WASHINGTON -- Five years ago this week, 170,000 American and coalition soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen and Marines launched Operation Iraqi Freedom. When they commenced their attack, they were outnumbered nearly three to one by Saddam Hussein's military, yet it took U.S. troops just three weeks to liberate Baghdad. No military force in history has accomplished that much so fast with so few casualties.
Despite a lightning-fast victory over the dictator's army, Republican Guard and fedayeen, the challenge of leaving Iraq better than we found it proved to be daunting and dangerous. Unfortunately, few Americans know what their countrymen in uniform have accomplished in the Land Between the Rivers.
On the way to Baghdad, American and allied forces were accompanied by more than 700 print and broadcast reporters. Once the dictator's capital was liberated, most of the media elites either headed for home or sequestered themselves inside the Green Zone. There they bought photos, footage and "news" from photographers and "reporters" traveling with our adversaries.
As coverage shifted from the warriors to Washington, political controversy, casualties and missteps -- inevitable in any war -- became the focus of reports about the war. Courageous Americans serving in the line of fire found themselves cast as bit players in a partisan firestorm. Bright, brave young Americans in the line of fire -- not our enemies -- became the targets for the mainstream media and powerful politicians.
The New York Times described those serving in our military as nothing but "poor kids from Mississippi, Texas and Alabama who couldn't get a decent job." A U.S. senator likened them to those who served Hitler, Stalin and Cambodia's Pol Pot, and a presidential candidate claimed that those who don't do well in school will "get stuck in Iraq." In 2005, after the press had been beating Abu Ghraib like a rented mule for a year, Newsweek ran a fictitious story about U.S. military guards flushing a Quran down a toilet, which precipitated riots throughout the Muslim world.
The consistent spin for five years has been to get out of Iraq, and despite extraordinary gains in the past 12 months, it hasn't stopped. On Monday, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton described how she intends to get our troops out of a war "we cannot win." Two days later, Sen. Barack Obama claimed, "Our military is badly overstretched." He promised he would "immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq" and "remove all of them in 16 months."
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.