SAVE FOR the plumes of smoke and the episodic sound of explosions, Baghdad scarcely resembles a city that’s been pounded by thousands of sorties for the better part of a week. The lights are on. The water is running. Businesses carry on more or less as usual. The state-controlled media continue to crank out their noxious propaganda.
The utilities and electronic media operate not because allied forces can’t find them, but because allied forces know precisely where they are, and the allies are taking every reasonable measure, every tolerable risk, to minimize civilian casualties. They’ve tried to leave utilities untouched out of humanitarian concerns, and they’ve spared Saddam Hussein’s broadcasting facility because it’s (deliberately) located in a densely populated area.
That Baghdad stands at all, let alone functions in any capacity, is a testament to American restraint.
After all, Operation Iraqi Freedom could have been over before it started, saving America tens of billions of dollars and an untold number of soldiers’ lives. All US officials had to do was drop a nuclear bomb in the heart of Baghdad. The explosion would have singularly wiped out Saddam Hussein and his gang, as well as the whole of the “elite” Republican Guard—and, of course, some 5 million innocent civilians.
But that option was morally unthinkable, as was carpet-bombing the city, or aggressively pursuing military targets surrounded by Hussein’s human shields. As much as the French, Germans and other internationalist cowards have taken to denouncing America as a “bully” and its president a “cowboy,” the war in Iraq has so far been nothing but an admirable and heroic effort at compassion.
Never in history has any nation ever waged war so conscientious of humanitarian concerns.
The effort began even before the start of hostilities, with allied forces appealing to Iraqi troops to surrender early. It continued with the war’s opening salvo, when US forces tried to take out Hussein’s inner circle with a direct attack on a bunker, in a failed attempt to spare the rest of Iraq the pain and bloodshed of another war. Then allied officials postponed the “shock and awe” bomb campaign for a couple days while they tried to negotiate a surrender with senior Iraqi military officials. Even after the campaign began, allied forces carefully chose their targets, the timing of each bombing, and the weapons used in such a way as to reduce the civilian death toll.
Meanwhile, coalition forces have given shelter and humane treatment—even medical attention aboard American naval ships—to the Iraqi prisoners of war they have picked up along the way. (Unlike their enemies, who have tortured, paraded, and possibly executed the American soldiers they have captured.)
But America’s restraint comes at a significant strategic loss. Iraqi broadcasting sends the message to the country’s citizens and soldiers that Hussein is still in charge, and so they should continue fighting. Legitimate military targets go untouched, and thus pose a threat to allied forces. Supply lines risk being dangerously stretched because troops have advanced to Baghdad at breakneck speed, all in the hopes of obtaining a quick victory and avoiding protracted urban warfare.
America is risking the lives of its soldiers to protect the lives of Iraqi civilians. Some “bully.”
Were they interested in facts, the trajectory of this war would silence and embarrass left-wing anti-war “peace” protesters who have ridiculed the president as a warmonger, and who thoughtlessly toss around words like “illegal” and “immoral” to describe the long overdue liberation of an oppressed nation.
The protesting crowd would do well to consider the words Lt. Col. Tim Collins, commander of the Royal Irish battle group, delivered to his troops hours before they went into battle: “We go to liberate, not to conquer. We will not fly our flags in their country. We are entering Iraq to free a people, and the only flag that will be flown in that ancient land is their own.”
Lt. Col. Collins might have added that allied forces are moving quickly to capture Iraqi oil fields—so that Hussein won’t destroy them—with plans to return them to the Iraqi people when the fighting is over.
Were they interested in facts, that one alone would silence right-wing, anti-war paleocons who cluck-cluck about “empire” and America’s “hegemonic” ambitions.
Opponents of the war both left and right ought to contemplate how different this war would be if strategic circumstances were reversed—if it were the Islamofascists who had access to the most sophisticated military equipment the world has ever known, and if it were America and her allies that were using old, shoddy equipment. Does anyone think Hussein and Osama bin Laden would show the restraint of President Bush?
There is no moral equivalence in this campaign.
Bush and the coalition he leads are risking much to create a freer Iraq, a saner Middle East, and, in turn, a safer America and world. In Operating Iraqi Freedom, American forces are fighting a battle about which the American people can only be proud.