When we're able to get news reports, I've seen over the past few days that even with hundreds of reporters embedded with the units all over the region, it hasn't taken long for the Iraqi propaganda machine and the America-bashers in the press corps to report to the American public that U.S. troops are not taking necessary precautions to protect Iraqi civilians from harm or not enough care is being shown for their well-being. Let me put that nonsense to rest.
A few days ago, just before meeting up with the 5th Regimental Combat Team, the Marines I'm with flew a casualty evacuation mission -- not for a wounded U.S. Marine, but for a young, 15-year old Iraqi girl who was seriously injured, although it was unclear how her injury occurred. The Marines and Navy corpsmen who treated her wounds and gave her medical attention put themselves at great personal risk to evacuate this young lady. She was then air lifted all the way out to the USS Saipan (LHA 2), whose mission, in addition to embarking a Marine Landing Force, is to provide for evacuation and disaster relief. The Saipan and her crew can carry a full Marine Battalion Landing Team and care for up to 400 patients. It is no wonder her motto is Omnia Facimus -- "We do it all."
During our travels, we have also encountered the great, black plumes of smoke that emanate from the burning oil wells ignited by Saddam Hussein. As our helicopter flew around one of these conflagrations, one Marine commented to me, "What kind of S.O.B. would burn his own country?" The answer of course, is the same evil tyrant who would torture and kill his own people.
The environmental and economic cost of Saddam's oil well sabotage would be much worse were it not for these Marines. One of the reasons we moved in early is because Saddam lit his wells on fire. As Lt. Gen. Conway told me, "We moved our attack up -- and moved it up again" to prevent Saddam from lighting up any more of his oil wells. One of the goals, Conway said, is to save that precious resource "for the Iraqi people."
The Marines are moving rapidly across the desert -- fighting day and night, stopping only to refuel and rearm, and continuing their press toward Baghdad. Conway told me they have "covered a lot of ground" and are accomplishing their objectives "on time or even ahead of schedule." He cautioned that to date the fighting has been against Saddam's regular army and we "haven't yet come up against the varsity." But from this old Leatherneck's perspective, varsity or not, the esprit de corps of these young Marines is unparalleled, and they are ready for any challenges that lie ahead on the road to Baghdad.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.