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The State - Op-Ed - Continued Push for Victory in Iraq Vital

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Continued push for victory in Iraq vital

The State - Recently, the U.S. Senate debated America's commitment to the war in Iraq and the global war on terror. While Democrats largely advocated setting a date for troop withdrawal from Iraq, I strongly believe this cut and run strategy is the worst possible course of action for the security of America and the world.

Those pushing for retreat are continuing the do-nothing mentality, which looked the other way for decades while terrorists attacked American interests around the world. From Somalia to the USS Cole and the 1993 attack on the World Trade Towers, the terrorists attacked — and America did nothing. Our inaction gave the terrorists precious years to build their worldwide network.

America's reluctance to respond convinced our enemies that Americans were weak; that we would retreat if they hurt us. But they overplayed their hand. On 9/11, Americans recognized that our world had forever changed.

I'm thankful President Bush understood the stakes and acted decisively. He focused our initial efforts on destroying al-Qaida in Afghanistan. But he also understood that the war on terror would have many fronts; that as we defeated the enemy in one country, they would attempt to gain traction in another. So he made the case that we must begin the long, hard work to confront terrorism in the Middle East where it breeds and transform the region into a place where peaceful democracies can flourish.

Make no mistake: The case for the Iraq war is clear. Saddam Hussein was a proven aggressor, who developed weapons of mass destruction and used them to kill thousands of his own people. He defied 16 U.N. resolutions to disclose and disarm his weapons programs, subverted U.N. sanctions and inspections, terrorized his own people and paid off the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.

And now reports are surfacing that once again confirm that he never fully destroyed his weapons of mass destruction. Declassified documents show that we have found more than 500 chemical weapons in Iraq, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld stated that more weapons "are still being found and discovered." These weapons could easily fall into terrorist hands, but it seems that do-nothing politicians would prefer that we wait to act until these weapons wind up in the hands of terrorists who will try to bring them to American shores.

I like what former Sen. Zell Miller from Georgia said in Columbia recently, challenging this thinking with an illustration that compared terrorists to the nest of copperheads he found under his porch steps: "These snakes threatened the well-being of my family. I didn't call my neighbors for help, or convene a committee to discuss possible courses of action. I took what you might call ‘unilateral action' and cut off their heads."

That is exactly the decisive course that President Bush took. The good news is the plan is working. Over the last few weeks, we have seen reports of the progress our troops are making in Iraq. We've killed the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, al-Zarqawi, and his chief lieutenant. Since this important victory, we've made hundreds of other raids and killed or captured hundreds more terrorists. The best news is that one third of these raids were done by Iraqis and many more were done with minimal U.S. assistance, proving that the Iraqi army is developing the ability to take on the terrorists by themselves.

Recently, I met a wounded soldier at Walter Reed Hospital who had sustained severe head injuries, and had difficulty remembering things. His only request: "Don't leave until we win... make sure our sacrifices were not in vain." He could remember that!

We must remember: From attacks in Bali, Madrid and London to recent arrests in Canada and Miami, terrorists are determined to harm us. Given that reality, there is no in-between choice in Iraq: Either we run and allow it to be a safe haven for terrorism and a staging ground for future attacks on America and our allies, or we continue to stay until it is a stable partner in democracy.

The war on terror will continue long after we succeed in Iraq. But the lessons we have learned there will remain: If we keep our commitment, persist and hold to our values, we will win. If we stand tall like our brave soldiers, we will win the war on terror and create a new generation of freedom and security, of peace and prosperity, for America and the world.

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