My friend Stuart Schube related to me some conversations he has had recently with friends preparing for the upcoming Jewish Day of Remembrance observing the Holocaust. To one of them he commented (and I paraphrase), “If George W. Bush had been President in 1933 and available to respond to the Nazi threat in 1933-39, there would not be a need for a Day of Remembrance.” And I would add, nor a Holocaust Museum. Who knows how many thousands of innocents in the Middle East and possibly other places around the world will now avoid the necessity of a day of remembrance for the continuation and possible acceleration of the genocide of the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Freedom is not cheap. And to paraphrase Churchill, “this is not the end, it’s not even the beginning of the end, but it’s surely the end of the beginning.” Many treacherous days lie ahead in a long occupation and difficult transformation of Iraqi society. After all, Nazi Germany only lasted eleven years, while the totalitarianism of the Iraqi Baathist Party was in power for thirty years in a culture with no legacy of self-governance, and no history of a Reformation or an Enlightenment. But, however long it takes, this mission was, and is, the right thing to do—a truly transforming event with positive consequences far beyond Iraq’s borders. George Bush understands this, just as he understands that freedom is God given, not conferred by the state or any regime, and should be universal, and that there are risks to be taken and prices to be paid to create a secure environment in which freedom can advance.
In February 2002 the Institute for American Values organized a group of sixty of America’s leading intellectuals to draft a declaration of the universal principles that are at stake in this war. Entitled “What We’re Fighting For”, they are not denominational or sectarian, but represent the received wisdom of the ages and are based on five fundamental truths, as follows: (1) all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights; (2) the basic subject of society is the human person, and the legitimate role of government is to protect and help foster the conditions for human flourishing; (3) human beings naturally desire to seek the truth about life’s purpose and ultimate ends; (4) freedom of conscience and religious freedom and inviolable rights of the human person; and (5) killing in the name of God is contrary to faith in God and is the greatest betrayal of the universality of religious faith. These serve as valuable reminders of the heritage that must be defended and passed on.