The myth of the quick clean war

Lt.Col. Gordon Cucullo:

War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. A man who has nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety is a miserable creature who has no chance at being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.” -John Stuart Mill

Watching the Democrats in Congress – abetted by some ill-informed, poorly disciplined Republicans – engage in the politics of betrayal this week was grim. Seeing so many supposedly intelligent, dedicated, patriotic individuals engage in infantile defeatism was maddening. They are attempting to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and many of us are frustrated and upset.

Part of what drives these individuals – aside from Beltway poll watching, and unchecked ambition - also troubles many Americans: our obsession with achieving the impossible. We want to have a clean, crisp, sanitary war in which we suffer few casualties. We want our enemy’s pain to be minimal possible to achieve desired results. We want the unfortunate deaths of civilians – euphemistically called “collateral damage” – removed from the process completely. Additionally we wish that all deaths inflicted by internal errors – “friendly fire casualties” – be prevented. We want a Clean War Pill to cure our foreign policy ills and will accept no hangovers or unpleasant side effects. And, by the way, we want the entire thing from beginning to end wrapped up by next Thursday.

“Why is this taking so long? Are we in a quagmire?” These frantic questions were on commentators’ lips just days into the Iraq War when a sandstorm – not enemy action - temporarily slowed the blistering advance of American and Coalition force troops up the Tigris-Euphrates River valley. To all informed observers the attack was remarkable in its pace and intensity. Entire Iraqi Republican Guard divisions – considered elite by media types – were being overrun by 3rd Infantry Division and Marine Task Force units at a pace considered impossible prior to the war.

Even without immediate assistance from the 4th Infantry, which had been forbidden to cross Turkey to enter the war from the north, on-the-ground units were achieving impossible objectives. High tech weapons systems were knocking out targets at phenomenal rates. Iraqi soldiers fled into the desert, drifting back into cities and villages after jettisoning uniforms, helmets, and equipment. On Fox News Bill O’Reilly asked military analyst Colonel David Hunt if we “have killed a hundred thousand of these guys?” Hunt thought we had done so. It turned out that the enemy KIA numbers were far lower and Iraqi civilian casualties were minuscule given the magnitude of the fight.


So why are Americans so disconsolate about the state of affairs? The obvious answer is that we receive precious little positive news from the battlefield. We are told that casualty rates are high, though they are not. We are told that the “insurgency” is gaining popularity among Iraqi people while the converse is true: insurgents have declared war on ordinary Iraqis and the civilians recognize the threat. Massive demonstrations in Jordan see the “Arab Street” - which up till now has been deafening silent – out chanting “Zarqawi, burn in hell!” Inside Iraq civilians who may have given tacit support to the terrorists are no longer intimidated and are informing to American and Iraqi forces on the hideouts of the al Qaeda thugs.

We are told that Iraqi infrastructure is irreparably harmed while there is more electricity generated now than any time during Saddam’s reign, more schools are open, more hospitals are functioning with better equipment, more news media sources – newspapers, radio, television, and Internet – are operating than at any time in Iraqi history, and the economy is booming to the point that large numbers of Iraqi expatriates are returning to join in the free market bonanza. Iraqis are indeed concerned about American presence – they fear that we will cut and run.

What can be the motivation for such disconsolate reporting – actually misreporting – from the battlefield? Part and parcel it is the Vietnam syndrome writ large. The reporters, commentators, and analysts who report the war are themselves fatally infected with the Vietnam disease even though most are far too young to have experienced it firsthand. They were inoculated with anti-war, anti-American ideology while in journalism school and receive frequent booster shots. They have been schooled that mere reporting of the news is for wimps and that real journalists are “participatory.” They believe their role is “interpreting” news for the unwashed public. So selective screening, cherry-picking facts, and slanting interpretations are all part of their beat.


There is much more.


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