First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
It Ain't Over Till It's Over
I hope that the brevity of this war does not convince Americans that we can lick anybody on the block.
Yes, we have powerful, accurate weapons; well-trained and humane soldiers; excellent leadership.
But much of our success in this war depends on the fact that most of the enemy soldiers and citizens want us to win.
There is clear evidence that Iraqi soldiers sabotaged their own explosives in the oil fields.
Iraqi officers from the beginning have refused to obey certain orders.
Civilians guided the British in Basra to sites where fedayeen and other irregulars were holed up, waiting to spring traps. We've been guided to minefields. Civilians have refused "human wave" orders and some would-be suicide bombers have turned themselves in.
If the Iraqi people had not hated their own government -- and trusted us to be decent people who would give their country back to them as soon as possible -- this campaign would have been bloody and difficult every step of the way.
It would be tragic if, because of this victory, we came to love war, to look forward to it, to regard it as the best, instead of the worst, way to solve problems with other countries' governments.
Because then the anti-American propaganda being pumped out in most countries of the world right now would cease to be a pack of lies.
I'm relieved that our military leaders are not tailoring the campaign in Iraq to please the media. The way they are handling Baghdad is superb.
That insatiable hunger for something new to talk about leads the press to, er, press for action.
That's why, during a one-front invasion that reached and penetrated Baghdad in an incredible sixteen days, with astonishingly low casualties on our side and amazingly limited civilian losses, we kept hearing about how the advance had been "slowed" and was "bogged down."
The press aren't comparing our military progress to historical precedents or even to any real-world standard. They're comparing it to their wish for new pictures and new things to talk about.
By-passing many Iraqi cities and moving swiftly while avoiding unnecessary confrontation; using exceptionally good intelligence and targeting to pound Iraqi Republican Guard units into the ground with only rare frontal assaults; the surgical strikes by our special forces to seize the initiative all over Iraq; and the vital efforts of our Kurdish allies to open a northern front in order to liberate their own country -- all have led to one goal: To surround and cut off Baghdad before the Iraqi leadership believed we could do it.
On Sunday, as I write this, we've been seeing pictures of armored U.S. troops making a reconnaissance-in-force along a major Baghdad thoroughfare. However, it's worth noting that the Fox News flyover showed that this particular thoroughfare was lined with a greenbelt, rather like Cone Boulevard in Greensboro.
In other words, our column never got close to people's houses. Therefore the Iraqi resistance, such as it was, could not fire at us from those homes and force us to fire back, causing civilian casualties.
Our military leadership is determined not to fight house to house and door to door, if it can be avoided.
Instead, we are making it clear to everyone in Saddam's government that they do not control any portion of Iraq except Baghdad itself, and they can't even prevent us from entering the city at will.
What do you think Saddam's cronies are doing? Preparing to fight to the death for their beloved leader?
I don't think so.
They've already shown that they know the only way people will make suicide attacks against U.S. and British forces is if their families are held hostage.
And the people who have supported Saddam at the highest levels are, by definition, cowardly profiteers. People who really love the Iraqi people either quit the government, never entered it, or were killed by Saddam long ago.
The only people surrounding Saddam now are those who say yes to everything he wants, who tell him only good news, and who then go home and enjoy the fruits of power -- wealth, the ability to lord it over others, or a taste for cruelty.
They aren't going to make some kind of heroic last stand to defend Saddam.
They are all making careful calculations right now: Are things chaotic enough yet in Baghdad that I can make my escape without Saddam finding out and killing me?
And that's where our strategy is so effective. As of today, they can't get out of Baghdad without being intercepted either by our forces, Kurdish forces, Iraqi civilians, or Saddam.
Out of that list, whom do you think they're going to prefer being taken by?
There are very few who will have the personal courage to fight to the death.
And as Saddam's cronies flee, the lower-level leaders who now find themselves without orders will be more and more likely to do the only logical thing: surrender and even help Coalition forces neutralize remaining fedayeen and find weapons of mass destruction.
