Iraqis and Soldiers Need Time

Rebecca Hagelin

4/3/2003 12:00:00 AM - Rebecca Hagelin
In an age of microwave ovens, wireless phones and multiple-angle instant replay, do we really expect to win our wars instantly too? Yes, if you listen to analysts who are upset that we haven't beaten Saddam after only a few days.

These same impatient critics also scowl at the fact that the fearful and oppressed people of Iraq aren't immediately dancing in the streets at the sight of foreign soldiers. What the critics (not unlike spoiled children) seem to have forgotten is that some things take time.

Several days ago, Lt. Gen. William Wallace, the highest-ranking American in Iraq, told reporters that because America's supply lines in Iraq were overextended and because the Iraqis weren't surrendering as quickly as some had anticipated, we could be in for a longer war than some people think. That's hardly a shocking admission: War is an unpredictable business.

Yet, Wallace's remarks were met with shock and were splashed across the front pages of the Washington Post and the New York Times. We're gaining more ground, more quickly than any war in history, but to watch some newscasts or read the papers, you'd think we were losing. We hear the Q-word - quagmire - creeping into the discourse.

Thanks in part to the journalists embedded with units, this is the first war to be covered in real time. Ultimately, such access to the front lines is probably good for freedom and for the First Amendment. However, we must tread carefully through this new phenomenon and understand the dangers it presents.

Instant access to war via live cameras means that military tactics are analyzed again and again with no understanding or even knowledge of the overall classified strategy behind the war. It also causes some to demand instant results. Such "arm-chair" refereeing in the midst of a televised entertainment sport such as, say, football is fine. However, too much war analysis by those unaware of the game plan could diminish support for our soldiers. It seems some are forgetting that what they are watching on television isn't a movie in which the good guys will end by the time the popcorn is gone.

Equally disturbing are the remarks of those who are critical of the fact that we don't see more Iraqis immediately celebrating as American and British forces gain control of their villages and towns. Fortunately, it seems the American public at large instinctively understands that the effort to rid the world of evil ones, and the influence they have, is a cause worthy of whatever time it takes to accomplish the task.

Absent a miracle, a few days just isn't enough time to gain the trust of a people who have been brainwashed - from the time they were children - into hating the United States. Saddam hasn't been telling his people we're coming to liberate them from his reign of terror ... he's been telling them that we are coming to rape their women, destroy their country and abolish their religion. Most of these people don't even understand the word "freedom" - they have no point of reference, no memory of better times, nothing on which to grow hope.

Most Iraqis have never met an American - let alone an American soldier - except through the eyes and lies of Saddam Hussein. The only soldiers the Iraqi people know are the ones who have terrorized them their entire lives.

It's Saddam's soldiers, after all, who murdered and mangled thousands of Kurds and Shiites. It's Saddam's soldiers who torture those who speak against the government. It's Saddam's soldiers who hanged a woman last week because she waved at passing American troops. It's Saddam's soldiers who fire indiscriminately on their own people. It's Saddam's soldiers who force all able-bodied men to fight for the regime, then stand behind them, guns at their backs, to ensure they don't surrender or retreat. To expect such brutalized and brainwashed people to understand the concept of a soldier of freedom and peace is not only naive, but also crass.

The good news for us, and the oppressed people of Iraq, is that American and British soldiers are winning the war. And as Heritage Middle
East expert James Phillips writes in
a new Heritage Foundation Web memo, we're doing it big time.

In less than eight days, coalition forces had seized control of more than half of Iraq and, as of Friday, had moved within 50 miles of Baghdad.

In addition, we've started to rout groups in the Kurd-controlled north of Iraq that have ties to al-Qaida. We've secured the port city of Umm Qasr and begun to distribute humanitarian aid from ships docked in its deepwater port. We've ordered another 130,000 soldiers to the front. We have near-complete control of the airspace over Iraq, and we're rebuilding Iraqi air bases for coalition use. We control all of Iraq's borders.

Our military forces are winning on a scale perhaps never before seen in the history of warfare. Human decency dictates that we give our military forces the time to free the people of Iraq, and Iraqis the time to see a soldier, for the first time, as an agent of peace and protection.