So things are going badly in Iraq?

By James Whorton
Sunday, July 20, 2003

We are stuck in a growing quagmire. The casualty list is rising. The Iraqi infrastructure is in disarray. The people hate us and want us to leave. We are losing the peace.

If you watch the national news and read certain commentators, you might reasonably reach that conclusion. But let's rewind. Let's go back to the first few days of the war and compare what is being said now to what was being said then. Do things sound familiar?

Let's focus in on the mythical "pause". Remember? U.S. soldiers and Marines advanced deep into the heart of Iraq, a bold offensive. But then they apparently stopped. Casualties were mounting into the dozens. The Iraqis were fighting back, using brutal tactics. A sandstorm had descended on the battle, and there were reports of elite Iraqi forces, hidden by the sand, advancing to attack our soldiers and Marines.

Expert commentators appearing on most of the major news networks predicted tough times ahead. The operational plan had failed. There weren't enough forces available. They had outrun their supplies. They were not prepared the Iraqi tactics. Baghdadwas going to be like Stalingrad. Thousands of Americans were going to die in brutal street fighting. A quagmire was developing. The entire operation hung in the balance.

We know now that they were wrong. Hidden in the sandstorm, our soldiers and Marines were coiling and preparing to strike forward again, this time in a war-ending crescendo. U.S. airpower was in the process of annihilating the elite units of the Iraqi Republican Guard, although you couldn't see this on TV. Our generals were busy making adjustments to the plan, adjustments always needed in any military operation.

Within days of the dire predictions, all this became clear, for when the offensive continued, Iraqi resistance completely collapsed under the speed and power of our onslaught.

Unable then to criticize the successful military operation, the critics turned to criticizing the peace, making wildly false claims about mass looting of Iraqi antiquities and the rescue of Private Lynch, claims since largely refuted.

Now the critics have latched on to the resistance being waged in Iraq. Things aren't going according to plan. Resistance is tougher than expected. The infrastructure isn't being repaired fast enough. Americans are still dying. It is a quagmire, quagmire, quagmire!

And the real situation? Things are difficult in Iraq. There is a determined resistance being waged by Saddam loyalists and Muslim fundamentalist terrorists against the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Restoring the infrastructure and the government is harder than expected.

But what will things look like in six months? In a year? I suspect they will look quite different than they look today. Soon there will be a much greater international peacekeeping presence inIraq. More Iraqis will be out on the street doing police and security work. More Iraqis will soon be involved in running their country. The infrastructure will continue to improve.

A year from now we'll know just how accurate the critics were. I suspect they will go the way of an Iraqi sandstorm.

One thing is clear. We are in this to stay. On the flight deck of the USS Roosevelt, President Bush reminded us that the end of major combat operations in Iraq did not mean the end of the war against fundamentalist Islamic terrorists and those who support them. He told us Iraq was just one battle in this war, a war that is far from over, a war that won't always be easy.

And just who is in a quagmire now? I submit that Saddam Hussein and his loyalists are trapped in a quagmire, along with Al Qaida and its surviving leadership and all those who hate us and want to kill us. They're caught in a quagmire, one from which there is no escape if we stay the course and remember 9/11.

James Whorton of Monroe, La., teaches English and social studies at Delta High School in Mer Rouge, La. He is a U.S. Army Reserve Retired Major who served 15 years active duty in the period from 1973 to 1992.

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