The raggedly clad child looked so frightened, so gaunt, so hungry, so obviously tortured by the ravages of the war that the American GIs could not help but feel compassion. They called her over to their tent and offered food. She pulled the pin on the grenade and blew them all to pieces.
Iraq? No, Vietnam and another war we lost because fighting insurgents, guerrillas, terrorists or whatever you want to call people who look just like the ones you are trying to help is next to impossible when they refuse to fight by your rules.
Im sure I will be called an unpatriotic defeatist and be accused of giving aid and comfort to our enemies as a result of this column, but its time to consider the possibility of losing Mr. Bushs pre-emptive war in Iraq despite remarkable participation in Iraqi elections.
Yes, the elections and the hints of democracy in the Middle East are encouraging, but they are swimming upstream when measured by the tides of history, culture, hate and bitterness that span centuries.
Some of the most loyal backers of the war now do not hesitate to say that sizable numbers of American troops may be necessary to keep even some small degree of order there for the next 10 years. Commanders in the field are expressing doubts. A four-star general was dispatched not too long ago from the Pentagon to assess the situation.
All that just doesnt sound like victory to me. Lets face it, this sort of thing has happened before. The best we could do in Korea was declare a draw in a war that took tens of thousands of American lives and keep our troops in the demilitarized zone for half a century to assure even that measure of success. Vietnam was even worse, of course.
America has ignored the lessons of wars against insurgency. The British said we didnt fight fair, and they lost the American Revolution. We won our liberty. Our side was called rebels, insurgents, traitors.
The North won the Civil War on the ground, but it took a century to defeat the Souths discrimination against blacks. And during most of those years, the South took and held power and control of the U.S. Congress, assuring that civil and human rights for millions were, at best, limited and, at worst, downright repressed. In a very real way, the 100-year aftermath of the Civil War was a bloodless insurgency in the South.
I sincerely hope Im wrong about Iraq. However, we cannot and should not ignore the clear signals, warnings and disastrous consequences that we see on our television screens almost every night.
Our national defense leaders now are telling us that the suicide and roadside bombs being employed against our soldiers, American contractors and allies are bigger, deadlier and more sophisticated than they were just a few months ago, but there are fewer of them.
A well-organized enemy has learned to effectively use propaganda against us, photographing the murders of innocent civilians and troops, then delivering the videos to Arab television stations. Now, American television is showing some of those same tapes.
Should we just ignore the ethnic and religious bitterness and mistrust that are increasingly evident among different sects of Muslims in Iraq? Unless we outright lie to ourselves, I dont see how we can do that. Closing our eyes to the truth will not change it.
I keep hearing talk about an exit strategy. Sadly, I suspect thats just another way of saying we have done our best, but are losing ground. Millions of Iraqis hate our guts, and the number seems to be growing as they increasingly blame us for their problems with one another.
All the money in the world, not to mention the price we and our coalition partners are paying in dead and wounded soldiers and civilians, cannot balance the hatred that so many of the very people we are trying to help now feel toward us. Even if democracy prevails, we may not like what the people over there choose.
Other nations have tried and failed to conquer the Arab world. While our goal is not to conquer, failure again should be viewed as at least a possibility, even for the most powerful nation on the face of the planet.
Jack Moseley is a columnist for Stephens media groups Arkansas news bureau in little rock.
© 2005 Times Record