Questioning Bush's intelligence: Editor should question his own

By Ed Koch
Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Following is an advance release of Ed Koch's Bloomberg Radio Commentary for Augus 2.

On July 17th, Newsday’s editorial page editor, James Klurfeld, wrote an op-ed article concerning the State of the Union reference to Iraq’s nuclear capability in which he disparaged President George W. Bush’s intellect.

Klurfeld said he expected more of Dick Cheney and Tony Blair. He wrote of Bush, “He knows so little.”

Liberals like Klurfeld would never dream of questioning the intelligence of those they agree with politically. But such ad homimun attacks are the tactic of choice with regard to their political opponents. President Ronald Reagan, who is now viewed even by former critics as one of America’s most effective chief executives, was subject to an endless barrage of insults calling into question his intelligence. President Dwight D. Eisenhower was treated similarly.

President Bush was elected and reelected governor of Texas, then elected President of the United States. He established a doctrine as important as those of President Monroe (keeping foreign powers out of the Western Hemisphere) and President Truman (containing Communism). The Bush doctrine is, “We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.”

Most Americans don’t agree with Klurfeld. Does that make them smarter? They realize our attack on Saddam Hussein was a key part of a global strategy against terror. Klurfeld can only wish to rank as high among editorial writers as Bush currently does with the American public.

As the conflict in Iraq shifts to guerrilla warfare by Saddam's henchmen, our highest priority should be the protection of our troops while helping Iraq return to self-governance. The attacks against U.S. troops are the work of the same terrorists that President Bush has pledged to eliminate. Their backs are against the wall, and they know it. It may take time, but we will eventually carry out the President's pledge. We will eliminate global terrorism just as we eliminated Qusay and Uday, Saddam's murderous sons.

Our military command should announce all arms must be surrendered forthwith by the Iraqi people. Severe sanctions for those who fail to do so must be authorized, and those carrying illegal arms in public risk being shot.

Our military command should determine what sanctions, e.g., curfews, travel limitations, etc., can lawfully be imposed on those who give support to guerrillas and terrorists. Russia, Indonesia and Israel should be consulted on the best means to protect soldiers against guerilla and terrorist attack, consistent with international law. Iraqi clergy and all others should be warned that it is now a crime to incite people against the American occupation. Those who violate that directive should be arrested, tried and imprisoned.

Iraqis who publicly state they would help Saddam Hussein were he to reappear, should immediately be arrested. Mobs and mullahs threatening soldiers should be warned that American military personnel are authorized to use their firearms.

Directives should spell out how towns and cities can change their status from occupied to liberated, making clear that future violations will cause restoration of occupation. Ultimately, it is up to the American people to decide whether we leave Iraq forthwith because of the mounting casualties, which have been as high recently as four soldiers killed in one day, and 50 since the end of hostilities, or accept the burden and be willing to enforce the rule of law with lawful, even if draconian, sanctions for the protection of our soldiers. If Americans are not willing to take these measures, let’s get out. However, I do not believe it to be in our national security interest to leave now.

Saddam Hussein, in suppressing his own citizens, used torture and murder. We may not. But we may and should use every lawful means to enforce our government’s orders to the population. The Iraqi people may still believe we are wimps who will walk away from confrontation. Lives will be saved if they become convinced to the contrary.

Ed Koch is the former mayor of New York City.

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