Saturday, April 12, 2003

How the other side lost

Call me crazy...

Is it just me? Many commentators have been harping on about the ineptitude of the Iraqi military command in the conduct of their historic loss. But this analysis seems off-base. I don't know what was going on behind the scenes, and I wouldn't waste a breath defending these ringleaders and their Olympian brutality (Chemical Ali and all that). I don't know what their motives or constraints were in the fight. But let's look at what they did and didn't do in this case.

All but the most delusional fanatics among them had to know that defeat was unavoidable. We're talking about a country whose defenses had been bombed over and over ever since 1991. When the invaders swept in this March, the Iraqis had no hope of putting a single plane in the air. No position was safe. Everybody knew the US forces couldn't lose, wouldn't lose.

But the Iraqis didn't blow up their bridges. Inept? Maybe, realizing they were screwed either way, they didn't want to be remembered for utterly trashing their own lands. Maybe they wanted the Americans to be the ones responsible for the inevitable destruction of things.

They didn't torch their oil fields with gusto, as predicted. They were excoriated in advance of the war for being so despicable that naturally they would set the fields afire. Now they're inept for failing to do so? Maybe they recognized that their only hope for victory lay in a slim chance of success in the battle of world opinion versus U.S. aggressiveness. Best to leave the oil fields be.

They didn't use chemical weapons as predicted. The only "weapons of mass destruction" they used were a few of the tired and predictably ineffectual conventional missiles remaining in their inventory.

(Whereas the U.S. employed hundreds of times more weapons of mass destruction - thousands of far more highly explosive missiles and bombs. And we've now left the Tigris and Euphrates dusted in our own chemical/nuclear weapon of choice, the remains of our depleted-uranium armaments - you know, the kind of chemical weapon that's acceptable in polite company. Kind of like the steroids that are acceptable in baseball.)

The Iraqis' failure to go chemical, is that why they're inept? Right now, there remains no evidence that that had any such weapons. But even if they did, maybe they recognized that using those weapons would be a bungle.

Not to say the Iraqis were a model of polite, Geneva-convention-approved combat. I guess their treatment of our prisoners was unsurprisingly poor form - predictable for an impotent group fleeing under death from above, unable to get a grip on its invader in any sustained way. And no doubt their tactics using their own civilians as shields was unfair to us, though also expected in such an asymmetrical situation. I ain't here to defend them. But only an agenda-driven gasbag would waste air detailing the tactical incompetence of an army preordained to lose.

The real question is, what choices did they make knowing that every choice must lead to failure? Both sides in this combat chose which rules to break. Perhaps the defeated regime, for once in its unfortunate reign, this time chose its collection of transgressions more wisely than its opponent did.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Give us a boy and it'll all be over

I'm busy. So when I checked the news on the web at work for a couple of minutes this morning and saw this photograph, I had to take a second look, but I didn't linger long. This photograph - of the boy from Baghdad with both his arms blown off, unknown medical goop smeared all over his torso, a bandage on his head, and an astonishing expression of loss, terror, and incomprehension on his face. He was hit IN HIS SLEEP IN HIS BEDROOM IN HIS HOME by an American bomb which, he cried out, killed his parents and virtually all his brothers and sisters.

Wouldn't he be better off living for the next ten years under the despicable Saddam than that? What about you? Wouldn't you rather live under Saddam's rule than lose both your arms and your whole family? Maybe you'd rather be dead than that.

Not much time on my hands. So I didn't think much of anything when I saw that photograph - I just felt a twinge of shame and remorse, and got back to work. Forgot about it until just now.

That face. What have we done? If we were to take an American boy and do this to him as a sacrifice to our god, or a price for our victory, would it be worth it? Just one boy? For a glorious victory? For everything we hold most dear? What if we could make a deal: give the judge one American boy's arms and his family, and in return, no more terrorism against Americans ever again. Are we willing to make that deal? Just one boy?

Why are we doing this to hundreds, maybe thousands, of children? Are they worth a few of our tears? Are they worth our looking at them? Ten years from now, will you seek out this boy and explain to him why you think it was necessary?

We're all busy.