My uncle Edward Rosenfeld, now 90, was a Marine who fought at Iwo Jima. Fortunately for him, he was not in the first, nor the second wave of Marines to hit the island, because some of those units suffered casualties of up to 75 percent. But he was in the third wave, and he and his comrades had the awful job of attempting to roust the last Japanese soldiers out of their caves and hiding places. "People wondered," Uncle Ed reminisced several years ago, "why we didn't take more Japanese prisoners. At first, we tried to. But one Japanese soldier came out with his hands up and then dropped to the ground so that the guy behind him could open fire. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. We didn't take prisoners after that."
I thought of that story when news broke of a small group of Iraqi soldiers who flew a white flag at our Marines only to fire a rocket-propelled grenade at their vehicle. The Washington Post reports that "as many as nine Marines" were killed. The tactic succeeded in killing Americans -- once. It won't happen again. The Iraqis have also reportedly moved soldiers and equipment into civilian neighborhoods in Basra and other cities. To hide behind civilians is obviously criminal and primitive. What baffles me is: Don't the Iraqis think it unmanly?
The fragility of the liberal press is once again on display. In Afghanistan, when victory was not achieved within 72 hours, The New York Times ran articles predicting another "quagmire," and many long beards reminded us that Afghanistan had been the graveyard of British and Russian imperialist ambitions. Now, after only four days of battle, and after only one day of casualties, The Washington Post headlines, "U.S. Losses Expose Risks, Raise Doubts About Strategy."
Did the analysts raising these doubts actually believe that we could fight a completely casualty-free land war? Did they believe we could take Baghdad in 24 hours?
This, too, casts the mind back to Iwo Jima. Could the United States have won World War II if our press reported that war as they are reporting this one? The participation of journalists is fine in principle, and certainly one respects their personal courage in choosing to be on the front lines, but in the age of television, their presence tends to exacerbate an already extreme impatience among the chattering class. When war is a TV show, you tend to want a climax within two hours -- and when it doesn't come, you start suspecting that there's a problem with the director or the script.