THE SMELL OF THE BATTLE
With the election mere days away, two commentaries caught my eye. One was an October 24 op-ed piece by Clifford D. May, "The case for WMDs." Mr. May is a former New York Times foreign correspondent and president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. The piece was distributed by Scripps Howard News Service and appeared in the Washington Times, among other places.
The other was a PBS Special that aired October 28: "Sesno Reports: The Cost of War," a show aimed at exploring the military, diplomatic, political and especially the human costs of war in the context of the Iraq War and America's global war on terrorism. The program was timed to coincide with the November election, given the hearty debate surrounding these issues.
Mr. May researched the WMD story in the spirit of true investigative journalism for which the New York Times was once renowned. He brought up two points, one of which I had been wondering about for months: "the number of vehicles going into Syria" during the 48-hour ultimatum period in March of 2003. Everyone who watched a newscast during that time frame saw the caravans, and we knew then, but apparently had forgotten, that we could not confront the trucks and still honor the 48-hour grace period.
More significantly, Mr. May quoted General Michael DeLong, former deputy commander of the U.S. Central Command, as stating that "you could put almost your whole [biological weapons] program in a suitcase. You could probably put your whole chemical weapons industry in a van."
Well, that would sure make hiding weapons of mass destruction a "gimme," wouldn't it?
Then the shocker: "We've learned from the Duelfer report," stated Mr. May, "that Saddam's scientists were attempting to bottle sarin … in perfume sprayers and medicine bottles. Ricin was being prepared 'as an aerosol'."
That was when I remembered that we had captured the scientist the Iraqis called "Dr. Germ." Not to mention "Chemical Ali." These were not monikers applied specifically by the United States to describe these fiends. So, just what information have we obtained from them, or their fellow prisoners, to add to the that in the Iraq Survey Group's Duelfer Report, details of which somehow got short shrift in the popular press? As a condition of ending the first Gulf War, Saddam had, of course, agreed to not only account for his various stockpiles, including those that could fit in a suitcase or a perfume bottle, but "to destroy them in a verifiable manner," which he did not.
It would appear, therefore, that we may have taken down this madman and his terrorist regime just in time.
It is interesting how so-called mainstream journalists and the commentators on network television always focus on the "carnage" of war: ours. Not only do they prominently show and interview the civilian casualties resulting from attacks on our enemies (just before an election, of course), but also the horrific injuries of our own brave soldiers. The latter would be apt, of course, were it not for the undercurrent of animosity toward those who feel their sacrifices are justified in the interest of saving our country and its inhabitants.
The PBS special on "The Cost of War" was indeed fairly "balanced," in that it had more or less equal numbers of spokespersons on both sides of the debate. I say "more or less" because the air time given the anti-war cause was about 60 percent to the pro-preemptive-strike cause's 40 percent. But that really isn't the point here. The point is the logic of the "Saddam didn't do anything to us" faction, meaning that until Saddam Hussein could be proven to have done something specific to the American people, we should have left him and his regime alone. The PBS broadcast deserves kudos for spotlighting this logic for us.
The clincher for me came at one point in the program when Army Gen. George Joulwan, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, pointed to two of the severely injured veterans who had been interviewed for the show (one soldier who did, and one who did not, support continuation of the war), saying that the only thing you never get from news accounts, or even movies made about a war, is "the smell of battle," by which he meant the fear and the stench and the blood and the gore, of both soldiers and the innocent "collaterals."
That was when it hit me; that is to say, when what has been nagging at me all along about the rhetoric, pro and con, concerning the war in Iraq, crystallized:
What was the "smell of battle" for those burning in the inferno of the World Trade Center, all innocents who had never done anything to the followers of radicalized Islamic terrorists? What was the smell of battle to the brave souls on the plane that crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, to save Americans like me who happened to be within a stone's throw of the U.S. Capitol that day, where that plane no doubt was headed?
What was the smell of battle to Elaine Duch, 49, of Bayonne, New Jersey, who was brought to Weill Cornell Burn Center in critical condition on September 11 with burns over 77 percent of her body, following the attack on the World Trade Center? She, too, was an innocent standby, working in her office, who has since undergone countless excruciating surgical procedures to restore her horribly burned and mangled face?
