What kind of 'freedom fighting' is this?

TOMORROW is the first anniversary of the start of the Iraq war.

The groups perpetrating this mayhem are not freedom fighters by anyone’s definition of the term. The Iraqi Baath Party was originally and consciously established on the model (and ideology) of the pre-Second World War European fascist parties. Once it seized power under Saddam Hussein, it first became a client state of the Soviet Union, supporting every twist and turn of the old Communist empire, including the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. Then it degenerated finally into the corrupt instrument of Saddam’s personality cult and financial corruption. Saddam’s final legacy was to create the equivalent of a Hitler Youth, dedicated to put up the kind of fanatical resistance we are seeing today. Once upon a time, those on the left would have denounced America and Britain for not opposing such a force for evil. Today, the Spanish Socialists openly call for withdrawal from Iraq, with the obvious consequence of handing it back to the Baath Party fascists. The specious demand that the UN take over somehow ignores the fact that the UN left Iraq after the fascists bombed its local HQ.

The other terrorist group active in Iraq is Ansar al-Islam, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a longtime associate of Osama bin Laden. Another specious argument used by those who criticise the war is that it has created an alliance between the Baathists and al-Qaeda which otherwise would not have existed. This is to turn reality upside down. Before the war, we were told by these armchair critics that the secular Baathists and fundamentalist al-Qaeda would never link up. Clearly, that is not true. So now we are told this certain "impossibility" would not have occurred had the invasion not created a pretext. But anyone who had read bin Laden’s various communiqus knew he saw Iraq as the front line in defeating the West; and that Saddam was using the Ansar group as a weapon against the Kurds in their liberated zones protected by allied airpower. The consummation of this evil alliance was always going to happen. At least now the Baathists lack a state, an army and the oil revenues to help al-Qaeda get nuclear weapons - thanks to Saddam’s overthrow.

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Never forget that the tally of 400 innocent people murdered in Iraq in the last six weeks by the Baathists and their allies is probably fewer than Saddam normally killed in secret. And never forget that it is the same thugs doing the killing. The terror groups’ aim is to delay or block the holding of elections in Iraq. How can that be "freedom fighting"?

Certainly, the degree of resistance inside Iraq was under-estimated - as it was in Afghanistan. It is a serious setback in the war against terrorism that bin Laden has not been captured or killed, two and a half years after 9/11. Fortunately, there were signs this week that the Pakistani army was inflicting heavy reverses on the remnants of the Taleban and al-Qaeda on the border with Pakistan. Last night, there were also indications that the Pakistani security forces were closing in on bin Laden’s second in command, Ayman al-Zawahri.

This war was not of our choosing, and it will not be costless. But we have no alternative other than to win it.