What we fight against
: The war in Iraq is not like Vietnam. It is like World War II. It is a war against fascism.
It’s hard to find something more politically incorrect to say these days. One side will yelp because it gives the war in Iraq an air of legitimacy. The other side might object because it borrows the tragically ironic rhetoric of Soviets.
But as I watch the lead-ups to today’s dedication (at long last) of the World War II memorial in Washington, I am struck by the need to remember the single cause that led us to sacrifice so many lives: eliminating fascist dictators. I wonder how many lives could have been saved if we had wiped them out sooner. And I wonder how many Iraqis might have been saved if we had taken out their fascist dictator sooner.
Yesterday, I picked up P.J. O’Rourke‘s Peace Kills, which is sometimes written like a gravel road. But when O’Rourke hits a truism he hits it dead center. I hope he won’t mind me quoting a segment on fascism and war:
Americans have been surprised by Iraqi fascism, although we are familiar enough with other evil ideologies. Communism still persists in Cuba, North Korea, and the minds of a million university-type intellectuals. Religious extremism waxes worldwide. But communists do bad things for a purpose. They have a vision of utopia where everyone shares everything and you give your Lawn Boy to a family in Chad. And religious extremists do bad things for a purpose. They have a vision of a utopia where everyone goes to heaven together. So what if you have to die to get there? You have to die to get to heaven anyway. Fascism, however, is a pointless ideology — the graps of power for power’s sake. The fight against fascism seems like Dad’s war, Granddad’s war. Fascism should be out of date in the purposeful, task-oriented world of today. Never mind Slobodan Milosevic, Vladimir Putin, Yasir Arafat, Somali warlords, Charles Taylor, China’s politburo, the Saudi royal family, murderous Hutu rabble, and New Gringrich’s career arc.
Fascists do bad things just to be bad. “I’m the baddest dude in Baghdad,” Saddam Hussein was saying, “the baddest cat in the Middle East. I’m way bad.” This was way stupid. But fascists are stupid. Consider Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. He didn’t have any. How stupid does that make Saddam? All he had to do was say to UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix, “Look under my bed. Look in the special spider hole I’m keeping for emergencies.” And Saddam Hussein could have gone on dictatoring away until Donald Rumsfeld is elected head of the World Council of Churches.
Instead, we blew the place to bits. And a mess was left behind. But it’s a mess without a military to fight aggressive wars; a mess without the facilities to develop dangerous weapons; a mess that cannot systematically kill, torture, and oppress millions of citizens. It’s a mess with a message — don’t mess with us.
Yes, and once the mess is made, we need to continue to follow the lessons of World War II — and not World War I. We must not cut and run desert the Iraqi people and the region to future fascists. We must help the Iraqis, who are not our enemy, as we helped those who were our enemies in Germany and Japan to build better futures. And that doesn’t just mean waiting for the government to do it. We, the American people, should remember the righteous cause of both eliminating and preventing fascism and we should be helping the Iraqis — and thus the Middle East — to do that, people to people. (More on how to do that in a few days.) Eliminating fascism and tyranny from the world is the truest memorial to the millions who fought and lost their lives in this cause in World War II.