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Media's War Lies By: Ralph Peters
New York Post | Friday, April 18, 2008


LIKE many Americans, I get angry at biased "reporting" about Iraq and the spin from dishonest pundits. Usually, I get over it quickly, since my expectations of the media are pretty low.

But sometimes a Big Lie just won't let go. And the lefty lie that the Iraqi military is a hopeless failure must be answered.

Yes, we all know that left-wing media outlets, such as the dying New York Times, need Iraq to fail to redeem their credibility. They'll do all they can to dismiss any sign of progress.

But the perverted gloating over recent Iraqi military operations in Basra combines willful ignorance of military affairs with a shameless manipulation of the facts. Yes, some local Iraqi police and new military recruits ran away. But that was all that the media reported.

Where was the coverage of the 95 percent of the Iraqi security forces who did their duty? Some fought superbly. The Iranian-backed gangs and militias took a beating.

Muqtada al Sadr - not the central government - asked for a cease-fire. The Iraqi military remains in Basra, still pushing (and freeing the occasional kidnapped journalist). The government now has a presence where lawlessness prevailed - and it took control of Basra's vital port facilities, the country's economic lifeline.

But all we continue to hear about is the one Iraqi cop or soldier in 20 who ran away.

OK, consider our own military history - which isn't short of ultimate victories:

* During the American Revolution, George Washington repeatedly had trouble with troops fleeing the battlefield and with desertions. Militias remained unreliable all through the war. Yet, we defeated the British - a global power - in the end.

* In the War of 1812, American troops broke again - and more than once. Yet, at the war's conclusion, it was redcoats seasoned in the Napoleonic Wars who fled from the US Army's "Cottonbalers" at New Orleans.

* In the Mexican-American War, Gen. Winfield Scott's march on Mexico City was the most brilliant campaign ever fought by American troops - yet, earlier in the conflict, an entire troop of US Cavalry (new immigrants) deserted to the Mexican side. That's why there's never a J or Juliet troop in a US Cavalry regiment.

* After a few hours of fierce fighting, the Union Army broke at Bull Run, fleeing in panic at the start of our Civil War. Even two years later, when the Army of the Potomac was well on its way to becoming the first great industrial-age force, the XI Corps - more than 10,000 men - disintegrated when surprised by Stonewall Jackson at Chancellorsville. Guess who won the Civil War, anyway?

* As other writers have noted in regard to Basra, the green US forces in North Africa in WWII fell apart when struck by Rommel's Afrika Korps at Kasserine Pass. At Vossenack Ridge, two years later, US troops cracked under heavy shelling and ran again. Guess who won that war, too?

* At the outset of the Korean War, the US Army's Task Force Smith collapsed as it was overwhelmed by North Koreans. But we came back with a vengeance. Should we have just quit?

And should we demand more of the Iraqis, who have so many internal obstacles to overcome, than we ourselves could deliver in the past?

Few battles have perfect outcomes. No wars do. Not all soldiers will measure up. And no human endeavor is more complex than warfare.

Soldiers break and run in three basic circumstances: when they're new and are asked to do too much too soon; when they're surprised; or when they're ground down to the breaking point by overwhelming odds.

Show me one country whose troops have never fled a battlefield - I can't find any.

In the past, when we still honored military service, even the literary set understood that wars are fought by fallible human beings. Stephen Crane's American classic, "The Red Badge of Courage," is about a young soldier who runs away in terror from his first taste of combat - yet returns to fight bravely later on.

The Iraqi military, which now has 190,000 troops in uniform, is getting along pretty well by historical standards. These troops are taking responsibility for their own country, allowing us to do less and less of the fighting and dying. Yes, they'll need our help for a while yet - but we needed the "technologically superior" French to help us get to Yorktown.

Meanwhile, why don't the noisiest critics of the situation in Iraq, from the Times' silly Frank Rich to Sen. Barack Obama, go to Iraq to see things for themselves?

Are they afraid?

If so, they really shouldn't question the courage of others or mock their sacrifices.

I've always admitted that Iraq could fail. Despite real, measurable progress, that remains the case. I only wish that those on the left would have the integrity to acknowledge that Iraq also has a chance to succeed.


Ralph Peters is a New York Post Opinion columnist and the author of "Looking For Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World."


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