Washington, D.C. — “We’re in a generation-long battle against terrorism, against Al Qaeda-inspired terrorism, and this is a battle for which we can give no quarter. It’s a battle that’s got to be fought in military, diplomatic, intelligence, security, policing and ideological terms.”
That’s pretty strong stuff — and since those remarks were made this week at Camp David, one might think they were uttered by President Bush. However, they were spoken by Britain’s new prime minister, Gordon Brown, who the international media believe has reservations about the war in Iraq. But on the substance of the big question, it seems that the U.S./British “special relationship” is still solid. “He gets it,” President Bush said of the Prime Minister’s stance on terrorism. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the masters of the media.
For nearly two years, the potentates of the press have been slavishly following liberal dogma and telling us that the war in Iraq is all but lost; that the region will never embrace democracy and that young Americans serving there are dying needlessly. Even before the “troop surge” was underway, they were telling us that it wouldn’t work. And since the final contingent of 28,500 additional troops arrived in theater two months ago most members of the Fourth Estate have tried to convince us that it has failed. Some of them may even believe it, but that doesn’t make it true.
From my experience in eight trips to Iraq for FOX News since March 2003, reality in Iraq is rarely found on the front pages of our newspapers or in the lead stories in most broadcast news. There are but two principal reasons for the paucity of reality in what we’re seeing in print and on the air:
• First, there is enormous antipathy in U.S. and European press rooms toward George W. Bush and his administration. It’s been that way since his first term and it isn’t going to go away. This predisposition — and the media’s congenital animus toward the American military — colors reporting on everything the president does or says to include the war coverage. Opposition politicians have taken advantage of this bias and its effect on the polls to reap political advantage. They saw the efficacy of this stratagem in the last two congressional elections and they intend to pursue it to capture the White House regardless of the damage done to our national security.
• Second, despite the importance of the war to the American people, there are relatively few western — particularly American — journalists outside Baghdad’s “Green Zone.” Much of what we see on television is videotape bought from Arab cameramen, many of whom spend most of their time with their favorite Al Qaeda terror cell or Shia militia unit. My media “colleagues” then cut this tape — usually the aftermath of a heinous terror act — stand on the balcony of an air conditioned hotel room and tell us the “latest news” from the war. Lead stories rarely mention the courage and perseverance of American troops or their Iraqi counterparts, how many new schools, hospitals and police stations have been opened, or the clean water and sanitation that’s now available to the people of Mesopotamia.
Both of these factors have significantly altered Americans’ perceptions of what’s happening on the ground in Iraq. But that doesn’t change the fact that the “surge strategy” is working. The goals — announced by General Petraeus before he departed for Iraq, are being achieved:
• Add sufficient U.S. troops to give the Iraqi police and security forces time to recruit, train, arm and deploy;
• Seize and hold Al Qaeda and militia strongholds — and assure the people in those areas that the security forces are there to stay and prevent both acts of terror and sectarian violence;
• Begin the process of political reform so that the people of Iraq have an equitable distribution of the nation’s oil wealth and rule of law so that disputes can be resolved without resorting to bullets and IEDs.
Last December — even before the additional troops arrived in Iraq — I reported how the “awakening” in violent Al Anbar Province had created conditions where, for the first time, Sunni police, Shia soldiers and American troops were working together against Al Qaeda.
Now, even The New York Times has had to acknowledge that the surge strategy is working by running an op-ed this week by Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack of the liberal Brookings Institution, in which they noted how strategic Al Anbar is now a model for the rest of the country. The authors noted that “many of the corrupt and sectarian Iraqi commanders who once infested the [Iraqi Army] have been removed,” and that the delivery of basic services, such as electricity and clean water, are underway. They point to challenges ahead — but it’s a step in the right direction.
This is the time for President Bush to seize the moment and go before the American people. He needs to go to Iraq — meet there with General Petraeus — and see for himself what magnificent young Americans are doing on the battlefield.
During World War II, Winston Churchill went to where his troops were fighting to encourage them and make a dramatic point. This is such a moment for President Bush. It may be his last chance to rally the American people to win a war we dare not lose.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of “War Stories” on the FOX News Channel and the founder of Freedom Alliance, a foundation that provides support for the troops and scholarships to the dependents of servicemen killed in the line of duty.
Lt. Col. Oliver L. North (ret.) serves as host of the Fox News Channel documentary series "War Stories with Oliver North." From 1983 to 1986, he served as the U.S. government's counterterrorism coordinator on the National Security Council staff. "Counterfeit Lies," is his novel about how Iran is acquiring nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them. Click here for more information on Oliver North.