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War Watch
First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
By Orson Scott Card September 23, 2002


This past week we've been hearing from the press about the strategy we're going to pursue in our war with Iraq.

We've been told that sources inside the Pentagon promise that this war will not involve heavy bombing to destroy Iraq's infrastructure. Nor will we try to destroy the Iraqi military. After all, our war aim is to have Iraq be stronger than ever, only with a government that is not seeking weapons of mass destruction or supporting terrorists.

So we'll use cool new bombs to hit all of Saddam's palaces and all known sites where nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons are manufactured and stored. These bombs supposedly are able to penetrate far deeper than any we had in 1991. They also generate such intense heat that biological and chemical weapons will be completely neutralized.

The only reason we'd end up actually fighting the Iraqi military is if they fail to do the right thing by deposing Saddam. If they get rid of him and his government, Iraq's military leaders don't have to suffer humiliating defeat in battle, and Iraqi soldiers don't have to die.

Maybe we have cool new bombs.

Maybe we have such excellent intelligence that we actually know where all Iraq's weapons are built and stored.

Maybe Saddam will be so dumb that he won't read about our strategy in our news reports and therefore he won't move all our targets, including himself, to grade schools and hospitals where we can't hit them without slaughtering innocent civilians.

And maybe not.

Either way, there is no excuse for stories about military strategy to be published at all.

Here's why.

Suppose the "sources" who leaked our "strategy" are right. If that is our plan, then by publishing it, the press has given our enemy an insight into our planning, and unless the Iraqi government and military are really too dumb to live, they will be able to take appropriate countermeasures -- up to and including a "use it or lose it" launch of their most devastating weapons.

That could end up causing millions of casualties in Israel, among our troops in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and perhaps even within Turkey, our ally.

And it could cause a lot of our soldiers to face far greater risks in combat, because our enemies know what we're going to do.

Suppose, however, that the sources of those leaks don't know what they're talking about. In that case, it would be stupid to run the story because it would be wrong, and responsible journalists don't knowingly run wrong stories.

Suppose, in a third scenario, that the leaks actually are part of a government strategy to frighten Saddam into thinking we have cool new weapons that we don't have, so that he will move his weapons of mass destruction and our spy satellites and planes can catch them in motion, thereby exposing them to our weapons.

If that's the case, then our press really is the patsy of the government, isn't it?

Three possibilities: The leaks are true, the leaks are false, or the leaks are manipulative. No matter which of these is the case, it is absolutely irresponsible of the press to publish the story.

The only reason to run those stories is if they don't care how many Americans die because the enemy knows our strategy, they don't care that our military will be less likely to succeed in destroying Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, they don't care whether the story is even true, or they don't care that they're being manipulated by the government.

Where in this picture do you see any good journalists?

And where, oh where, are there any loyal American citizens among these journalists who actually care whether American values prevail in the world, or whether American soldiers might be put needlessly at risk?

There is a fourth possibility, of course. Perhaps President Bush or Secretary Rumsfeld called in three or four key editors and leaked this information themselves, saying quite plainly, "Boys, we don't have any cool new weapons, and even if we did we wouldn't know where to drop 'em.

"This is pure disinformation to try to get Saddam to think his weapons of mass destruction are in great danger, so he'll panic and move them. Then our spy satellites will be able to see them moving and we'll finally have some idea of where they were and where they're going.

"We need you to run this story ... because you're good Americans."

That's the only scenario in which these journalists have any defense for running the story.

Even then, however, one problem would remain. If journalists allow themselves to become knowing tools of the government in this case, how can their readers trust them to be independent of the government in other matters? Is it more important to America to trick one enemy one time, or to keep an independent press?

After all, such a trick could only work once. From then on, nobody could believe our press about anything. But ... maybe it's worth it. Such a moral dilemma would be too close for me to call -- I'd understand editors who chose either way.

But I don't actually believe either our government or the press could cooperate in such a way. It would require a degree of trust that simply doesn't exist between a Republican president and the press that tried so desperately to defeat him during the election and discredit every move he has made since.

No, I think one of the first three suppositions is nearest to the truth. And by running the story about our strategy under those circumstances, the press has shown their true colors.

Because loyal citizens never, never, never run stories about their side's military strategy in wartime. Whether accurate or not, such stories can do no good for anyone and might cause great harm.

But hey, anything for a story to keep the ratings and circulation figures up. Let the chips -- and American soldiers -- fall where they may.


What are the Israelis doing, besieging Arafat again? Are they really so helpless now that this is the only thing they can think of to do when his team launches yet another baby-killing attack on Israel?

One thing is certain. Contrary to the speculation of dimwitted observers, they do not want to force Arafat into exile. If that's what they wanted, they could have done it any time in the past five years.

Arafat in exile -- a martyr for his cause, free to roam the world to get supplies for terrorists and funding for his war of extermination against the Jews. Yeah, that's what the Israelis want.

As long as Arafat is in Palestine, he is effectively under house arrest. The Israelis know where he is at all times. And he knows they know. That's where they want him.

I think they're besieging Arafat for precisely the reason they said -- they want to get their hands on all the people closest to him and put them on public trial for mass murder. That's because they know they have the evidence to convict them -- to prove that the people closest to Arafat have been running the whole baby-killing campaign all along.

And in the meantime, Arafat will be left to run his campaign without all the operatives who have actually done his dirty work for him.

They're doing the opposite of what we want to do in Iraq. In Iraq, we want to decapitate the regime by getting rid of the man at the top.

In Palestine, Israel wants to cut away the body and leave only the head.

Copyright © 2002 by Orson Scott Card.

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