Being a serving member in today's Armed Forces, I feel that I have to speak out against the opinions of those who (believe) that by ending the war in Iraq and on terrorism it will bring peace back to the western societies. And to this I write:
Acquiescing to terrorists' demands by retreating from Afghanistan or Iraq wouldn't put an end to future terror attacks and would actually embolden terrorists to continue and even build on existing violence.
Terrorists do not seek a negotiated settlement with the West or with the moderate Muslim nations, and they're not appeased by concessions. These enemies would not be placated by surrender, by an apology, or by a betrayal of our values, or of our free way of life. Resolve, not retreat, is what's needed in this war. It is a test of wills, and one the coalition must not abandon. Our coalition must win this test of wills, vowing that we will not surrender Iraq or Afghanistan to terrorists, that we do not apologize for our countries' meaning in the world, and that we will not betray the principles of freedom that define our nation.
Some have been seduced into thinking there's a better way to stop terrorism or that the U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan has actually fueled terrorism, but the United States and its allies did not provoke the terrorists. The terrorists attacked America. There was no war in Iraq or Afghanistan when America was attacked on Sept. 11th, and there was no war in Iraq or Afghanistan when terrorists attacked Americans in the Beirut barracks in 1983, in the Khobar Towers (in Saudi
Arabia) in 1996, or the African embassies in 1998, or when they attacked the USS Cole in the year 2000. People also seem confused about the motivations and intentions of terrorists and about our coalition's defense of the still-young democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq. They seem to cling to the discredited theory that the recent attacks in London and elsewhere are really in retaliation for the war in Iraq or for the so-called occupation of Afghanistan. That is nonsense.
The only way to stop future attacks is to take the fight to the enemy, as the global coalition and U.S. troops are doing in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere around the world. That's critical, because terrorists hold the advantage with their ability to attack at any place at any time, using any conceivable technique, making them difficult if not impossible to defend against. It is simply not possible to defend at every location, every minute of the day or night, against every conceivable terrorist technique. It can't be done. As a result, the only way to defeat terrorists is to go after them where they are, not to wait to be attacked. And I feel this is what we are doing.
Despite their headline-grabbing violence, the terrorists in Iraq are failing on all fronts, they failed to maintain a terrorist safe haven in Fallujah. They failed to stop the January elections. They've failed to keep recruits from joining the Iraqi security forces. They've failed to force the coalition out of Iraq. And, although they're desperate to stop the forward march of freedom in the Middle East and beyond, including Central Asia, they're failing at that as well.
In the wake of such an atrocity as in London, it is essential that we take care in understanding what motivates and does not motivate extremists to commit mass murder. As they have in previous attacks, the extremists and their sympathizers will offer the usual empty justifications. In the past, these have included a range of real and imagined affronts going back centuries, including, but not limited to: US troops stationed in Saudi Arabia after 1991 to deter an attack by Saddam Hussein; the founding of Israel in 1948; the break-up of the Ottoman Empire some 80 years ago; the re-conquest of Spain from the Moors in 1492; and the Crusades, the first of which was in 1095. Chief among these today is the coalition's campaign against extremists worldwide and the so-called "occupation" of Muslim countries by the west. In fact, coalition forces operate in Afghanistan and Iraq at the request of democratically elected governments. It is the extremists, not the coalition, who are intentionally targeting and killing countless Muslim civilians in a series of barbaric attacks in recent months.
Finally, to reiterate to those who believe that accommodating extremists' demands including retreating from Afghanistan and Iraq might put an end to their grievances, and, with them, future attacks, these folks are dead wrong. I ask you to look at the two decades before September 11, long before coalition involvement in Afghanistan or Iraq, extremists killed or kidnapped hundreds of innocent civilians in places such as Tehran, Beirut, Saudi Arabia, Berlin, New York, on ships in the Mediterranean and a jet over Scotland. I ask you this; by ending the war in Iraq and Afghanistan can you honestly say or think that the terrorists' attacks will stop?
I leave you by saying, to the men and women who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, I salute you and pray for your families. I assure you that your efforts will not be wasted. We will prevail and spread freedom and peace to those oppressed by tyrants and terrorists. God bless America and the men and women serving in the United States Armed Forces.
Matthew Burdick is a former Soldotna resident who is stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport, La.
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