What kind of emotional scars will Elaine Duch bear? Will the smell of burning fuselage will be etched in her memory, from a battle she never even knew was coming? Shocking. Nauseating. And permanent.
Would she have wished for a preemptive strike against a regime that could "fit its entire bio program in a suitcase"?
What, today, would be the smell of battle from a perfume bottle, sprayed from a "tester" for customers by an unsuspecting store clerk in a department store? Or maybe it would be sprayed by a housewife, or by chorus girl about to go on-stage, or by a mother leaving for a party with her husband … or by little girl playing dress-up? How about the smell of battle to the staff of a pharmaceuticals plant, packaging its medicine bottles? Or to dozens of victims who take their medicine with the expectation of feeling better, only to find…ricin?
Should we have waited to find out? Is that an option with killers who make no distinction about which countries are with us and which are not? Who kill and intimidate indiscriminately, in Spain and in France: one country with us, the other not? Even Russia, which now has been linked to having helped Saddam's forces move weapons out of Iraq during those weeks and hours before we attacked, was hit at a school full of little children by terrorists labeling themselves as al-Qaeda, terrorists probably trained with the help of Saddam's infamous M14 unit.
Exactly how much slack are we supposed to give individuals who literally saw off people's heads and then show post them on websites? To individuals whose sole mission is to kill, torture and maim as many "infidels" as possible, including their own countrymen? How much tolerance are we to show barbarians who would happily catapult mankind back to the Stone Age, making lands uninhabitable for eons with virulent strains of disease and long-lasting, deadly toxins?
Our policy of containment of Communism during the days of the old Soviet Union may well have been "MAD," but the fact is, they didn't use their nukes or their biological or chemical weapons. Saddam Hussein did, against the Kurds.
Exactly how much diddling did we expect the United Nations to do in dealing with Saddam Hussein's refusal to either come clean with UN inspectors, or to verify the destruction of his weapons?
More to the point, how much chance are we to take with American lives by entrusting our future to a presidential candidate like John Kerry, a man with a track record of meeting with officials of the enemy camp in an unofficial capacity while a war was in progress, lying to a Senate committee about our soldiers' conduct in the war (calling them "monsters" and "butchers"), pretending now that he once served his country honorably when in reality he was a scruffy-looking hippy-type making a show of throwing his ribbons away (honors for which, by the way, he never shed a drop of blood)?
Regardless how badly the effort to contain communism in Indochina was managed through several changes of administrations, Democrat and Republican, there are certain things you just don't do and still remain credible in your commitment to defend and protect America. But John Kerry did them all. He has shown himself to be a patsy of our enemies; a naïve, publicity-seeking opportunist without a "plan" in the world short of getting elected; and a fraud now playing the clean-cut, uniformed soldier in campaign ads instead of the counterculture activist that he was.
President Bush's war strategists may have misjudged the determination of insurgents in attempting to bring democracy to Iraq. He himself may be too trusting in believing that a people unaccustomed to freedom can skip the intermediary steps it takes to produce the heart-and-soul, deep-in-the-gut kind of will to implement democratic government. Perhaps the White House communications office should have spent more time reminding Americans about those caravans leaving Iraq instead of waiting for someone else to do so.
But take no action at all? Negotiate with suicidal maniacs? Wait around and see if terrorists bomb a subway, or release sarin in a shopping mall (which really would be a "nuisance," now wouldn't it)?
Now that's one brand of logic I certainly
wouldn't take to the bank.
© 2004 Beverly Eakman - All Rights
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Beverly Eakman is an Educator, 9 years: 1968-1974, 1979-1981. Specialties: English and Literature.
Science Editor, Technical Writer and Editor-in-Chief of official newspaper, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1974-1979. Technical piece, "David, the Bubble Baby," picked up by popular press and turned into a movie starring John Travolta.
Chief speech writer, National Council for Better Education, 1984-1986; for the late Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, Commission on the Bicentennial of the US Constitution, 1986-1987; for the Voice of America Director, 1987-1989; and for U.S. Department of Justice, Gerald R. Regier, 1991-1993.
Author: 3 books on education and data-trafficking
since 1991, including the internationally acclaimed Cloning
of the American Mind: Eradicating Morality Through Education. Executive
Director, National Education Consortium. Website: BeverlyE.com
It is interesting how so-called mainstream journalists and the commentators on network television always focus on the "carnage" of war: ours.