[ This editorial was written by my son Matt and originally appeared here. It is posted here with permission of the author]
I read Wednesday about the attack on the civilian convoy in Iraq. Although details were sparse and sketchy–at the time, even who the victims worked for was unknown–I realized this would open a new avenue in the Iraq debate. After reading today’s article in The New York Times, I finally grasped the gravity of the situation.
Four Americans dead, their cars sprayed by gunfire, smashed by bricks, and set aflame. Like Somalia, corpses dragged through the streets, dismembered, mutilated, and hung from a bridge. Iraqis, likely including the attack’s perpetrators, celebrating in the streets, calling Fallujah the “Graveyard of the Americans.”
Throughout the ordeal, no response came. Not one police unit, firefighting brigade, ambulance, or soldier arrived to break up the grotesque demonstration. This isn’t Somalia–we have a large military presence and trained police forces throughout the nation–but at the moment it appears nearly identical.
I am too young to remember that ordeal. In a month, I will turn eighteen, registering to vote and for selective service. Despite the letters arriving from colleges, telling me where I can and cannot go, I am still a high school student, but I find my views sometimes strikingly different from my peers.
I supported the removal of Saddam from the outset; I still believe it was the right thing to do. I remember, when the WMD debate just began to reach the mainstream, an editorial Thomas Friedman wrote. In it, he referred to a picture appearing on the front page of the Times: a skull from a mass grave, with a group of Iraqis in the background who had relatives buried in it. In his words, “As far as I’m concerned, we do not need to find any weapons of mass destruction to justify this war. That skull, and the thousands more that will be unearthed, are enough for me.” I could not possibly agree more wholeheartedly. I also believe we need to help the Iraqis create a functioning state, but to do that, we must have security.
The attack itself angers me; its aftermath disgusts me, and yet it does not change my opinion. We still need to help the Iraqis transform their nation. When President Bush said there would be losses, I recognized that, as every other American should have. I also realized that, unfortunately, some of these losses would be non-military. Not in my wildest dreams, however, could I picture American civilians, at work helping to restore Iraq’s infrastructure, attacked without a response. I realize Fallujah is in the Sunni Triangle. I further realize that its political loyalties could make it the most dangerous city in the country now. I do not, however, believe the city is so lawless as to prevent Coalition soldiers or Iraqi policemen from breaking up the mob and securing the area around the demolished vehicles. Because no response was made, because those who oppose our presence in Iraq were allowed to brutally murder four civilians, then cavort through the streets with their corpses, we show the Iraqis weakness. Regardless of our actual strength, they perceive weakness.
Action needs to be taken. In the one day since the bombing, I have heard every suggestion from bombing the city into rubble to fleeing the nation altogether. I see neither as an option, but Fallujah, and the rest of Iraq, need to recognize the rule of law. Such demonstrations and acts as the one that took place April 31 cannot go unpunished. This is first-degree murder, punishable by life imprisonment for one count in courts worldwide, by the death penalty where still allowed. If citizens of Fallujah want to protest our presence in Iraq, they have every right to do so–as long as they do so peaceably.
This attack will give new ammunition to many wishing our forces removed from Iraq. I write this imploring them to reconsider. After all I have heard about Iraq, the killings and reconstruction, even the blatant murder of innocents, why do I still support this? Life is supposed to be precious; indeed, what could possibly be more sacred? Why, you may ask, does a teenager support the continued struggle to bring Democracy to the Middle East? My answer is simple, and only three words long:
Freedom. Isn’t. Free.
Live your lives to the fullest; this nation provides you that outstanding opportunity. I believe others should have it as well.