Every member of an ethnic, racial or religious minority in the United States understands the power and value of freedom and democracy. Americans understand that the right to vote ensures the equality of every person; democracy is a powerful force that commands respect for the rights of others and insists on the application of the rule of law.
President Bush has advocated democracy as a powerful force to defeat terrorism. He has done so out of the conviction that when liberty and personal rights take hold in the Middle East, terrorism will subside and the world will be safer.
Bush’s decision to depose Saddam Hussein was taken not only to liberate the Iraqi people, but also to enhance the safety of America and the world by destroying a despot whose past and present activities were a clear threat. Having won the war, the president is now fighting to win the peace, starting at the ballot box.
The historic introduction of open voting for men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan — however imperfectly implemented — can change the landscape in those Muslim lands. The unexpectedly robust voting of more than 10 million Afghans and the determination of the Iraqi interim government to conduct free elections, despite the daily butchery of the insurgents who would block the march of freedom, should be hailed by all as unprecedented heroism and a gallant striving for freedom and peace.
We do not yet know whether Bush’s bold and startling effort will fully succeed, but we do know that if it does, the Middle East and the world will be safer. That is the real Bush Doctrine. There are many examples in history in which freedom, once unleashed, has become a powerful force.
Senator John Kerry does not agree that deposing Saddam and neutralizing Iraq were an integral part of the war against terrorism. And he seizes upon the intelligence failures that led the United States, England and everyone else to assume the existence of weapons of mass destruction as an example of deception by the administration.
Despite the absence of weapons of mass destruction, it is clear that Iraq has aided and abetted terrorism for more than 20 years and could be relied on to continue in that role if it were not stopped. The secret effort to develop nuclear arms, which was destroyed by Israel in 1981; the use of poison gas in its war on Iran and on its own subjects; its war against Kuwait; the threats to control Middle East oil sources in 1990; the evasion of international sanctions, corruption and bribery to acquire funds — with the aid of France, Russia, China and others — by cheating in the United Nations oil-for-food program; contacts with known terrorists, and providing funds, shelter and protection to terrorist fugitives, including cash to Palestinian terrorists and families of suicide bombers, leave little doubt about what Saddam would be doing today in support of Islamic terrorists if he were still in operation.
Critics of Bush’s resolute stand against Saddam need look no further than the recent report of the top American arms inspector in Iraq, Charles Duelfer, which revealed that Iraq intended to reacquire weapons of mass destruction after the lifting of U.N. sanctions.
How puzzling, therefore, is the skepticism of the Kerry campaign and its supporters about the wisdom of deposing Saddam and the historic effort to spread freedom in the cause of safety. Is it merely the difference between optimism and conviction on one side, and a dour and pessimistic — even hopeless — attitude on the other?
Why hasn’t Kerry seen the great hope and promise of the spread of liberty, instead of attacking Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi for lack of credibility in proclaiming his brave intention to proceed with elections? Why does he not stand with the millions of intrepid Afghan men and women who dared to vote for the first time, instead of only lamenting the continued influence of local warlords? Does the partisan desire to win an election justify Kerry turning his back on the force and spirit of freedom and liberty, however primitive and imperfect, which has been the character and hallmark of America for our entire existence? Or does he believe the effort is futile, perhaps quixotic?
The American people are entitled to know where John Kerry stands on freedom as a weapon for peace.
Kenneth Bialkin, a New York-based lawyer, is chairman of the American Jewish Historical Society and a former chairman of the Conference of President of Major American Jewish Organizations.