I should start by mentioning that I support the concept of Iraqi liberation.Perhaps I was precocious, watching the news as a seven-year-old in 1991, but I clearly remember knowing that something important was happening as I watched the lime-green tracers dance above the darkness of Baghdad’s skies. I also remember being confused when the war ended: A bad man had done bad things across the sea and we fought to stop him. So why was he still in power?
This paragraph has been corrected.
I harbored suspicion of Saddam Hussein, who refused to admit that the 1991 war ended and chose to fire on the international planes, which prevented him from murdering people within his borders.
Many of my friends and half the other young men in my class from high school were headed for the Army, and they, too, had no doubts that Saddam made the world a dangerous place.
I am troubled by a number of strategic flaws that are endangering the world and our nation’s troops.
The first concerns the broader war on terror. Shortly after 9/11, President Bush asked that Americans not allow terrorism to change the way they live. The result: American citizens do not live like we are at war.
Second, there were voices within the Army, which pointed out that far more troops would be needed to secure Iraq than the number allocated by the Department of Defense. Although Iraq could be captured from Saddam with a small force, it has become evident that securing Iraq on a path of democratic liberty requires substantially more.
The third point is an obvious one: administration spokespeople should never have referred to the air campaign beforehand as “Shock and Awe.” Lincoln once said that the chicken was the wisest of all the animals because it cackled only after the egg was laid. The administration ignored this advice, and the ironic result was that the air campaign laid an egg.
Fourth, not enough was done to explain the United States’ purpose to the Iraqi people. Specially equipped C-130 aircraft were able to negate enemy media transmissions, but these transmissions were not adequately replaced with coalition information. It was vital that Iraqi people be assured that the coalition meant to 1) enter Iraq, 2) depose its dictator and disarm any possible Weapons of Mass Destruction projects that threatened peace, 3) establish liberal democracy and 4) depart.
As an aside, it now seems clear that in 2003 Saddam did not possess any WMD, but he depended on intimidating his neighbors, his own people and even his own army with implications that he did have them.
Fifth, failing to enter Falujah immediately and aggressively after the murder of four contractors in the spring of 2004 made the U.S. seem weak and slow-moving.
Finally, while Bush obviously could not have personally prevented the renegade torturers at Abu Ghraib, he needed to deal more swiftly with the crimes against the rights of prisoners. Key torturer Lynndie England was not convicted until last week.
War is dangerous to soldiers and to bystanders; and to a lesser extent, information is endangered, too. The military must balance media demands with battlefield realities. It has to balance our right to know with our duty to keep the enemy from finding out from us.
The media are understandably frustrated at their role being marginalized, and they frequently vent this resentment toward the administration.
Unfortunately, without information to base judgment on, citizens must either assume that their government in wartime is doing a good job or that it is not.
It is important that this administration work to avoid further strategic errors.
I close by reaffirming my support of Iraq liberation. I also express my angst at costly errors being made along the way.
Nicholas M. Sambaluk is a senior History major and creator of “Newsreal” cartoons in the Skiff.