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June 21, 2006

Recharacterizing The War On Terror

Why has public support for the war on terror, once at 70%, eroded so severely?

"Experts" like John Murtha, whose moral authority to speak for the military is unimpeachable (and don't you dare question his patriotism either!) will quickly tell you: the war is "a flawed policy, wrapped in an illusion". Murtha continually repeats a few easily-digestable stock phrases and the media unquestioningly give him front page coverage, inexplicably ignoring the many times his statements have contradicted each other or been demonstrably false:

Back home, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., a prominent defense hawk, called for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq over six months. In a speech Thursday, Murtha said, "Our troops have become the primary target of the insurgency."

Even the most cursory follower of the war should be able to spot the flaws in this one. Open a newspaper on any given day and you'll likely read of explosions, kidnappings, and headless corpses. Who are most of the victims? Not our troops. Most of us instinctively recognize terrorism. We don't have to have the word defined for us - it's well established in the popular lexicon. But lest we draw the wrong conclusions about "so-called terrorism", CNN, Reuters, and the BBC hasten to assure us that "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter". After all, if United Nations cannot seem to define terrorism, let alone confront it, who are we to differ?

This must be another instance where the media "can't find" information cleverly hidden in obscure spots like Merriam-Webster; places too dark and dangerous for an investigative reporter to go without a military escort:

terror: (3)violence (as bombing) committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or government into granting their demands

The simple truth is that Iraq's insurgents are not fighting for their own freedom. They fear the courage of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who braved sniper fire and explosions to get to the polls. They are afraid the will of the people will one day be heard in Iraq, and they fight desperately to prevent democracy from taking hold, fight to impose the will of the minority on an entire nation by force. The defining characteristic of terrorists is that they intentionally pass up legitimate combatants, preferring to target innocent men, women, and even small children. We deliberately target the insurgents, and sometimes innocent civilians get killed. The insurgency, for the most part, deliberately targets innocent civilians. How, then, did our troops become "the primary target" of the insurgency? How did we become the bad guys?

The answer, of course, is that we aren't. So why do the media, who challenge the administration and the Pentagon at every opportunity, continually give Jack Murtha a pass? Why don't they question the obvious inconsistencies in his public statements? Why do they perform bizarre gyrations, working even months-old quotes into every single wartime report?

The answer, we are told, is context. The American public needs context to fully understand the complexities of war. We need the kind of context the media deliberately refuse to provide when they relentlessly hype every setback or accusation without balancing these reports with the acts of incredible heroism or compassion. This is completely understandable. Such accounts might serve to remind us that not all our troops are, as we are daily reminded, murderers who "... overreact because of the pressure on them, and ...kill innocent civilians in cold blood.”

In order to keep the war in perspective, Americans are constantly told that we squandered the support of our allies, who would have been on our side, had we been less arrogant:

...during the first ten days of the war, Iraq asked Russia, France, and China not to support cease-fire initiatives because Saddam believed such moves would legitimize the coalition's presence in Iraq.

Furthermore, UN sanctions were working, weren't they? We should never have invaded without the approval of France, Russia, and China:

Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz described the dictator as having been "very confident" that the United States would not dare to attack Iraq, and that if it did, it would be defeated. What was the source of Saddam's confidence?

Judging from his private statements, the single most important element in Saddam's strategic calculus was his faith that France and Russia would prevent an invasion by the United States. According to Aziz, Saddam's confidence was firmly rooted in his belief in the nexus between the economic interests of France and Russia and his own strategic goals: "France and Russia each secured millions of dollars worth of trade and service contracts in Iraq, with the implied understanding that their political posture with regard to sanctions on Iraq would be pro-Iraqi. In addition, the French wanted sanctions lifted to safeguard their trade and service contracts in Iraq. Moreover, they wanted to prove their importance in the world as members of the Security Council -- that they could use their veto to show they still had power."

Saddam wanted the sanctions lifted too-- according to the Iraq Survey Group, so he could begin manufacturing WMDs again. But lest this news lead us to the wrong conclusion, we are once again reminded that Iraq posed no threat to us:

The Saddam Fedayeen also took part in the regime's domestic terrorism operations and planned for attacks throughout Europe and the Middle East. In a document dated May 1999, Saddam's older son, Uday, ordered preparations for "special operations, assassinations, and bombings, for the centers and traitor symbols in London, Iran and the self-ruled areas [Kurdistan]." Preparations for "Blessed July," a regime-directed wave of "martyrdom" operations against targets in the West, were well under way at the time of the coalition invasion.

Never heard of Blessed July? Apparently that was a form of "context" the mainstream media decided we didn't need to hear. You see, Iraq was contained by twelve years of UN sanctions and the sternly wagging finger of international consensus. Move along -- nothing to see here.

If our children don't need historical context to understand war, why should we?

Jay Mathews wrote of the teaching of WWII history in the public schools, that there are lessons on women stepping into men's roles and lessons on the Japanese internment, but few on generals or specific battles. As Joanne Jacobs put it, "Rosie the Riveter has trumped Patton."

