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Iraq heats up

By Carol Devine-Molin
web posted November 10, 2003

An old comic illustration from thirty five years ago depicts two bewildered hippies, with one asking the question: "I forgot, are we in the groove or in a rut?"

With the accumulating troop deaths in Iraq hovering around 400 (since the start of the Iraq War in March 2003), its only natural that many people are having second thoughts regarding a military engagement that they might have initially supported. Essentially, deteriorating circumstances in Iraq have sparked heated debates on whether we should withdraw our troops from that embattled nation forthwith. Cut and run? Unthinkable at this juncture! It would be a major victory for the Jihadists who would become terribly emboldened and more likely to strike at American soil again. And, of course, our international credibility would be in tatters.

That's not to say that we should blithely accept our nation's less-than-adequate military response to guerrilla warfare in Iraq, which continues to place our troops at considerable risk. According to the November 3rd through 5th CNN/USA Today/Gallup survey, although 54% of Americans disapprove of Bush's overall handling of the Iraq situation, ironically that same number of Americans (54%) still believe Iraq was "worth going to war over". Since July 2003, public support for the Iraq War has consistently eroded, which is undoubtedly linked to increasing troop casualties. My overall assessment of the survey's findings is this: Although more than half of Americans still deem Iraq a worthy cause, they want the military campaign to be conducted effectively and with our troops safeguarded in all ways reasonably possible. And from the public's perspective, the onus is definitely on President Bush to ensure that the job in Iraq gets accomplished.

Many frustrated Americans realize that we must round-up the insurgents with alacrity and flex our military muscles if we are to successfully halt the terror attacks. And, of course, acquiring on-the-ground intelligence and protecting Iraq's borders from further foreign subversives are key to thwarting terrorism. It certainly must be acknowledged that progress has been underway. That said, the Pentagon should have been ahead of the curve on these recent lethal attacks on Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters, given the plethora of SA-7 shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles and Rocket-propelled grenades that have been known to be floating around Iraq for quite some time.

However, the good news is that despite its shortcomings, the Pentagon now appears to be making notable strides. Thankfully, salient changes in our military response to terror assaults are starting to be implemented in Iraq. American troops have just launched a well-warranted offensive against the insurgents. On November 8th, our forces initiated "Operation Ivy Cyclone" in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, which continues to be a hotbed of terrorism. We're not only rooting out the Ba'athist loyalists and foreign terrorists that are responsible for assailing our troops, but we're making a significant show of our military might least our enemies forget that we can easily pulverize the corrupt elements of Tikrit in a heartbeat. As noted in the New York Post, "This is to remind the town that we have teeth and claws and we will use them," said Lt. Col. Steven Russell, commander of the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment. Smartly, our troops brought in the tanks and the Fighting Vehicles, and pummeled areas just outside Tikrit with bombs. CNN's website reported that "Two F-16's flew low over the marshy area near the crash site (of the latest downed Black Hawk) and dropped at least two 500-pound bombs".

In life, sometimes there is no simple answer, no silver bullet to knock out a vexing problem. Unfortunately, many Americans now possess an unrealistic "shoot ‘em up" and "move on" mentality, with expectations of quick, decisive military victories. However, modern-day America must now face the unpleasant reality that it's not always possible to promptly dispose of the enemy and bring home the troops, especially in this new age of asymmetric terror strikes that are specifically intended to methodically wear away at our resolve. That is part and parcel of the psychological warfare rendered by the terrormeisters. Sometimes, warfare is, as accurately stated by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, "a long, hard slog".

So America must be prepared for a lengthy troop stay in Iraq if it becomes necessary. Mind you, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld had made sure that approximately 100,000 Iraqis have already been trained as security forces, with an additional 100,000 Iraqis to be trained by next year. The Iraqis are quickly preparing to take responsibility for their own nation in myriad ways so that the American-led coalition can draw down troop levels as soon as possible. That said, "Iraqification" is our goal, and the quicker it happens, the better for all.

Carol Devine-Molin is a regular contributor to several online magazines.

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