A lot of people, Democrats in the US and what seems like almost everyone in Canada and Europe, believe that the liberation of Iraq was a big mistake. There are a number of reasons given for this but the one that strikes me right now is the claim that it was a "distraction" from the "War on Terror" - popularly believed to be a synonym for the "Hunt for Osama bin Ladin."
Somebody ought to inform the terrorists of this. They have been streaming into Iraq with the goal of making it impossible to form the first democratic civil society in Arab lands. Why are they doing this if events in Iraq do not relate to their goals? The answer is that they understand perfectly well that the success of Iraq will do great damage to their cause.
After 9/11, there was a lot of talk amongst the whining classes about "root causes" and "why do they hate us?" Poverty and despair caused by decades of imperialist American foreign policy resulted quite naturally, they think, in the self-immolation of 19 upper class educated Saudi and other Arab men as they destroyed the greatest symbol of Western capitalism and 3000 innocent lives. Something is not right here. If poverty and despair cause terrorism, one would expect most of them to come from places like Haiti, Liberia and the Congo. But they don't. If American foreign aggression causes terrorism we should see a lot of them coming from Vietnam, Korea, Russia, Grenada, Panama, Germany and Japan. But they don't.
They hate us because we are successful, rich (comparatively) and free. They are Islamic extremists and their agenda is domination of the planet by fundamentalist Islam. The biggest problem they face in this eternal struggle is the temptation our freedom and wealth presents to their people, without us trying or even caring about it. Strict Islamic society is not a fun way to live, and the spread of modern communications is making the difference clear to every Muslim. The very existence of free liberal societies is a mortal threat to their goals, so they have only one option, and that is to destroy them or die trying.
That is why the establishment of such freedoms, and the increase in wealth that is sure to follow, right in the middle of their territory is just about the worst thing that could have happened to them. So all you who whine about the "root causes" - look, they are finally being addressed! As the great experiment in Iraq slowly succeeds, and it will, it will be a beacon of hope to all the other Arabs who live under brutish tyrannies.
The War on Terror was never about just finding and punishing the perpetrators of 9/11. The goal is not vengeance, it is to make the US (and incidentally the entire free world) safer from future and much larger attacks. When you are being attacked by alligators, you can endlessly kill them one by one, or you can drain the swamp. There are a number of reasons why liberating Iraq was the best way to start this process, including the state of war that still remained from the Gulf War after incessant violations of the ceasefire terms, Saddam's inherent hostility and belligerence, and his inevitable drive to acquire nuclear weapons once he finished bribing the French and the Russians to get rid of the UN sanctions.
President Bush and his administration understand this. Why don't you?
UPDATE: Donald Sensing writes about root causes.