But things can still go very wrong. Our strategy has been just about perfect, but no strategy can protect the Iraqi people from the evil of their own leaders.
As Saddam finds himself abandoned by more and more of his cronies, what will he do?
He has modeled his life on Stalin's and Hitler's.
Hitler killed himself rather than be captured. But he was also furious at the incompetence and unworthiness of the German people, who had let him down (it couldn't have been that he brought them to ruin, could it?).
Can anyone doubt that if Hitler had had a weapon of mass destruction, he would have used it to blow up Berlin along with himself?
If Saddam is alive, in Baghdad, and in possession of a fully operational nerve gas or anthrax or nuclear device, there is certainly a chance that he will use it -- without regard for the likelihood that it would kill thousands and thousand of his own citizens, and do very little harm to Coalition troops.
Naturally, Al Jazirah will accuse Coalition forces of having used the illegal weapon. And therefore French, German, and Russian media will treat it as a "strong possibility."
But everybody everywhere will know, regardless of the official line, that the army that is winning using its conventional weapons is not the one that will use completely unnecessary criminal weapons.
After all the thousands of words English borrowed from French, it's almost unbelievable that the word chutzpah had to come to us from Yiddish.
Or maybe not. To notice chutzpah, in yourself or someone else, you have to have a sense of shame. And there's no sign of that in the French government these days.
They have the gall (and even though gall is a homophone of Gaul, the ancient name of France, the word comes from Old English) to insist that the U.N. should govern Iraq.
Here's why that is an absolute impossibility:
1. Not because the U.N. was weak and didn't support the war.
2. Not because the French are insisting on it and we're mad at the French.
3. Not because we want to control Iraqi oil and get beneficial contracts for our corporations.
OK, I'll try again. Here is a list of reasons why the U.N. simply cannot have even a voice in the interim governance of Iraq.
1. The only force for order in liberated Iraq right now is the Coalition military, and the military must be in control until the country is completely pacified.
2. There is a serious danger of Iran and Turkey attempting to intercede militarily and/or politically in the Shi'a south and Kurdish north of Iraq, respectively, and until a strong, credible central government is in charge in Baghdad, Coalition forces must prevent such foreign influence.
3. The U.N. appoint the interim government? You mean the international organization that has already tried to block the U.S. and Britain from taking part in the U.N. humanitarian relief program, even though the only reason humanitarian aid is actually going to get to the Iraqi people is because our soldiers risked their lives to get rid of their inhuman government?
Besides securing the borders with Iran, Turkey, and Syria, the interim government of Iraq must have three aspects to have any legitimacy or hope of survival as a pre-democracy government:
1. It must have broad-based support or at least representation of all areas of Iraq except for Saddam's home tribal area.
2. It must be completely de-Ba'athized -- no former Ba'ath Party member or Iraqi official can be allowed to take any government role.
3. It must be backed up by credible force so that this fractious country, long held down by fear, does not go into freefall like Yugoslavia did.
In other words, the American, British, and other trusted military (Australian, Spanish, Hungarian) must stay in order to keep any warlord from arising to try to fragment Iraq or to rule it as a new Saddam.
The U.N. is not competent to guarantee any of these requirements.
Carefully supervised humanitarian aid from the U.N. may be admitted to Iraq -- but only if the U.S. and Britain participate fully in the administration of that humanitarian aid.
If the U.N. votes to bar those who bore the burden of war from taking anything less than a leading role in whatever the U.N. does in Iraq -- including having the authority to block the entry of officials from countries that support terrorism, like Iran and Syria -- then the U.N. should not be let in at all.
Anything else would simply be insane. You don't strike down an evil government at the cost of your own citizens' lives in order to allow a weak and incompetent international organization to introduce enemies into Iraq in order to fund and organize terrorism against your own forces.
