Fallujah Failure Looms at Fallujah

A turning point in what President Bush has called the War on Terrorism is at hand. How and whether the American military handles enemy confrontations in Iraq during the coming weeks will tell Islamic terrorists and their state sponsors everything they need to know about America's resolve to defeat them.

Thus far, the U.S. has yielded to the enemy. Dared by Iraq's supposedly moderate religious leader, Ayatollah Sistani, not to enter the holy city of Najaf, where radical Moslem cleric Sadr is hiding, Allied forces have refused to launch an offensive. Despite tremendous weapons superiority, the standoff at Najaf has lasted weeks.

At Fallujah, where thousands of enemy insurgents control the city, Coalition commanders have granted weeks of cease-fire, negotiations and compromise, giving the enemy time to entrench their positions and reinforce. The Marines surrounding the city have been ordered to hold back an all-out offensive.

Tactically, in both cities, America has boasted that we will not bomb mosques, where the enemy routinely hides its arsenal and its soldiers. It's like being at a classic conflict outside a criminal safe house and having the police state in advance: "We're coming in! But if you hide in the master bedroom, we won't touch you!"

With the enemy distributing flyers in Fallujah awarding $ 15 million to assassinate Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt or Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the U.S. is undeniably the Paper Tiger of jihadist propaganda rants of the ubiquitous audio and video tapes. Anything less than total victory at Najaf and Fallujah will leave the enemy and, arguably, radical Islam and the Arab world emboldened against America with a vengeance.

Yet President Bush has ordered the United States Marines to stand down at Fallujah; he has decided against ordering an unyielding offense, conceding Fallujah and Najaf to the enemy by default. This decision could only have come from the president, who met with military commanders last weekend. Fallujah was a crucial test of the President's commitment to wage war without turning the other cheek. Bush has failed.

Over two years after the worst attack in American history, another attack on America –nuclear, chemical, biological—looms and Americans are relentlessly instructed that we must resign ourselves to an unending jihadist siege as a permanent way of life.

So far, Americans have not responded decisively to such admonitions—or to the ominous appeasement in Iraq—and much will depend on America's brave soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly whether they are allowed to fight.

But make no mistake: America's half-measures at Fallujah and Najaf will lead to more humiliating defeats—and the next strike in America is bound to kill 30,000, not 3,000. That is because, while our faith-based president goes wobbly for weeks at a time over whether to bomb a mosque, the enemy will not hesitate to destroy that which Americans hold as sacred—which is why we are losing the so-called War on Terrorism.

This 2004 commentary was published in the Casper (Wyoming) Star-Tribune.

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