An Optimist Speaks

Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi spoke before a joint session of Congress today and made three main points:

Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi spoke before a joint session of Congress today and made three main points:

“We are succeeding in Iraq. It’s a tough struggle with setbacks, but we are succeeding… My thoughts and prayers go out to their families and to all those who lost loved ones. Yet, as we mourn these losses, we must not forget either the progress we are making or what is at stake in Iraq. We are fighting for freedom and democracy, ours and yours. Every day, we strengthen the institutions that will protect our new democracy, and every day, we grow in strength and determination to defeat the terrorists and their barbarism…

“The second message is… one that I would like to deliver directly from my people to yours: Thank you, America. We Iraqis know that Americans have made and continue to make enormous sacrifices to liberate Iraq, to assure Iraq’s freedom. I have come here to thank you and to promise you that your sacrifices are not in vain…

“My friends, today we are better off, you are better off and the world is better off without Saddam Hussein. Your decision to go to war in Iraq was not an easy one but it was the right one.”

He talked about 6 million children in school and the polio vaccine drive that inoculated 90 percent of the target group. He talked about infrastructure improvements. He talked about towns and cities that are functioning under Iraqi security control and the increased number of trained Iraqi troops. He pointed to the milestones that have already been reached: an interim government with the transfer of sovereignty and the national convention in August and insisted that free elections will be held on time in January.

Did he speak optimistically about what is demonstrably a difficult situation? Of course. What benefit would there be in coming here to tell Congress, “Thank you very much for your sacrifice, but it’s a waste of your soldiers’ lives because we can’t succeed at this?”

We believe Iraq is a front in a larger war against terrorists and the states that harbor and support them. And while we appreciate Mr. Allawi’s appreciation, we have to stay the course for America’s national security interests even more than for those of Iraq.

It was disheartening to have Sen. Kerry speak right after and call the election timetable “unrealistic” and disappointing when he said, “The prime minister… (is) here obviously to put the best face on the policy, but the fact is that the CIA estimates, the reporting, the ground operations and the troops all tell a different story.”

Iraq may yet fail – although the continuing willingness of Iraqi men to sign up for the police and the military in the face of homicide bombers is unmistakably hopeful – but for Americans to write it off while Iraqi, American and coalition troops are laying down their lives to make it succeed is shameful.