion to the cause of ridding the Earth of Saddam Hussein and his ilk.

We must always remember these, our fallen comrades, who for their sacrifices will never be coming home to their families again, so that we may continue returning home to ours. As a small token of our thanks, Military & Aerospace Electronics lists the names of these men and women on page 16.

Not only must we thank our fighting forces for what they have achieved for 21st century civilization, but we also must thank the engineers, the scientists, and even the politicians who helped make a three-week victory over tyranny possible in Iraq. Those involved with designing and promoting military electronics and opto-electronic technology have contributed immeasurably to the effort; you know who you are. There is little need to trumpet those specific accomplishments here.

Much of what the Coalition Forces strove for in the 2003 War in Iraq is clear: all of us can sleep better at night now knowing that the world's most important democracies have dealt the backward forces of Radical Islamist terrorism a severe, and perhaps crippling, setback. Certainly, more nests of terror still exist. The writing, however, is on the wall, and the purveyors of global terror have seen a clear demonstration of what's in store for them if they persist.

The cost of the War in Iraq is high, but in the end, worth it. I hear talk of "only" 141 battlefield deaths for the Coalition in carrying out the operation to liberate the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein's boot heel, and to help safeguard innocents here and abroad from his threats of terror. Yet while reading through that list of fallen fighting men and women, name-by-name, it doesn't seen like an "only." They seem like so many — 18-year-olds, 50-year-olds, and everyone in-between. Gestures of thanks seem so empty compared to what they all have given.

The toll of human lives in this war only begins to describe the conflict's price. A few conservative estimates of this war's expenditures I've seen include a total price tag of $95 billion or more; 17,450 missiles launched, including 800 Tomahawk cruise missiles; 43 million leaflets dropped on Iraq; as many as 300,000 refugees, many of whom have been able to return home now with the war's end; 200 million pounds of explosives dropped on Iraq during the 2003 war.

There is an urgent and dire need to rebuild stockpiles of munitions expended in the 2003 Iraq War. Companies such as Tomahawk maker Raytheon Co. reportedly are ramping up production, and also are seeking to install the latest electronic technologies in the new munitions they make to replace those used in Iraq. It is clear that wartime usage is likely to hasten technological upgrades in a wide variety of precision-guided munitions. Efforts to rebuild cannot delay, for additional terrorist threats lay on the horizon.

In the aftermath of the Iraq War, the Coalition Forces turn their gaze to Syria, where members of Saddam Hussein's family, his political allies, and even Iraqi weapons of mass destruction reportedly have found sanctuary. If Syria is allowed to turn into another Iraq — a haven for terrorists, chemical and biological weapons, and a source of money and other support for planned terrorist attacks — then Coalition efforts in Iraq will have been for nothing.

The deaths of those 141 brave U.S. and United Kingdom fighting men and women who gave their lives in Iraq cannot have been vain; the U.S. and United Kingdom governments must do everything in their power — starting with peaceful initiatives such as economic sanctions, but certainly not excluding direct military intervention if peaceful attempts fail — to ensure that Syria is part of the solution to international terrorism, not part of the problem.

Meanwhile in Iraq, U.S. and United Kingdom leaders should do what they can, realistically, to bring about a stable, free, and open government in Iraq, ruled by Iraqis. But let's be clear that a free and democratic government in Iraq is a secondary goal of this military and political campaign, not the primary goal. The primary goal is a lasting denial of Iraq territory, Iraqi people, and Iraqi resources to worldwide terrorists. That includes keeping that country cleansed of weapons of mass destruction and of leaders who are hostile to the United States, the United Kingdom, and their interests. If Iraq ultimately adopts a democratic-style government, so much the better.

The lasting story of the 2003 War in Iraq, however, is the overall war against international terrorism — particularly Radical Islamist terror — is far from over. The United States, the United Kingdom, and their allies, must continue to hound proponents of terrorism wherever they are.

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