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The war comes

| Sunday, March 30, 2003

As many of us sat, hypnotized in front of television screens watching in real time our troops fighting their way into Iraq, we realized that we were watching the unfurling of a plan as old as the Roman invasion of Britain in 54 B.C.

Action supplanted dialogue. Talks were offered, but were not successful. Our side offered to negotiate Iraqi surrender, but Saddam's henchmen would not listen and used delay to harden their positions. We set out conditions for a peaceful solution, which Iraq greeted with more lies and insults. In turn, we raised the ante with a moderate bombing attack, which did nothing to induce further dialogue.

We again urged surrender and Iraq was threatened with attacks of "unprecedented brutality." Saddam Hussein was urged once more to quit -- all to no avail. And so the "shock-and-awe" bombings began. We watched Iraqi buildings and Hussein's "palaces" that actually are a part of his command-and-control structure being hit -- and hit hard again, as fresh bombs raked the rubble.

Clear from the start was the fact that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's bombing campaign was no indiscriminate act of brutality aimed against civilians, but an aggressive act that was precisely directed by a committee that selected the targets. This body included a dozen civilian lawyers whose job was to reject a target that could be expected to result in Iraqi civilian casualties.

DISSENT AND DAMAGE

While our fighting men and women were carrying out their orders, some Americans, inspired by fear, a desire for peace, a need to exercise their constitutional rights or mere stupidity, moved on and escalated their tactics of dissent. But not before the landscape of war had been changed.

Military planners, intimidated by the memories of Vietnam, allowed damage to be done and became anxious, as new situations that involved the capture and death of Americans by a ruthless and cruel enemy had to be confronted. The "Vietnam syndrome" exists still. It is fear of public reaction to the realities of war.

In planning his many stratagems, Hussein had the help of France's President Jacques Chirac and the many U.N. delays that the French president helped engineer. Each delay enabled additional units of the elite Republican Guard to be repositioned all over Iraq and ordered to commence guerrilla attacks on U.S. forces when the main battle group had passed, and the more vulnerable support troops were in position.

American and European peaceniks previously complained that America fights a "coward's war." That is, we prefer to drop bombs from a safe 20,000 feet rather than expose our troops to ground battles in which our casualties may be high. We use artillery to bombard enemy strongholds and try to win the "hearts and minds" of our adversaries by giving them food and medicine. The bad news is that the whining "Peace Not War" protestors don't like the current tactics any better.

ARMCHAIR CRITICS

The "softening up" process was short. So short that the armchair critics thought at first that "short and sweet" had replaced the planned "shock and awe." An air attack on Saddam Hussein's quarters minutes after President Bush's ultimatum expired -- intended to bring about the "decapitation" of the regime and to reduce inevitable Iraqi civilian casualties -- did not achieve its intended objective.

Following that attack, massive desert convoys rolled into Iraq, risking misadventure and death in direct confrontation with enemy troops unharmed by bombing, seeking safety by using women and children from their own religious minorities as shields and using many ruses to slow down their defeat.

Donald Rumsfeld's meticulous planning helped bring about the seizing of the port of Al-Faw with its oil terminals and harbor facilities. Thus, at the severe risk of American lives, we prevented Iraq from flooding the Gulf with burning oil and obtained a port where aid and assistance to the people of Iraq could be expedited. The capture of Al-Faw also gave the Coalition of the Willing access to the vital waterways served by those two biblical rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates. And once again the Iraqi people will reap the benefit.

The peace brigades rampaging in a number of our cities fought with police -- and the truth -- by ignoring the causes of war. They choose to believe this is a war for oil, a war to enrich a few corporations, a personal vendetta of President George Bush or an act of revenge by America for the Sept. 11 terror attack. And as we watched television, we saw every one of these falsehoods demolished, but not before the protesters caused our planners to stumble and falter.

VIOLENT TURN

Yet still other peace activists planned sabotage, violence and even murder. One shocking example is Craig Rosebraugh, a former self-proclaimed spokesman for the Earth Liberation Front, who distributed his thoughts on the Internet telling his followers how to "create an atmosphere of unrest and disruption."

Rosebraugh's instructions included calls for the disruption of financial centers, property damage at business and newspaper offices and the blocking of federal buildings together with the obstructing of bridges and roads.

Who knows whether it was the urgings of those like Rosebraugh that encouraged an American GI to carry out the fragging of his officers and fellow GI's at a base camp in Kuwait.

As American lives were placed in jeopardy to safeguard Iraq, our own Democrats -- the disloyal opposition in the U.S. Senate -- did what they do naturally: joined the attack on America's interests. As oil in the Gulf was prevented from burning, the Senate beat back a vote that would have opened up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge -- a refuge that was opened up on the initiative of President Jimmy Carter and preserved by every subsequent Democrat administration and Senate majority. We need oil to fight a war, and that necessity was denied our military by that Democratic Party vote.

But as war commenced in Iraq, 33 members of the House of Representatives -- each of them except one a member of the Democratic Party -- did even worse. They withheld their vote in support for that battle and the commander in chief. Their rationale sounded like a tearful 5-year-old's lament, as they moaned they couldn't approve a war or a president with whom they disagreed. This from our elected leaders.

We must recall and act on the truth of a statement made in Rome more than 2,000 years ago: "A nation can survive its fools and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. ... A murderer is less to fear!"

Dateline D.C. is written by a Washington-based British journalist and political observer. Additional Information:

Coming April 6

The State Department is giving Fidel Castro a free ride while the White House is focused on Iraq. Read about it in Sunday's 'Dateline D.C.' column, a Tribune-Review exclusive.

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