Commentary: Syria has no grounds to protest U.S. raid

This editorial appeared in the Tacoma News Tribune on Thursday, Oct. 30, 2008.

Because President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld decided to police Iraq on the cheap in 2003, they left the back door open to disaster.

They didn’t deploy enough troops to lock down the Syrian and Iranian frontiers, and guerrillas and terrorists gradually figured out that they could launch cross-border raids and infiltrate Iraq with near-impunity. American forces and their Iraqi allies have paid dearly for that blunder.

Such is the context of Sunday’s U.S. raid on a Syrian village six miles from the Iraqi border. Part of Gen. David Petraeus’ counter-insurgency strategy has been to deny the enemy any sanctuary whatsoever. Despite the caterwauling of Syrian officials – who’ve never had qualms about ordering assassinations in neighboring Lebanon – the raid was thoroughly defensible.

The defense does presume that U.S. military and intelligence officers are more credible than the Syrians. The latter say the raid did nothing but kill “innocent civilians,” including four children. The former say it killed Abu Ghadiyah, an Iraqi chief of al-Qaida in Mesopotamia, and fellow guerrillas before they carried out an imminent raid of their own. Abu Ghadiyah is believed to have personally led the attack last May that killed 11 Iraqi police officers.

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