Why mention that 25 percent of Union and 31 percent of Confederate Forces were killed or wounded at the Battle of Antietam, that it was the single bloodiest day in American history; with 23,000 Americans killed, wounded, or missing in action? But then as a result of this and many other bloody and discouraging battles, the slaves were freed and the Union preserved.

We can understand death, in that context. And certainly there is no comparison to a war where the American people were lied to:

Both the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee and the independent Silberman-Robb Commission found not one case in which Bush officials, quoting the Senate committee, "attempted to coerce, influence or pressure analysts to change their judgments related to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities." Recall that both the French and German intelligence agencies also believed Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

Just two months before the war, the Los Angeles Times reported that chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix "disclosed troubling new details about Iraq's weapons programs and expressed frustration with what he described as Baghdad's refusal to resolve long-standing questions about efforts to produce biological and chemical weapons, as well as long-range missiles." Mr. Blix later told reporters that in his gut he felt that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. "These guys had played cat-and-mouse during the whole of the '90s, so I was suspicious of that," he told NBC's Tim Russert earlier this month. He later changed his mind when his officials uncovered no evidence of a weapons program. But the question remains: If President Bush lied about Saddam having WMD why did so many others also say the same thing at the time?

How can this compare with a war against an enemy everyone knows posed no threat to us?

...newly declassified documents from Saddam Hussein's office concerning a meeting between an Iraq official and Osama bin Laden show that "Saddam was a significant enemy of the United States." One document is a handwritten account of a Feb. 19, 1995, meeting between an official representative of Iraq and bin Laden, where bin Laden broached the idea of "carrying out joint operations against foreign forces" in Saudi Arabia. The document reports that after Saddam was informed of the meeting he agreed to broadcast sermons of a radical imam, Suleiman al Ouda, requested by bin Laden. Several months later al Qaeda terrorists attacked the headquarters of the Saudi National Guard. The document specifically said the question of future cooperation "between the two parties [is] to be left according to what's open" in the future.

How can this compare to a war against an enemy we all know had been contained for twelve years?

During the former president's visit to Kuwait to commemorate the coalition's victory over Iraq in the Gulf War, Kuwaiti authorities arrested 17 people allegedly involved in a car bomb plot to kill George H.W. Bush. Through interviews with the suspects and examinations of the bomb's circuitry and wiring, the FBI established that the plot had been directed by the Iraqi Intelligence Service. A Kuwaiti court later convicted all but one of the defendants.

In retaliation, President Clinton two months later ordered the firing of 23 cruise missiles at Iraqi Intelligence Service headquarters in Baghdad. The day before the attack U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Madeleine K. Albright went before the Security Council to present evidence of the Iraqi plot. And, after the U.S. attack, Vice President Gore said the attack "was intended to be a proportionate response at the place where this plot" to assassinate Bush "was hatched and implemented."

How can the American people continue to support a war when we are making no progress?

Documents found on the computer owned by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi show he was increasingly concerned about the "bleak situation" the insurgency he led faced. "Time is beginning to be of service to the U.S. forces by allowing them to form and bolster the [Iraqi] National Guard, undertake big arrest operations, carry out a media campaign weakening the resistance's influence and presenting it as harmful to the people, [and] creat[ing] division among its ranks." He concluded by saying that the best way "to get out of this crisis is to entangle the American forces into another war. . . . We have noticed that the best of these wars is the one between the Americans and Iran."

The answer should be obvious: we can't support this war. The Iraqis have failed to hold elections or write a constitution. Those we intended to liberate now hate us. Thanks to us, they have completely lost hope:

To the Courageous Men and Women of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, who have changed the city of Tall’ Afar from a ghost town, in which terrorists spread death and destruction, to a secure city flourishing with life.

To the lion-hearts who liberated our city from the grasp of terrorists who were beheading men, women and children in the streets for many months.

To those who spread smiles on the faces of our children, and gave us restored hope, through their personal sacrifice and brave fighting, and gave new life to the city after hopelessness darkened our days, and stole our confidence in our ability to reestablish our city.

Our city was the main base of operations for Abu Mousab Al Zarqawi. The city was completely held hostage in the hands of his henchmen. Our schools, governmental services, businesses and offices were closed. Our streets were silent, and no one dared to walk them. Our people were barricaded in their homes out of fear; death awaited them around every corner. Terrorists occupied and controlled the only hospital in the city. Their savagery reached such a level that they stuffed the corpses of children with explosives and tossed them into the streets in order to kill grieving parents attempting to retrieve the bodies of their young. This was the situation of our city until God prepared and delivered unto them the courageous soldiers of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, who liberated this city, ridding it of Zarqawi’s followers after harsh fighting, killing many terrorists, and forcing the remaining butchers to flee the city like rats to the surrounding areas, where the bravery of other 3d ACR soldiers in Sinjar, Rabiah, Zumar and Avgani finally destroyed them.

I have met many soldiers of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment; they are not only courageous men and women, but avenging angels sent by The God Himself to fight the evil of terrorism.

Could anything be more clear? The media doesn't report acts of heroism because heroism doesn't really exist. As Jack Murtha keeps reminding us, "We have become the enemy." It's time to "redeploy".

Why has public support for the war eroded so much? Perhaps it is America's knowledge about the war that represents a failed understanding wrapped in illusion.