If you're keeping track of the war through American media outlets, it's hard to tell the difference between CNN and Al Jazeera. The picture the media paints is that we don't have enough troops in Iraq, we're getting bogged down, Iraq is having unexpected success against our forces, the supply lines are inadequate, the coalition is losing a lot of soldiers, and we're killing a lot of innocent Iraqi civilians. Even the traitorous MSNBC journalist, Peter Arnett, is giving interviews to Iraqi television claiming that the original war plan has "failed" and is being redrawn. Not a pretty picture.
But the picture is not accurate. The media has done plenty to promote Saddam's message of civilian casualties and strong Iraqi resistance, but they are also trying to turn a progressive, boring military effort into something worth watching. Unfortunately, they have chosen to create a sense of failure around a very successful military effort, and it could have serious consequences for our troops.
The Bush administration made an error in judgment by allowing such unfettered media coverage of this military action against Iraq. They should have taken a lesson from the first Gulf War in 1991. Small skirmishes are being reported as major battles. Four or five coalition soldiers killed or wounded are reported as major casualties. A dozen civilians killed by an errant missile are held up as proof of America's callous and bloodthirsty approach to the conflict.
For those of you who have serious concerns about how this war is going, try to keep things in perspective. Try to remember that we've only been at war for about a week. President Bush mentioned on more than one occasion before the start of this conflict that the war would not be short, so it is amazing that the media party line is that Baghdad should be in coalition hands by now. Does anyone remember how long it took us to conquer Baghdad in the 1991 Gulf War? No? Well, that's because we never did make it to Baghdad during Desert Storm. And that was after forty days of bombing. So we're actually closer to taking Baghdad after one week of fighting today than we were after one month of fighting in 1991.
I honestly don't know how close we are to meeting the original objectives of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Then again, neither does anyone in the media, including the "military experts" who give their opinions. Only the top brass knows the real plan, so everything else is pure speculation and should be treated as such. Are you listening, Peter Arnett?
The only way an outsider can measure the success of this conflict right now is to put it into context with our most recent conflicts in Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Desert Storm 1991.
Does the word "quagmire" ring a bell for anyone? After a couple of weeks fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, most media outlets were questioning our success and began comparing the conflict to Vietnam. While we have now successfully crushed the Taliban and have Afghanistan under control, it took several weeks to accomplish this task. And the Taliban certainly had a small fraction of the military force possessed by Saddam Hussein. Why would we expect to defeat Iraq in a week when it took several weeks to defeat the lowly Taliban?
Defeating Slobodan Milosevic also took over two months to accomplish. We had a large coalition of forces, thousands of missiles, and superior military strength, but it was still a very difficult task that took a great deal of patience and killed up to one thousand innocent civilians. The battle over Kosovo was a complete failure using the standards we currently see in the media today.
And what about the first time we took on Iraq? We attacked for forty-plus days and obviously didn't even come close to getting the job done. In retrospect, we left far too much of Saddam's military power intact, including weapons of mass destruction. Keep in mind that we lost approximately 300 soldiers in the first Gulf War conflict without ever even reaching Baghdad. So far this time around, we have lost fewer than 50 American lives and are knocking at Saddam's door after only a week. And more than 20% of those casualties weren't even due to enemy combat.
Based on the accomplishments in Iraq so far, operation Iraqi Freedom can be considered nothing less than a raging success in its first week. Sitting fifty miles outside of Baghdad after one week of fighting can hardly be considered a failure or cause for concern. If our battle plans have failed, I hope to see many more "failures" in the near future.
If you still think things are not going well, look at the statistics outlined below. While it is still too early to judge the overall success of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the numbers certainly don't give cause for alarm or concern at this stage.
Desert Storm 1991 - Approximately 148 killed by enemy action (300 total killed), and 467 wounded. Up to 5,000 civilian casualties.
Kosovo - No American combat casualties, but no ground troops used. 500 - 1,500 civilian casualties
Afghanistan - Approximately 45 Americans killed. 1,000 - 1,500 civilian casualties
Iraqi Freedom 2003 - Less than 50 Americans killed so far and approximately 125 wounded. Total civilian casualties uncertain, but estimated at between 100 and 400 so far. Some casualties may have actually been caused by Iraq. Also, keep in mind that these civilian casualties pale in comparison to the hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths caused by the current Iraqi regime.
Length of Conflict
Desert Storm 1991 - Approximately 40 days before a cease-fire agreement
Kosovo - 78 days of bombing to achieve a cease-fire, not complete control
Afghanistan - Almost three months to topple the Taliban regime
Iraqi Freedom 2003 - Less than two weeks so far, and coalition troops effectively control almost half of the country.