And the first thing the new interim government should do is repudiate all contracts with companies that did business with Saddam.
They should not be barred from bidding on new contracts, but the old contracts were signed by a tyrant who slaughtered his own people and used the nation's resources for his own benefit. They have no validity when the tyrant is gone.
There are, however, companies that should be barred. Those that sold Saddam materials that could be used specifically to block U.S. weapons systems or to support illegal warfare such as gas or bio-weapons or nuclear weapons, should be permanently barred from doing business in Iraq.
Whether the interim government also chooses to bar all companies from the countries that fought so hard to block the liberation of Iraq is a matter for them to decide.
Personally, I think they should be open-minded. France and Russia have a long history of close association with Iraq. And we should keep in mind that if France should be punished for trying so hard to keep Saddam in power, then should we also be punished for trying so hard to keep the Shah of Iran in power? Or Somoza in Nicaragua?
Iraq's new governments -- the interim government and the democratically elected government that will follow it -- need good relations with all the non-terrorist-sponsoring nations of the world in order to recover from decades of misrule and return to its proper place as one of the two leading countries of Arab civilization (the other one is Egypt).
When you hear former generals criticizing the American war plan on TV -- or even quotes from officers in the field -- keep in mind: The military doctrine on which our war plan was based is new.
It violates many of the old (and, I believe, utterly out-dated) principles that have governed American military doctrine for decades.
There are people inside the military and recently retired from it who fought this change in doctrine any way they could. And some of the retired generals simply have not been part of the discussion, so they're evaluating a new type of warfare by the standards of the old.
They would naturally seize on any hint of a setback as evidence that the war plan -- and therefore the new doctrine -- had failed.
That's the danger of using retired generals for commentary. I wonder how familiar any of these retired generals are with the new doctrine, and whether any of them support it.
It is already obvious, however, that the new doctrine -- including close and immediate contact among all branches of the service, dispersed command authority, and lighter and more mobile forces -- is a resounding success.
Disastrous things might still happen. But the only possible disasters are the kind that no war plan could have foreseen or, having foreseen it, prevented.
Blaming the war plan for unpreventable disasters (like Saddam unleashing weapons of mass destruction against Baghdad) would be as stupid as blaming Bush for the "failure of diplomacy" before the war.
Bush couldn't control the French or Russians, and therefore couldn't control the outcome of the diplomacy without surrendering vital American interests.
Likewise, our military can control what we do and can do all in its power to deprive the enemy of useful options, but we can't stop Saddam or some of his followers from being insane or evil and performing unpreventable acts.
Don't forget. The "war with Iraq" is simply Campaign 2 in the war against terrorist-sponsoring states that began on 12 September 2001.
Afghanistan was Campaign 1.
I hope there is no Campaign 3. But if it is needed and we don't carry it out, then this victory will have been pointless, in terms of our national security.
Bordering Iraq are Syria and Iran, two of the most virulent sponsors of terrorism against free and civilized nations.
Syria, though less rich and less populated than Iraq, has been even more active in sponsoring terror, especially against Israel, but also against us.
Iran is even richer and more populated than Iraq -- and is the most active sponsor of terrorism in the world. They also are well along in developing nuclear weapons.
It is possible that, having seen what happened to Iraq -- and how unreliable Saddam's own troops and population were in defending against the Coalition's campaign -- both Syria and Iran will change their ways. (That happy outcome is slightly more possible in Syria, which has shown some capacity to change its stripes when necessary.)
It is also possible that the people of Iran, already restless under the oppressive rule of the Ayatollahs, will force democratization and moderation. (That is less possible in Syria, which has had little exposure to western ideas and has a marginally more repressive government.)
Even after victory in Iraq, which now seems likely, the war is not over.
And it will not be over until there are no governments that sponsor terrorism. Whether that happens by voluntary change of their policies or by their forcible removal is up to those governments.
Copyright © 2003 by Orson Scott Card.
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