Critics of Operation Iraqi Freedom have enough egg on their faces to bake a soufflé worthy of a Paris bistro. At this writing, Saddam Hussein’s tattered regime has not surrendered. Nonetheless, the Coalition’s stunning progress belies the impending doom that antiwar elements predicted.
Dams exploding on the Euphrates River. Refugees teeming on the Jordanian frontier. SCUD missiles raining on Tel Aviv. Terrorists blasting American targets everywhere. Anti-warriors offered glimpses of Armageddon. To date, none has transpired. Here are some who got it wrong:
“The United States does not have the military means to take over Baghdad,” former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter told France’s Radio TSF. “The United States is going to leave Iraq with its tail between its legs, defeated.” As the Media Research Center notes, CBS’s Lesley Stahl asked a veteran on March 26: “You fought in Vietnam. Are you getting any feelings of deja vu?”
Rather than spend 20 years avoiding Hanoi, American GIs spent 19 days rolling from the border to Baghdad’s Al-Sajoud Palace, whereupon they enjoyed Hussein’s gold-plated plumbing.
“Hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women, and children will die in the war against the people of Iraq,” warned SNAFU, a Manhattan-based peace group.
Through April 8, iraqbodycount.org’s review of 38 domestic and foreign on-line news services observed between 981 and 1,159 Iraqi civilian deaths, a fraction of the slaughter antiwar elements forecast.
Whatever the figure, each such fatality makes tears stream down bereaved cheeks. But this is war, not social work, and such noncombatant deaths cannot be eliminated. Fortunately, they are being minimized by warriors whose lasers and satellites aim to pinpoint ordnance on the Iraqi people’s oppressors.
“There is no evidence of weapons of mass destruction,” actress Janeane Garofolo assured the Washington Post January 27. National Public Radio reported April 7 that U.S. Marines discovered near Baghdad 20 BM-21 missiles with warheads full of suspected nerve gas. Fourteen 55-gallon barrels believed to contain sarin and tabun nerve agent emerged in Hindiyah April 6. Outside Nasiriyah, Marines found high concentrations of cyanide and mustard-gas agents in the Euphrates.
Tests will determine the notoriety of these substances. Meanwhile, gas masks, stockpiles of nerve-agent antidote and Arabic manuals on chemical warfare tactics suggest that Baathists have a more-than-theoretical interest in this topic.
Salon.com’s Dan Baum worried February 25 that oil prices “may spike during the war in a ‘fear premium’ of $5 or $6 a barrel,” totaling $41 to $42. In fact, petroleum stood at $28.85 on April 9.
“Bread, Not Bombs,” peaceniks ceaselessly chanted. False choice. Coalitions forces offer both: bunker busters for the butchers of Baghdad and shiploads of food, fresh water, and medical supplies for Iraq’s downtrodden.
Hussein thanked those outside Iraq who guarded his flanks by behaving in ways they cannot defend. Iraqi troops sequestered an antiaircraft artillery gun beside a playground swing set. They dragooned their citizens into service as human shields. They hanged from a light post an anxious woman who waved a white flag at Coalition troops. They involved a pregnant mother in a car bombing that killed her and three American GIs.
Rescued from a regime that authors such atrocities, Iraqis literally have embraced Coalition forces as liberators. Near Baghdad, the New York Post’s Vince Morris photographed two smiling Iraqi boys, one of whom showed off a tiny replica of the Statue of Liberty. Elsewhere, an Iraqi man kissed a framed photo of President Bush. Its margin bore the English words “The Hero of the Peace.” Exclaimed another ecstatic Iraqi gentleman in halting English: “Thank you, Mr. Bush! We very like Mr. Bush. Mr. Bush O.K.”
The AP’s Jon Mills found a half dozen youths exuberantly welcoming the Royal Marines to downtown Basra. One lad smiled warmly with open arms, as if greeting long-lost relatives. British soldiers relaxed with citizens at a nearby Iraqi home. Sitting Indian-style on Oriental rugs, they ate with local men and women and passed around wallet-sized photos of their English children.
Iraqis and American Marines shared an even more stirring moment Wednesday evening. Together, they made a once-fearsome statue of Saddam Hussein tumble headfirst onto Baghdad’s Paradise Square. Equally demolished is the credibility of those who disparaged this triumphant mission for human freedom.
— Mr. Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service.