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The War Nerd January 22, 2003
 
Iraq: The Phoney War Continues
By Gary Brecher Browse author Email
 
 

This hands-off war with Iraq is a total joke. A long, bad joke that stopped being funny a long time ago. It's been two years, longer than the Korean War lasted, since the Pentagon press briefers started feeding daily leaks about how our invasion of Iraq is "imminent."

Two years! I'm not a word authority, but it seems to me two years is a little long for anything to stay "imminent."

If you want proof of how long this went on, let me show you the first paragraph of a column I wrote for eXile six months ago:

"Waiting for Dubya and his Texas cronies to decide whether to hit Iraq is like waiting for Christ. It's so goddamn slow, and you start kinda doubting it's gonna happen at all. American TV reminds me of Sunday school teachers talking about the coming of Christ, with all the little reporters trying to get themselves shown with a mike in front of an F-16 taking off, asking, 'When will the invasion come--if it comes at all?'"

See that? Six months ago! And it started long before that. The Republicans were talking invasion before they finished the Florida mess. But until 9/11, the press wasn't biting so eagerly when Cheney's boys dangled the bait. It wasn't till the towers went down that the Pentagon and the Press started doing this guess-the-date pool full time. Bush's State of the Union speech in Jan 02 was the official opening of the Irq-hunting season. The whole "axis of evil" list was a hit list and everybody knew it. Iraq was the Axis most likely to get whacked first for a reason every fool knew without having to say it out loud: the other two, Iran and North Korea, can actually fight.

So we pick Iraq...and then it takes America, land of Sgt York and George Patton, two years of dry-humping to make a move? You know how that looks to the foreigners? Imagine it on the old playground:

All weekend, little G. W. Bush spreads the word that he's gonna kick the ass of Baby Saddam.

Monday at homeroom, Bush says, "I'm really gonna kick his ass this time."

Tuesday Bush repeats: "I'm definitely kicking that pansy's ass really soon."

Wednesday, Bush pipes up: "I'm just about ready.

On Thursday, little Bushie would get beaten to death by all his classmates while Saddam picked his nose and giggled.

My country's commander in chief, trying to talk himself into standing up for America! And nobody even objects! We should be wearing paper bags over our heads by this point.

Nobody on CNN ever seems to ask the obvious question: "How come America isn't ready to take on Iraq after six months of "urgent preparations"? If that's really true, then the US is the biggest phony since Gerry Cooney.

You might say I'm being harsh here, that there's got to be a good reason for the delay. We want to trust our leaders. So I see people all over the Net trying hard to come up with justifications for the putzing around.

There are two major theories on why we're so slow:

  1. The Logistical Excuse, ie putting an invasion force together takes lots of time;
  2. The "Consensus-Building" Excuse, ie we're just making sure all our allies are with us; then we'll take on Saddam pronto.

I'm going to deal with both these claims here, and I'll try to be fair about it becausemy honest feeling is there is no good reason, and the wait is starting to really drive me crazy in a way I haven't felt since the last time I went to the DMV.

The Logistical Excuse is actually reasonable on the surface, so let's look at it first. One part of the Excuse is absolutely true: war IS a very complicated affair, much more sophisticated than the ordinary civilian understands.And offensive wars are the toughest of all. (Try putting together a park expedition with lunch for 10 people. Then do it for 10,000, while other people are trying to kill you. That's logistics.)

But two years? To take on Iraq? For the second time (which means most of the tough logistical work is already on file at the Pentagon)? When they're not even a tenth as strong as they were supposed to be in '91, whereas we're stronger by parabolic leaps?

I don't buy it. Most people agree that the invasion of Normandy was a pretty big party to organize-but they did it in a lot less than two years. If Ike could set up the assault on Fortress Europa in one year in the days before television, why does it take us two years to hit the Iraqi Army? After all, one Waffen SS division could've wiped the floor with Saddam's whole mob of slaves.

Besides, some of the best, hardest strikes are the ones that got put together fast, by people who were angry and competent and just wanted to get to the enemy ASAP. The classic example is Britain in the Falklands War. Britain was busy downsizing its army and navy when the Argentines grabbed the Falklands, a scatter of frozen rocks very close to Argentina and very, very far from England. The Brits had to improvise, working with no American-style aircraft carriers, no adequate sea transport, and no local airbase to use. The Argies had dug in all over the islands, with plenty of air support from the mainland. The Brits had to get an invasion force from the far NE Atlantic to its SW edge, then attack sa dug-in enemy which outnumbered them.

If the UK Staff had thought it through, month by month--the Colin Powell approach-they never would've dared. But war is all about daring. And the Brits knot, even if we don't; that "Who dares wins." So they put their best men on a fleet of old hulks, asked the Royal Navy to come along, and steamed on down to Argentina, where, to all the experts' surprise, they kicked Argie ass all over the islands. Adios, Malvinas; Cheerio, Falklands.

The improvised fleet did its job, and the troops didn't have or want any fancy weapons systems. They wanted to get ashore before their pals killed all the Argies. The Gurkhas did it with knives, the SAS with entrenching tools or their bare hands.

Once the Argentine draftees saw the Brits up close, they just wanted to give up. Sometimes the Brits let them. (Not the Gurkhas, though. I hear those boys didn't take Argie prisoners till their knife arms were worn right out.)

