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Fri May 14, 2004
Spin, Loose, or Draw?
While most attention is focusing on the prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq, Pete revists some of the broader issues of the war.
By Pete Olson
Wilmington NC – [Click the Listen button to hear Pete's commentary.]
The nice thing about coming from a military background, rather than politics, is not only that I can sleep well at night, resting comfortably in the knowledge that my parents were legally married, but that I can immediately spot nonsensical political spin regarding all things military. So since I?m not a politician, I will stand behind our actions in Iraq without trying to rewrite history such that our operation becomes a quest to liberate the Iraqi people from tyranny.
Let?s be honest - we went in because we KNEW some Al Qaeda leadership was in Baghdad, and we THOUGHT Iraq still held chemical and biological weapons.
Trying to reinvent the mission by donning the mantle of liberator was a huge mistake, for it places us in a situation far more difficult and dangerous than if we had simply admitted that we started a war based on erroneous intelligence, and needed to finish it quickly. We now want the Iraqis to hand us what amounts to total victory without doing what is militarily required to achieve that victory.
War, for all its sophisticated high-tech gadgetry, is remarkably similar to a bar fight. You can?t declare ?end of game? and tell your opponent when he?s had enough - he just may surprise you. You pound away on him until HE tells you that he?s had enough.
Apparently, Iraq hasn?t had enough.
I fear that our problem goes far beyond ?politics as usual,? however. This isn't a new problem, and I cannot accept that it?s simply a defective gene that keeps the Bush family presidents from finishing wars. That doesn?t explain Korea, Vietnam, or Somalia. That can?t give a hint as to why the media keeps describing 136 troops killed in April as ?heavy casualties.? At Iwo Jima, we saw almost seven-thousand Marines and sailors killed in one month?now THAT is heavy casualties.
Reviewing our history since World War II, a frightening picture emerges. We have become the paper tiger that the Chinese accused us of being in 1950. Oh, we?re not afraid of war.....we?re afraid to win. We are unwilling to kill an enemy, and destroy his will to fight, the basic requirements for victory.
We Americans want a very neat, sanitary war in small doses. We want it won in two days by aircraft dropping smart bombs from twenty-five thousand feet??and we?d appreciate some video of that on the evening news, thank you.
Show a military funeral, with a mother burying her only son, however, and we change the channel. Lose a small handful of troops to a roadside bomb, and the networks are breaking in to tell us of the horrible casualties.
If William Tecumseh Sherman were alive today, his quote would have to be ?War is heck,? because to paraphrase Colonel Jessup in ?A Few Good Men,? we can?t handle the truth.
What is truly frightening is that this attitude is so common on Main Street that it reaches all the way to Pennsylvania Avenue. What does it tell the world, when a commander in chief is unwilling to take the steps needed to emerge clearly victorious, with OUR strategic interests preserved?
For a month we surrounded Fallujah, rattled our sabers, and threatened doom and destruction if the insurgents did not surrender and turn in their weapons. When they were foolish enough to tangle with us, we slaughtered them by the hundreds and lost very few Marines. Today however, the streets of Fallujah are patrolled by the very people we were fighting. We have dropped our demand that the insurgents give up their weapons. The Iraqis are celebrating and dancing in the street.
Meanwhile, we hear rumbling coming from senior military commanders, about not being allowed to do their job - the ridiculous comparisons to Vietnam are becoming less ridiculous every day. How long will we TALK about going in to take out Moqtada al-Sadr?.or will we simply ?negotiate,? and walk away from him, too?
We just can?t bring ourselves to do what must be done - we just can?t stomach the killing.
What we fail to realize is that the unfinished messes we ?politically spin? our way out of remain headaches for decades to come. Korea is still a problem after fifty years. Vietnam nearly ripped this country apart and is still at the root for the great distrust of government we see. I don?t even have to mention the premature and incomplete end to Desert Storm, because we?re seeing its results every day.
Douglas MacArthur said it best; ?In war, there is no substitute for victory.
The general would be truly shocked to find out that victory just isn?t important to America any more.
Political spin and pretending the problem isn?t there seem to be popular substitutes.
Pete Olson is a retired Marine who lives and works in New Hanover County.