Jewish World Review April 15, 2003 / 13 Nissan 5763

Paul Greenberg

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Three snapshots of a war

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | It was the most familiar scene in the history of man's liberation and re-enslavement: The symbols of the old regime were coming down. This time it was Saddam Hussein's graven image that was being toppled in Baghdad's central square. But it could have been Bucharest in 1989 or Paris in 1789 -- at that one exalted moment before the crowd congeals into the mob, before liberty is succeeded by The Terror. Call it the Ceausescu moment.

A jubilant celebration was breaking out around the giant idol. A noose was being thrown around its stout neck as word spread, in the words of the old Negro spiritual, that Pharaoh's army got drowned. The people were rising up, and across the land Saddam's likenesses were going the way of Lenin's when Soviet power collapsed. Ding-dong, the wicked witch was dead, or at least out of sight.

But there was another part of the scene that caught the eye of those who have seen such things before. Somebody had picked up a sledgehammer and was pounding away at the base of the statue, the huge pedestal on which the tyrant stood. And you knew that soon enough mere anarchy would be loosed. The scenes of looting in Basra were just the preview. More was sure to come.

It is a great thing to depose a tyrant and menace, but after The People have destroyed the base of their society, what will be left to build upon? Those present at the creation of our own young, struggling republic -- the founding fathers who gave us not only a Declaration of Independence but the Constitution -- understood that there is no liberty without law, no freedom without order.

It was a grand scene, the destruction of a tyrant and his tyranny. But some of us, conservatives and true lovers of liberty, will be much more impressed when we see Iraqis building, not destroying.

We will cheer when we see homes rebuilt, children fed, the dead buried and the sick and wounded healed, the widowed and orphaned cared for, the rubble cleared, the rule of law revered, and our own young men and women able to come home. Those will be the true signs of freedom's triumph.

Some conquerors. The victory speeches are about to begin back home as politicians take the podium to preen and every retired general, colonel, major and sergeant embedded in the TV networks explains how he would have done it better.

But I didn't hear anything better than the almost uniform responses coming from a bunch of Marines gathered around to watch still another Saddam statue come down, this time in the center of Baghdad. One after the other, as the microphone was passed around, they expressed a single, simple sentiment when asked what they thought about the significance of these events:

"Oh, boy, soon we get to go home."

There was no talk of glorious victory, military strategy, a thousand-year empire, their own heroics -- just of getting back to mom or dad, wife or sweetheart, home sweet home. Some imperialists. Some conquerors.

In Memoriam: One of the first Americans to die in this war was not an American citizen. Lance Cpl. Jose Antonio Gutierrez of the U.S. Marines died March 21 in the drive to secure Um Qasr, which is to be the major entry port for the humanitarian aid the Iraqi people will need. (That's an American invasion for you. We open the aid routes before we've won the war, terrible imperialists that we are.)

Born in Guatemala, the corporal lost his mother when he was three years old, his father when he was eight. He worked and starved his way through Mexico, and snuck into California. Sleeping on park benches and scrounging food at shelters, he was spotted by a social worker who got him a foster family. But he never forgot the sister he left behind in Guatemala.

The young man got into college on a soccer scholarship, and had planned to study architecture, but then up and volunteered for the Marines after Sept. 11. He'd formed a strong bond with his new family, his church, his buddies and the Corps. And he would finally realize his dream and become an American citizen -- posthumously.

Of the 7,331 foreign nationals serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, 4,472 are Hispanic -- like Jose Gutierrez. What do I have to say about the threat such young men pose to our culture, our heritage, our language, our flag? Just this: Send us more!

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