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Failure not an option for Islamists

For the sake of argument, let's say former CIA Director George Tenet is right in his book and that Vice President Dick Cheney pushed too hard with questionable or inaccurate intelligence because of a predisposition to go to war in Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein. So what? We can't go back and fix the mistakes of the past. Only two choices are available: victory or defeat.

Let us assume the Democratic left is right and we should pull U.S. forces out as early as Oct. 1, or perhaps a few months later, but certainly before the next president takes office, because the Bush administration's policy in Iraq has completely failed and, in the words of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, ''the war is lost.''

What next? Does the United States not suffer a loss of credibility in the world's eyes for again failing to finish a job it started? Do the millions who voted for the first elected government in Iraq conclude they risked their lives for nothing? What would be the consequences of pulling out before Iraq is stabilized sufficiently to stand on its own? And, most importantly, what would a U.S. retreat do to the confidence of the enemy that wishes to dominate the world by force?

We have the answer to that last question. Statements declaring all but victory for the Islamists are posted on numerous Islamic Web sites. Various statements by American leaders critical of the war are cited as evidence that the United States is about to quit. Ubaidah Al-Saif, who is associated with Al-Fajr Media in Iraq, as part of what is called ''The Islamic State of Iraq,'' said on April 25: ''The plans of the cross worshippers and their henchmen have collapsed.'' He quotes ''House Majority Leader Harry Reid'' (he means Senate majority leader) as saying, ''The Iraqi war is hopeless and the situation in Iraq is the same as it was in Vietnam.''

Al-Saif declares American morale is declining and ''...our battle against the enemy is first and foremost the will to fight and the length of the battle does not rest with the cross worshippers.'' He calls for his fighters to ''be patient'' and Allah will give them victory. Patience is not one of America's virtues.

Do the war's opponents realize, or care, that every critical statement they make is reported by the enemy's media and passed on to homicide bombers and fighters to encourage them to keep killing Americans and Iraqis?

The official Palestinian Authority broadcast media have cranked up hate propaganda against America, Israel and Jews. On April 22, in addition to the usual scenes of ''martyred'' female homicide bombers clad in white and floating beneficently across the screen, viewers were treated to this: ''Be certain that America is on its way to utter destruction, America is wallowing (in blood) today in Iraq and Afghanistan, America is defeated and Israel is defeated, and was defeated in Lebanon and Palestine. ... Make us victorious over the community of infidels. ... Allah, take the Jews and their allies, Allah, take the Americans and their allies ... Allah, annihilate them completely and do not leave any one of them.''

That's not defeat and retreat talk. That's the talk of victory and self-confidence.

In an April 26 op-ed for The Washington Post, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat - a lonely voice within his party because he favors victory for our side and for Iraq's elected government - said that while progress is slow, it is visible but will take more time. He said even if Iraq's Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds were to achieve a political solution tomorrow, the threat of al-Qaida would not go away.

Lieberman concludes: ''The challenge before us, then, is whether we respond to al-Qaida's barbarism by running away, as it hopes we do - abandoning the future of Iraq, the Middle East and ultimately our own security to the very people responsible for last week's atrocities - or whether we stand and fight.'' Lieberman has chosen to ''stand and fight and win,'' which is better than defeat, retreat and having to repeat the battle somewhere else against a much stronger enemy, with many more casualties.

It's shameful that so many Democrats running for president appear ready to accept defeat and retreat if it advances their presidential prospects, no matter the prospects for the security of Iraq, the Middle East and the United States.

E-mail nationally syndicated columnist Cal Thomas at calthomas@tribune.com.

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