In two weeks, major Coalition forces have closed within a few miles of Baghdad. Some are close enough to study the Baghdad skyline, and have front-row seats as the air strikes that continue. And, of course, the spec-ops guys operating inside Baghdad are still on the hunt for regime members and the terror cells they have brought in.
We’ve come a long way in two weeks of war. After First Manassas, Abraham Lincoln could see the Confederates across the Potomac in Arlington, Virginia. As today’s London Daily Telegraph points out, it took the Germans twice that long to reach Paris in 1940 (a much shorter distance), and they were fighting Frenchmen for Heaven’s sake. From now on, anyone who calls the Republican Guard “elite” has to do fifty pushups. A deliberate approach to Baghdad is being made, and we will soon see that it is the right one. As much as we might want to see American, Brit and Aussie troops and tanks parading into Baghdad with flags flying and bands playing, that’s not how it’s going to work. At least not yet.
We are taking our time and, upon reflection, I think it’s the right thing to do. My sources tell me that there are an enormous amount of signals–broadcast message traffic by radio, internet, and other means–coming out of the regime. We can listen in to some of it, and gain incremental advantages. Our scout-sniper teams are doing more than just shooting, and Baghdad is probably home to as many spies as Berlin was in the good old days when all we had to worry about was the Evil Empire. We will often gather enough so that the air strikes and spec ops troops can snuff out many of the pockets of resistance before regular troops have to face them.
It’s pretty clear that it’s not at all clear who is running whatever is left of Saddam’s regime. Those still alive are moving several times a day to stay ahead of the spec-ops teams hunting them. The raid on the Al Tharthar presidential “palace” last night missed them, but the Saddam crew won’t always be that lucky.
The Republican Guard troops who have fled may have slipped into Baghdad to prearranged locations, to reform and rearm. Many won’t, and will simply go home. Of those who do choose to fight, they will use the same tactics they have so far, using civilians as human shields or as sacrifices to the cameras of the Arab press and others who want to make this a human tragedy, not a victory in the war against terrorism. There will be more fighting and we don’t know how bad it will be. Of the organized units our troops have encountered, the pattern has been that when the firefight begins, they soon lose heart and retreat or surrender. Brit Defense Minister Geoff Hoon said this morning that we have taken about 9,000 prisoners so far, about twice the number reported only a few days ago.
Our troops remain on high alert for attacks with chemical and biological weapons. We haven’t found all of Iraq’s missiles or artillery yet, not by a long-shot. And you can attack with those weapons very effectively with only a bunch of mortars. Mortars, like rocket-propelled grenades, are a commonplace in Iraq. Whatever troops and terror cells are left in Baghdad will be capable of using those weapons.
As usual, the worst news comes from Brussels. Colin Powell is there today, trying to repair relations with those such as the French and Germans who will only agree to a “repair” if they can put the U.N.–and themselves–in control of Iraq once we oust the remnants of Saddam’s regime. Their positions haven’t changed since the U.N. Security Council debates. The Iraqis should be governing themselves just as soon as we can install a provisional government comprised of the free Iraqi opposition groups. They are friendly to us (at least so far) and can run the country long enough for elections to be held within a year. At that point, no one–not the U.S. and certainly not the U.N.–should be governing Iraq.
The battle between the CIA and State Department on one hand and the Defense Department on the other over who runs Iraq has reached a critical stage. It’s no exaggeration to say that it is a major division in the Bush administration. The president needs to end the fight himself, and tell State and CIA to back off. If he doesn’t, the next Iraq will be as much of a problem as the Saudis, French, Russians and Syrians can make it. If you like the U.N. Security Council, you’ll love what it’ll do with Iraq if State and CIA have their way.
The best–and most important–news comes from Gen. Brooks’s morning session with the CENTCOM Romper Room. Almost unnoticed in the usual shuffle was his announcement that Grand Ayatollah Sustani, whom Saddam’s guys had long held under house arrest, was released and issued a fatwa calling on Iraqis not to interfere with coalition forces. Islamist terror is fed and nurtured by thousands of mullahs preaching it from Riyadh to Malaysia even here in the U.S.
We are at war with an enemy unlike any other we have ever fought except the World War II Japanese. We could not make a peace with them until Emperor Hirohito–himself a religious figure–demanded it. We cannot make peace with terrorists at all, we can only defeat them. But with the nations that create, fund and operate them there can be no peace until we end the praise and acceptance of terror as a religious practice. With the help of the likes of Ayatollah Sustani, we may eventually make a peace through–not with–their religion, and end the support of terror by so many nations of the Islamic world. Until we do, we cannot make peace at all.
American forces are in the process of taking Saddam International airport, and are as close to the center of Baghdad–as Mr. Rumsfeld said earlier–as close to the center of Baghdad as many American commuters are to their offices. Maybe closer, if you think about Los Angeles.
The big news of the day continues to be the fatwa issued by the Grand Ayatollah, urging the Iraqis to cooperate with coalition forces. The importance of that cannot be overstated.
But Syria, Russia, France and the ever-helpful Saudis continue to sustain the belief in those of Saddam’s regime who remain alive that a deal will save them as one did in 1991. The Saudis float a new faux-peace proposal every day. They continue to emphasize the lesson we taught Saddam in the Clinton era, that we won’t act decisively. France says we made a mistake by beginning the campaign. Russia urges diplomacy. This may be the biggest reason the Iraqi armies haven’t surrendered. They can’t so long as a deal may happen.
Those who sustain the idea of a deal are raising the toll of the dead, and for this we must never forgive them. Syria continues to accept Saddamite refugees, his family and staff. And his WMD and the people who make it. We must soon demand the Syrians surrender all of them, and all of the materials and papers. Syria–an active supporter of terror–cannot be allowed to have WMD any more than Iraq can.
To those who believe a deal who can be made, listen to Mr. Rumsfeld, please. He ruled it out completely today. And listen to the President. He just spent an afternoon with the families of some of the Marines who have died so far in this campaign. He knows. He won’t allow a deal, for to do so would mean those men have died in vain.