Those who carp, and those who get the job done

Posted: Apr 17, 2003 12:00 AM

Hardly a month into it, the war to liberate Iraq from Saddam Hussein is winding down. The past 10 days have seen....

The taking of the Baghdad airport, as well as Basra and Baghdad itself. The collapse of resistance in Kirkuk, Mosul, Tikrit and Qaim. The repatriation of the Magnificent Seven POWs (plus one). The capture of key Saddamite operatives, the flight of others and the death of still others, such as Chemical Ali and possibly even the big enchiladas - Saddam and his two cretinous sons.

Cooperation with the Turks. Cheers, celebration, jubilation in the streets - Iraqis hugging Marines, saying, "I love Mr. Bush," and shouting, "America, yes!" Torture chambers found, missiles found, caches of likely biochemical weapons found. Warnings to Syria. Statues of Saddam defaced and toppled across the land.

Yet the people who said....

Let the UN do it. Give the inspectors more time. It's all about oil. The Europeans are irked - the Chinese, too. People will die; better start stocking up on body bags. War will cost too much. Preemption is wrong; war to liberate Iraq wouldn't be just; the protesters and the Dixie Chicks are right. It would be an American jihad - war against Islam, war against the Arabs. Iraq isn't our problem; Saddam isn't so bad.

.Are many of the same people who said....

What does stupid Bush know? Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell and Wolfowitz are proven warmongers - not to mention the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Saddam might use biochems - verily, what if he does? The retired flag officers on TV are skeptical. The coalition forces are too few, too green, can't possibly win quickly. We'll get mired in Iraq à la Vietnam.

...Are many of the same people who said....

Our forces are so highly technologized they were stalled - stymied - by a mere dust storm. Our troops moved so fast they outran their supply lines; the troops were hungry; whole units ran short of bullets and food. Our troops operated so efficiently they have changed the face of war.

Iraqi missiles that Iraq didn't have were destroyed by American missiles that couldn't work. The American flag on the face of a prominent Saddam statue - and help from an American armored vehicle in pulling the statue down - were grievous mistakes. Is Saddam dead? If we don't find out - and certainly if we don't find weapons of mass destruction - the war will not have been justified.

...Are many of the same people who, following the statue's destruction, liked these commentaries and headlines....

Celebration is unseemly and premature. Columnist Thomas Friedman: "No water, no food, no happy faces," so "hold your applause." Imams and intellectuals are voicing concerns. Cox News Service: "Sentiment in Baghdad is about 60-40 joy; many Iraqis are sullen and despise the U.S." Egyptian intellectual: "Under the present situation, I cannot think of defending the U.S." South Africa's president Thabo Mbeki: "In Iraq the U.S. is setting a bad precedent."

"Reaction in Europe Muted and Mixed." "Arabs Gloomy." "Some Iraqis Grateful to U.S. But Wary of Any Changes." "Muslims Unmoved by Fall of Saddam; Leaders Condemn U.S. as Colonizer."

...Are many of the same people who are saying now....

The United States has won the war but can't possibly win the peace. There is chaos, mayhem, looting, vigilantism and anarchy. Bush is a boob; he has put a retired general in charge of the interim transition government. In an Arab/Islamic country, democracy can't work.

When will Bush start moving on democracy? What about reconstruction? What about humanitarian assistance? The United States better leave soon, soonest - yesterday. The United States better not leave before the restoration of civil order. If the United States lingers too long, U.S. troops will be viewed in the Arab street as nothing more than latter-day Ugly Americans.

Bush and Blair are arguing over post-liberation Iraq. Who will run the place? Islam hates us; Arabs hate us; we are loathed. What about Arab/Islamic despair over the defeat of Saddam? We need to restore the Arabs' - Islam's - lost honor. Give the UN - and our crucial allies France, Germany, Russia and China - a wider role to get the crucial things done.

Seventy-three percent of Americans approve of President Bush and the way the war in Iraq was carried out. The general secretary of the National Council of Churches, evidently a leading intellectual light, cites 90 percent to 95 percent approvals for the American enterprise in Vietnam and says, "I'm pleased that only 70 percent of the country supports the administration" today.

Questions: Who is ignorant (Jane Fonda said in Vancouver the other day that Americans are)? Who have their arms around the situation and really know what they're talking about? Who are doing what they said they would do and, thankfully, checking things off the list instead of constantly carping - who is out there in the fray securing liberty for Iraqis and protecting the people and interests of the United States?