But there are reasons to keep fighting even beyond these geopolitical considerations. On a recent trip to Iraq, I saw the human stakes in this struggle. I spoke with the commander of the 8th Iraqi Army Division in Diwaniyah, Major General Othman. He is a Shia, commanding a heavily Shia unit in an entirely Shia area. I asked him what was the most serious challenge he faced. He answered at once: Shia militias. General Othman stands strongly for an Iraq ruled by law, in which the government holds a monopoly on the use of force, and in which Sunni and Shia are treated equally. He has put his beliefs to the test of battle. When he saw that members of Moktada al-Sadr’s Shia militia, the Mahdi Army, had taken control of the city of Diwaniyah, he conducted a large-scale clearing operation with the help of American forces and drove them out. General Othman now holds Diwaniyah, where the people can breathe free again, subject neither to that militia nor to any other. There is no turning back for General Othman. The Mahdi Army is determined to kill him and his family, and they will do so if we do not continue to support him. The life of this decent man is in our hands.
In Iskandariyah, I met Major General Qais, the commander of the Babil Province police forces. I asked him the same question, What is your greatest challenge. Without hesitation, he, too, said: Shia militias. The Iraqi police are known to be infiltrated by Shia militia fighters, but General Qais has molded a force that he uses against those very militias on a daily basis. He has survived attempts on his life, and he and his family are under constant threat. They, too, rely on America to help them fight the agents of Iran who seek to defeat us. Across Iraq today, decent people are standing up and identifying themselves. They are reaching out to us, working with us, and fighting alongside us against our enemies, even against the powerful Shia militias. If we abandon them now, they will be tortured and killed, along with their families, by the militias. We will have exposed every decent person in the country to destruction.
The story of the Vietnamese Boat People was a shameful chapter in American history. We don’t need an Iraqi sequel.