There's an even more beautiful example of the fast, high-risk raid: Entebbe, the greatest Israeli operation ever. It's a great story: PLO terrorists grab an El Al full of Israeli tourists and stow them safely inside Idi Amin's Uganda-in other words, downtown Looneyville.

The Israelis did what the Brits did in the Falklands: they moved fast, put their best men in an old prop plane and sent it off to Africa. The troops had to figure out the rest on their way. And they did; they killed the bad guys, freed the tourists, and came home after losing only one soldier.

When I try to imagine what would've happened if Powell or Rumsfeld had been in charge of the Falklands attack force or the Entebbe raid...well, it just doesn't bear thinking about.

But if you really want to see what would happen-what DID happen-to a Powell-style rescue operation, then steel yourself and read up on our sad, bitter try to free the American hostages in Tehran in the last days of Carter's presidency.

Boy, did we PLAN that one. Everyone in DC from Carter to his pastor, got a say. Every detail was covered again and again. When the rescue force finally took off, they'd done literally hundreds of mock missions.

Sounds good, right? Wrong.

Because you can't plan everything when you attack. What happened to the Carter rescue force...you know, my hands are shaking now, remembering it. Those poor brave guys...see, in all that planning, nobody PLANNED the weather. The weather was a random factor. In this case, a sandstorm which hit our refueling rendezvous in the Iranian desert just as planes were trying to take off and land. In a few seconds there was a collision, a fireball...and that was that for our carefully-plotted mission.

So don't tell me we're taking all this time because we need to "plan." It's just not true.Planning, if I can put it blunlty, is for cowards.

The other excuse for our slowness I've been hearing is even lamer: we're "building consensus" before attacking. Absolute nonsense. "Consensus" is for Church Picnic Committees. Imagine Patton "building consensus." Or, for that matter, Rommel, Hannibal, Jackson.... Damn it, war is the direct OPPOSITE of consensus.

But even if we say that consensus-building is a good thing, I still don't get how waiting so long is going to build it. The way I see it, we had all the consensus we needed on the morning of September 12, 2001. While the world was looking at what those bastards did to the WTC, we had enough consensus to do anything we wanted to. If we'd pressed the nuke button, do you think anybody who mattered would've objected? They've cheered us; tthat's the God's truth.

But now, after 18 months of blundering around the country, throwing tantrums when he ought to be quiet, and then being too quiet when he needed to shout, our great leader has turned our worst tragedy into cheap politics and soured most of the world, including more and more Americans, on a war that should either have been done with at least a year ago, or not at all when you consider the supposed reasons.

Arguing, delays and infighting are the best way in the world to destroy consensus. We've seen that in the Administration itself; by now not even they have a consensus about what to do in Iraq. Every Bush crony leaks bad gossip about every other to the press. This is consensus? It reminds me of my high-school cafeteria, with little cliques whispering about the dorks at the next table and throwing food when nobody was looking.

So I hope I've shown you that the delay isn't about logistics or "consensus-building. OK then, what IS it about? I I can answer that, but the answer's pretty depressing: we're delaying because we're scared to take a risk.

What is war? War is risk. That's so obvious--but I'm afraid the US Brass, Powell's guys, don't know it. Don't even believe it. They want to set up a war without risk, because they can't stand the thought of leaving any chance at all that our invasion might-gasp!-fail.

This is a far cry from the SAS motto, "Who dares wins." The DoD staffers should give themselves an honest motto, one that reflects our brass's attitude. Something like, "Who risks might lose, and that would hurt us in the polls," or maybe "Careful, you might break something!"

Yeah, lots of good mottoes come to mind: "Wear your long underwear, dear!" "Let's run it through the simulation and see how the numbers look!"

These guys are actually insane, you realize that? Step back and look at the situation. We want to take Iraq. We've beaten them, stomped them, once already. Since then, their army is even weaker and more gutless than it was then. They're terrified of us. They're illiterate peasants who surrendered to NEWS CREWS in the last war.

And we are the world's only superpower; its biggest economy; a balanced military force, totally dominant in sea, land and air; fighting to avenge a tragedy that gave us the sympathy of the whole world; and we control the media of the whole world so thoroughly that we could supress any war reporting we didn't happen to like.

That's how the balance sheet looks. And with advantages like that, we need 18 months to attack? Thxis is what I call real insanity, Pentagon memo-culture gone crazy, strangling the sort of spirit that won the Falklands and Entebbe.

We had that kind of spirit too once. Not that long ago-even in Nam, before Tet, it was there. In the LURPs, the SEALs, the Marines, the Cav...and in a hell of a lot of squads from Army divisions without big reps, fighting for their buddies from Hue to the Mekong.

We had units that could go into any VC hamlet or jungleand bring back anyone, from a VC Province official to a water buffalo.

And we can have it again. All it'd take is less money. I mean it: impoverish the services. Fund only one thing: the small elite units. Fund the hell out of them. And when the next asshole captures a planeload of Americans on holiday, put the guys from those elite units aboard the oldest, slowest plane you can buy, and tell them to go kill the bad guys.

That's all it'd take now: tell the SEALs to go to Baghdag and bring back Saddam's head. It would work so well, so fast, that half the Pentagon would keel over in horror.

And hey, that's another good reason!

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Gary Brecher
Browse author
Email Gary at war_nerd@exile.ru, but, more importantly, buy his book.
 
 
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