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Jewish World Review April 1, 2003 / 28 Adar II, 5763

Dennis Byrne

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Getting zero credit on fighting a war | Aw gee, the war is a little more than a week old and we haven't won it yet. Which must mean that we've lost it. We're bogged down, we're being forced to change our war plan, we can't say how much it will cost or when it will end, we haven't flushed out Evil One yet!

Oops, I'm sorry, I'm repeating my Nov. 1, 2001 Chicago Tribune column on the "critics" who were predicting that the war in Afghanistan was a loser--after only a month of fighting. It's as if they learned nothing from the last war--one that President Bush is given no credit for winning. So, now that we haven't taken Baghdad yet, I guess we're losing this one too.

Take the supposedly ominous news that we've had to change our battle plan. I'm not sure we have, but it occurs to me that only in Soldier Field is an absolutely unchangeable plan considered to be a virtue, even after the Bears' running back has been stuffed 20 straight times trying to run the ball up the middle. Take "NBC Nightly News," please.

Wednesday's evening news devoted lots of breathless time to the American bombing of civilians, as if proving the dire predictions that U.S. forces were going to slaughter innocents. That's awful, I thought, presuming the bombing, either accidental or intentional, must be so.

Until I next turned to PBS' "NewsHour." There I learned what NBC didn't bother to mention: The crater didn't look like anything that would have been left by coalition forces, it may have made by Iraqi anti-aircraft fire, or it might have been made by an explosion set on the ground.

Turns out the Pentagon couldn't confirm that it was our fault, but why even bother to air the U.S. side when we have Saddam Hussein's word for it? So how did "NBC Nightly News" straighten out the record Thursday? With only a short, snide-sounding statement that it had been almost 40 hours since the bombing and the Pentagon "still" was saying it could have been caused by Iraq. The simple-minded implication being that the Pentagon was still engaging in a coverup, or was incompetent if it couldn't say exactly where every one of its bombs fell.

By the way, NBC's "Today" show on Thursday morning displayed a scorecard of American casualties without giving the other side's numbers. Kind of like going to the ballpark and seeing half a scoreboard.

Just as I don't accuse four members of the Illinois Democratic congressional delegation of being unpatriotic for voting "present" on a House resolution supporting the troops. In case you missed it, here are the Illinois Democrats who voted present: Danny Davis, Jesse Jackson Jr., Bobby Rush and Jan Schakowsky. Schakowsky said in a House floor speech that she endorsed every word in the resolution that supports "these brave patriots." But, she added, she could not support a resolution that "unequivocally" endorses "that action," which she called "this pre-emptive war."

In fact, the resolution says the House "unequivocally" supports the members of the armed forces, their families and "the president as commander in chief for his firm leadership and decisive action in the conduct of military operations in Iraq as part of the ongoing global war on terrorism."

We could argue over whether the resolution emphasizes support for the commander in chief, rather than the war itself, but unequivocally Schakowsky can't be accused of giving aid and comfort to Bush as commander in chief. Nor can she or the 21 others who voted present be accused of the courage of the 11 who voted against it.

One wishes for some institutional memory on the part of journalists, lawmakers and even within the Bush administration. Those who believed that the war would be a "cakewalk" don't remember the complexities of war. A week after D-Day, Allied forces were not marching on Berlin. But even more important, during the Vietnam War, its critics likewise said they were not directing their wrath at American fighting men. But under the onslaught of protest, the soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen who fought the war soon were equated and intrinsically linked with the war. Thus, it wasn't long before some Americans considered our military personnel to be some kind of war criminals. If Schakowsky and others continue to split hairs for political purposes, we eventually risk reviving the shameful period in American history when our fighting men and women were demonized and demoralized.

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JWR contributor Dennis Byrne is a Chicago-area writer and public affairs consultant. Comment by clicking here.

02/04/03: Here's why the U.S. can't wimp out on calling Hussein's bluff
12/24/02: Hussein's wacked Wonderland
09/27/02: What is so awful about striking first militarily?
07/16/02: Ride 'em lawnboy Warning: Environmentalists, read no further
06/04/02: Who needs common-sense when we have 'studies'?
05/07/02: Why is 'morality' a dirty word?
05/07/02: Why turn a blind eye to promising alternatives to human cloning?
04/16/02: Callous parents deaf to calls of common sense
02/15/02: When caring becomes sinister
01/25/02: The unreliable crystal balls of analysts
01/17/02: The curse of 'do-something' pols
01/09/02: Political moderation is for the indifferent, uninformed or undecided

© 2002, Dennis Byrne