A War We Must Win

Oct 10, 2003
Written by U.S. Congressman Joe Wilson, member of the House Armed Services Committee
The central front in the War on Terror is being fought in Iraq and it was an honor to be selected by Armed Services Committee Ranking Democrat Ike Skelton (D-MO) to serve on a delegation in mid-September to newly liberated Iraq. Our troops are the heroes of an historic military victory and I was privileged to see firsthand how they are professionally conducting peacekeeping as they enable democracy to develop in Iraq. This is not a war we sought, but is a direct consequence of the September 11th attacks on America leading to our fulfilling the President’s plan to stop any country from harboring or supporting terrorists. It is a war we can face head-on in the terrorist breeding grounds overseas or it will return in full force on American soil. Upon return to Washington, I debated our war conduct with Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) on MSNBC and despite spirited points of disagreement, we did agree this is a war we must win. I was encouraged when she assured the audience that “cut and run” is not the mainstream view of any political party. As I met in Baghdad with Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of coalition forces in Iraq, I was impressed by our military competence and resolve. At each stop we met with top military and Iraqi and coalition civilian officials, but a highlight was to meet informally with troops of all ranks from our home states. I was startled that instead of patrolling streets by remote armed vehicles, our soldiers are walking the sidewalks really getting to know the people who are favorable 70 to 90 percent. This has led to improved human intelligence reducing terror attacks. When I asked General Sanchez about media reports of being mired, he responded forcefully that was untrue because real progress is being made, yet not reported. From his perspective and that of Major General David Patraeus at Mosul, the coalition efforts are progressing much more quickly than what they have experienced in Bosnia and Kosovo. Daily administration of Iraq is capably led by Ambassador Paul Bremer of the Coalition Provisional Authority. His leadership has coordinated recruiting over 60,000 new Iraqi security forces and initiating over 6,000 community development programs for hospitals, schools, electrical transmission, business development, and road improvements. Columbia attorney George Wolfe, counsel of the U. S. Treasury, is detailed to the Authority in Baghdad. He is helping coordinate currency conversion of tons of Hussein dinars to be replaced by new money beginning this month. Following World War II it took nearly three years to convert German Deutch Marks, but the Coalition will accomplish this feat in only five months. The Iraqi Governing Council has been formed of 25 supporters of democracy to begin the process of self-government. It was encouraging to meet with Chairman Ahmad Chalabi who reminded me when I met him last November in London that “we would meet again in Baghdad.” Since the fall of Saddam’s dictatorship, more than ninety per cent of Iraqi municipalities have elected town councils and I met courageous supporters of democracy serving as mayors, council members, and provincial governors as we toured Baghdad and then visited Al Hillah in the South and Mosul in the North. Traveling by helicopter I could see markets filled with people, bridges intact with heavy traffic, and minimal war damage. Visiting Al Hillah, I met the Polish general who is commanding over 20,000 coalition forces from 32 countries. In ancient Babylon, we were welcomed by religious university president Sayyed Qizwini, a descendent of Mohammed, who explained Americans were revered as liberators. Then as a chilling reminder of Hussein the local governor escorted us to a mass gravesite where thousands of women and their children were slaughtered by the regime. Following meetings in the palaces of Hussein, which have been transformed into Coalition military headquarters, I was glad to see the vibrancy of Mosul, the northern city of 1.8 million, which had been the ancient capitol of Nineveh of the Assyrian Empire. We attended the reopening of Kisik refinery where 300 new jobs were restored. The refinery was abandoned four years ago, but is back on line producing fuel to trade with Syria for electricity to be sent to Baghdad as the dilapidated infrastructure is being rebuilt, ignored for decades by Hussein for his palaces. As our delegation returned, our transport carried a body bag containing a soldier who died in Iraq, a sad reminder of the courage and sacrifice of our troops. He is a hero protecting our homeland overseas from a hate-filled terrorist enemy, which has its goal the destruction of modern Western democracy. His service should be an inspiration for Americans to take forcefully the new challenges we face. ### For more information: Iraq Coalition Provisional Authority White House - Iraq In-Focus Photos from Iraq - U.S. Department of Defense News in the War on Terrorism