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September 30, 2004
Back To Targeting Children

Islamic terrorists in Iraq set off coordinated attacks today, killing dozens and wounding over 130 people. Children comprised the vast majority of the deaths, mostly from a three-bomb attack on a neighborhood celebration of a rebuilt sewage system:

Three bombs exploded at a neighborhood celebration Thursday in western Baghdad, killing 35 children and seven adults, officials said. Hours earlier, a suicide car bomb killed a U.S. soldier and two Iraqis on the capital's outskirts.

The bombs in Baghdad's al-Amel neighborhood caused the largest death toll of children in any insurgent attack since the conflict in Iraq began 17 months ago. The children, who were still on school vacation, said they had been drawn to the scene by American soldiers handing out candy.

The blasts at least two of which an Iraqi official said were suicide car bombs went off in swift succession about 1 p.m., killing 42 people and wounding 141 others, including 10 U.S. soldiers. The bombs targeted a ceremony in which residents were celebrating the opening of a new sewage system, and a U.S. convoy was passing by at the same time, said Interior Ministry spokesman Col. Adnan Abdul-Rahman.

So the fanatics one again decided to celebrate the Religion of Peace by slaughtering dozens of children, less than a month after another group of Islamists murdered hundreds of them in Beslan. So what sins did the civilians in al-Amel commit? Apparently, their happiness at having a working sewage system offends Islam. You'd have to talk to the Islamofascists to work out the theology behind that problem.

This is certain to fuel the naysayers here in America and around the world, who see every terrorist attack in Iraq as another reason to bug out. Explaining to them that we knew all along that the terrorists would step up their attacks in advance of our election and the upcoming January elections in Iraq makes no difference to them, nor does pointing out the historical parallels between Beirut in 1983, Mogadishu in 1993, and pullout talk now. Retreating in the face of terrorism never solves anything; it only emboldens the lunatics to escalate their attacks. Worse, it undermines our credibility, which has already caused them to believe this strategy will work.

When we passed the unfortunate milestone of 1,000 killed in Iraq (not all in combat conditions), many people claimed that such a number represented too high of a cost. Putting aside the "each life is precious" prefix that everyone uses (and which, if you read this blog regularly, you know you can take for granted), the question is not the casualties but the mission. Is the mission to stabilize Iraq and introduce some form of representative government worth our efforts? That's the pertinent question.

If you believe in the power of self-determination to bring freedom and peace to a region sorely lacking in all three elements, then our mission is highly worthy and must be seen through. If, on the other hand, you believe that all forms of government are equal and that democracy is not important to our national security, then our post-Saddam mission in Iraq is folly. It really is that simple. Otherwise, you wind up arguing that 995 deaths are A-OK but six more means failure, a cynical exercise that contradictorily devalues the lives it purports to save.

Just to give some perspective on numbers games:

Guadalcanal - 1600 dead
Iwo Jima - 6800 dead
Okinawa - 12,000 dead or missing

And yet we managed to conquer Japan and create a bastion of democracy and freedom that has been a lynchpin in the worldwide economy and security for decades. Imagine what kind of world we would have if our grandparents had quailed at necessary effort to accomplish that.

UPDATE: To answer the several e-mails I received detailing all the ways Iraq differs from the Pacific Theater of WWII, yes, I'm aware. That wasn't really my point, either, if you read my post again. My point is that counting casualties like watching an odometer turn over a new dial is no way to conduct a war or to set security policy. Had we operated our security policy under the presumption that 1,000 casualties represented a catastrophe, we would have settled with Hitler after the Kasserine Pass fiasco and with Hirohito after Guadalcanal.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 30, 2004 12:01 PM

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