It's been just over three years since Sen. Ted Kennedy quoted dire predictions on the floor of the U.S. Senate that toppling Saddam would involve "running through a battalion a day" and that the fighting would "look like the last 15 minutes of Saving Private Ryan." Three years since the United Nations predicted half a million injured Iraqi civilians and the Germans promised "millions of [Iraqi] victims of U.S. rockets."
In other words, three years since the opponents of the Iraq War got it just about completely wrong.
And yes, it's been three years since the Bush Administration launched its mission to secure Saddam's "weapons of mass destruction," which may or may not have existed when this war began. Three years of a war that began without a plan to fight an insurgency or to secure basic services after Saddam's fall.
There's been so much senseless spin, from "No War For Oil" to "Saddam Ordered 9/11," it's easy to forget there are actual facts available to us. These facts, by themselves, prove nothing. They aren't comprehensive. But they are concrete pieces of data that, in the days before we debated the meaning of words like "is," might have carried some weight.
I offer them for your consideration. Ignore them or embrace them — either way, they will still be the facts.
Fact No. 1: Invading Iraq and toppling Saddam has SAVED lives, not cost them. Under Saddam, some 5 percent of the 25 million Iraqi population were murdered or disappeared. The low estimates are that a thousand people died on average during Saddam's 20 years in power. Other estimates go as high as 4,000 a month. Before they started hating President Bush, anti-war activists insisted that evil UN sanctions against Iraq were killing 5,000 children a month — a "fact" they completely abandoned when the war began.
Today, according to the anti-war website IraqBodyCount.net, the maximum Iraqi death toll in these three years was under 40,000 Iraqis. Or the equivalent of eight months of "peaceful" U.N. sanctions.
Fact No. 2: It's Iraqis, not Americans, who are dying in the battle with insurgents. As that notorious right-wing rag USA Today has reported, the number of U.S. forces killed during the war has declined steadily since November, while Iraqi soldiers and police are dying faster than ever. A RAND Corporation military analyst told USA Today this "means Iraqi security forces are in positions of responsibility," while the US is "doing fewer patrols on its own and more in support of Iraqi operations."
In September there were 37 Iraqi units taking the lead role against the terrorists. Today there are at least 63 of them. The number of Iraqi security forces has jumped, too, from 127,000 in January 2005 to almost twice that number today. The amount of battle space controlled by the Iraqis has tripled since January 2006.
Fact No. 3: The vast majority of American soldiers and Marines who go to Iraq come home safely. While more than 1 million Americans have served in Iraq over the past three years, only 2,320 have been killed. Each of these lives is precious, of course, but that total number of casualties over three years equals just one month of the Vietnam War, and isn't close to the worst single day in WWII or Korea.
Fact No. 4: Saddam Hussein was connected to Al Qaeda. For knowledgeable people, this debate ended long ago with a mountain of circumstantial evidence and common sense. It was the Clintonistas who feared Osama would "boogie to Baghdad" in 1999, not the Bushies. Now we have obtained Iraqi intelligence service documents that clearly state "OBL and The Taliban are in contact with Iraq." We have additional documents detailing money from Saddam to buy weapons for Al Qaeda operations in the Philippines.
Fact No. 5: Congressman John Murtha is lousy at math. OK, OK, that's an opinion. Rep. Murtha said recently "25,000 Iraqis are fighting with each other inside the country ... that's a civil war!" Uh, no. As Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld points out, there are 25 million Iraqis and only 135,000 of us. If the Iraqis decide they want a civil war, nobody will have to guess about it. But one-tenth of one percent of the population isn't a civil war. It's terrorism. It can be bloody and ugly, yes. Murder is an ugly thing. But civil warriors must have some hope of governing the land they're fighting over, and Al Qaeda, the insurgents and the hold-out Sunni elements have no hope of that whatsoever.
All they can hope is that the above facts will be ignored and we will lose the will to win. We cannot lose this war. We will either win, or we will quit.
And that's a fact.