Neck Deep in the Big Muddy

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Chicago Sun Times

Neck Deep in the Big Muddy

The Big Muddy is deeper and darker. Two Pentagon reports this week show just how muddy. In a survey of the morale of soldiers in Iraq, the Pentagon found that more than half said that morale in their units was either "low" or "very low." Morale was especially low, as one would have expected, among the National Guard and Reserve units. Only half of them said they had "real confidence" in their ability to carry out their mission, probably because they were not trained for the kind of war in which they are involved.

Another report raises questions about the development of the Iraqi fighting units. Half of the police units are still in training and cannot conduct combat operations. The other half, and two-thirds of the army battalions, are only partially capable of combat and then only with the help of Americans.

The American military, representing the combat power of the world's "Only Superpower," is patently unable to stop the murderous suicide bombers and seems clueless about a strategy that might stop them. Would-be "martyrs" have paralyzed our forces. One cannot use tanks or jets or predator planes or artillery, much less nuclear weapons, against a stream of dedicated young fanatics sneaking across a porous border.

In the meantime, the Iraqi parliament, working erratically on their constitution, has decided to abrogate most of the rights of women in their preliminary constitution and to subject them to "Religious Law." That means in the new "democracy" that we are supporting in Iraq women will be more subject to male oppression than they were under Saddam Hussein. This is what our young men and women are dying for in Iraq?

People with yellow ribbons say we must support our troops. I agree completely. The best way to support them is to get them out of a war justified by falsehoods and carried out by incompetents who have tried to do it on the cheap with no idea of what they would have to face after Saddam's regime was knocked over. We must stay the course, President Bush says, but he won't specify what the course is.

One hears from the media military experts there will be a drawing down of troop numbers next summer. That would just in time for the November election. The administration may then have decided to follow the Warren Austin advice during the Vietnam war -- proclaim victory and go home. They had better have a large supply of helicopters available around the U.S. embassy so we don't have photographs of large numbers of our allies desperately trying to climb on when the last copter takes off -- as they did in Saigon.

The suicide bombs in Iraq kill Iraqis, but they are aimed at American occupation and will end only when the occupation ends. Conservative columnists and editorial writers are screaming that the suicide bombers in London are not angry over Iraq; they rather want to destroy our way of life. But their own testimony seems to be that they are protesting the treatment of Muslims in Iraq and Palestine. Tony Blair, the loyal junior partner in the Anglo-American alliance, is paying the price for this crazy war. When the coalition leaves Iraq the bombings in England will stop just they will in Iraq.

The screamers will say that means the "martyrs" will have defeated us. That's precisely right. They are in the process of defeating us in a war that we cannot possibly win, the war that Bush needed so he could become a wartime president. Many of those who say the war was a mistake in the first place still argue that it would be wrong to leave now. Unless the Bush administration can find a way to stop the suicide bombers -- other than the president's "disgust" -- we have no choice but to get out of the Big Muddy now.

What idiocy not to expect that the attacks on Israel by suicide bombers would spread because of the war and occupation in Iraq. Why is anyone surprised? The president tells us that they "disgust" him. Hooray for him. His supporters call them crazy fanatics as they may well be. But calling them names and demanding that the world denounce them will not put a stop to their attacks. They are beating us, and we are apparently unable to stop them, save by promising to stay the course. That is terribly frustrating to Americans, but that's a price they must pay for a criminal war.

Andrew Greeley

Andrew W. Greeley is a progressive Catholic priest, sociologist, journalist and popular novelist. He is of Irish decent and resides in Chicago.

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