Jewish World Review March 26, 2002/ 22 Adar II, 5763

Wesley Pruden

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Fighting the war without a scratch | Winston Churchill famously said of Charles de Gaulle in the early days of World War II, when the French were working (as usual) both sides and de Gaulle was the only French ally available: "I know that every man must bear his cross, but why must mine be the Cross of Lorraine?"

George W. Bush might imagine that his cross is the media, or that snotty small part of it that's beginning to try to mimic the war correspondents of Saigon, circa 1968. The "coalition" is only five days into the war in Iraq, barely 60 miles south of Baghdad and fighting only skirmishes and taking almost no casualties at all, and some of the media notabilities (whose experience in uniform was limited to the Cub Scouts) are muttering "Vietnam," talking "quagmire" and demanding a change in "strategy."

George W. and Tony Blair are going out of their way - far, far out of their way - to liberate and not conquer.

Never in any of our wars has a commander in chief so limited the scope of weaponry in taking out a regime. Lincoln loosed Sherman on a civilian population, targeting private homes and farms and slaughtering livestock to burn, pillage and starve a helpless population into submission, and gave him three whole months to carve a path of death and desolation from Atlanta to Savannah and the sea. Eisenhower suffered no shackles in liberating Europe, and the French and Belgian towns and farms, which were friendly territory, nevertheless were battered and bruised as the only way to dislodge the Nazi armies. Lyndon Johnson and Robert McNamara insisted on micromanaging the Vietnam war from Washington to disastrous consequences, but not to spare the countryside. Villages were wasted and towns were devastated in the drive to destroy the invading communists.

The war in Iraq is unique. Iraqi morale is held to be at least as important as the morale of soldiers and Marines. Iraqis greeted the Americans with cheers and demands for the promised groceries. The Marines were even ordered to take down the American flag they had raised after taking the port city of Umm Qasr. When an American officer was murdered by one of his own men, everyone tiptoed around the elephant in the parlor, the fact that the suspect soldier is a recent convert to radical Islam, lest the feelings of Muslims be bruised. The U.S. government has even dispatched "counselors" to "counsel" the troops in the wake of the first accounts that Americans had been slain and others captured. (The last time an American general "counseled" a soldier who needed psychiatric help it cost George S. Patton his command.)

The president and his men, notably Don Rumsfeld, have tried to stifle the widespread media speculation that the war would be over in a week, which is about the time it takes for the Israelis (who fight under no instructions to be polite) to subdue an Arab coalition. Nobody was listening, because the media, particularly the TV anchorpersons, had adopted the story line that the war had to be swift, sweet and painless to be successful. Even Wall Street swooned with anticipation, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average soaring nearly a thousand points in a week, and the price of oil dropped dramatically when it looked like the Iraqi tap would soon be turned on full force.

Some of television's talking heads are concerned because Tommy Franks has ordered his men (and women) to look for roads to Baghdad that go around troublesome towns, where Iraqi troops with nothing to lose are mounting ambushes and devising surprises of treachery and deception. By now, as anyone who has been glued to the tube knows, the coalition was supposed to be comfortably in Baghdad with the new Iraqi government dispensing random acts of kindness and George W. was meant to be on his way to the Mall to dedicate a monument to the men and women of the war in Iraq, all of whom had come home without a scratch.

The columnist George Will once speculated that if television cameras had been present on Bloody Lane at Antietam a traveler today would need a visa to go from Washington to Alexandria. (Nothing wrong with that, of course; President Condoleezza Rice, the Georgian president of the Confederate States of America, would be directing the mighty Army of Northern Virginia toward Baghdad this morning.) American grunts with psyches cosseted by modern media would have never made it off the beach at Normandy.

Fortunately for all of us, the young men (and women) driving toward Baghdad are better, tougher, stronger than some people are telling us they are. They know what they're doing, and they're doing it.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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