A Soldier's Perspective

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by Michael Peirce

Yesterday I read of a brave neighbor of mine, an army captain, who rescued an Iraqi woman who was caught in a deadly crossfire. The captain in that story performed a noble act, worthy of the Christian soldier.

My concern is that we are hearing far too many of those stories just now and acting as if these poor dumb Iraqis would probably all be dead if not for our intervention. Gee, ain't it just good luck we are there to save ‘em?

I love soldiers in a way that only other soldiers can understand. I'm also aware of the pitfalls that await them and I'm downright horrified that our men should be put to such an ignominious task.

"Operation Iraqi Freedom," eh? So how would you like to be "freed" from a despotic and murderous US government and told that unconditional surrender is your only option by some foreign power? Particularly if it all starts with a little "shock and awe" in the form of thousands of (not so smart) bombs and cruise missiles? I know how we would greet the "liberators" here in Georgia. It wouldn't be pretty.

Now old soldiers, put on your thinking caps boys, for you are in a rather big trick bag. The younger ones fall for anything, we all know that, but you old timers are responsible for them as well as yourselves. I doubt that many of you bought that liberation malarkey the government is selling. But even old soldiers can dream — I certainly remember hoping that some "easy" target would really turn out that way but of course, it never does.

Now you guys have a real mess on your hands and those morons in Washington will keep making it worse as they come up with more and more "out of the box" ideas. Lets consider the problems you face:

First, you're trying to conquer an entire country with slightly more than one properly constituted armored corps and some air mobile troops. The Brits and Marines appear to be running flank cover for the main armored thrust. It's a lovely force — Heinz Guderian on his best day never conceived of a panzer group with this kind of mobility and firepower. Not even the Israelis have ever fielded as potent a mechanized corps as this.

So we have the troops, tanks and planes we need to defeat the Iraqi regular army in battle and overrun the country in a lightning campaign.

However, they missed a rather important element when planning this little exercise. An armored corps can drive deep into enemy lines and ignore pockets of resistance; bypassing problems to be handled subsequently by follow on forces. That's well known tactical doctrine. But who are the follow on forces in this fracas? Will our tanks and mechanized infantry in the strength of slightly more than a corps be enough to simultaneously defeat the Iraqi field army and occupy all that territory they seize? Oops…

You can thank Donald Rumsfeld for that little oversight; he has a big agenda and believes his own press releases. Ultimately, reinforcements are on the way but a desperate government will want you to take Baghdad before you are ready and you know damn well what that means.

Second — the Iraqis are fighting dirty, surprise, surprise. Remember, they are doing just what you'd do if the enemy came here, and your challenge as a decent human being is not to do anything more in return than necessary to ensure that you return home with as many body parts as you started with. Make sure your younger comrades get that through their vengeful heads. When casualties mount, as we know they do, these boys can easily get pretty bloodthirsty. I've seen it. They may want to shoot everybody in sight today, but they'll regret it tomorrow. So will you.

Remind these boys, and yourselves, that the term "Iraqi" is a misnomer anyway — there are many different ethnic groups over there, who think many different ways, and sadly, this is probably the most united they've ever been thanks to good old Dubya. Some will like you but many won't. Were I an Iraqi, I damn sure wouldn't.

Remember also that in that part of the world, a dictator like Sadaam Hussein could easily go down in history as "Sadaam the Just." His peccadilloes are not so very far off mainstream by regional standards. We may think he is a monster but they may not. There are ways of thinking other than our own.

Husband your ammo and supplies — young troops tend to be wasteful and American troops in particular are well known for profligacy with their firepower. You need to keep in mind the old soldier's strategy of hoarding and keep a lot more on hand than those above you are aware of. A mark of a veteran combat unit is how much more weaponry they have besides what they were originally issued.

Remember, Syria and Iran are on your flanks and they don't love you. The Turks are pursuing their own agenda and are not your friends. Then consider what kind of major brains America employs as diplomats and you better assume that Murphy's Law will probably kick in. It could get real ugly quickly so make like boy scouts and be prepared.

Here is a hint — scrounge all the enemy ordnance you can and keep it for a rainy day. Make sure all your boys can handle that East Bloc gear, and include the supply guys in this — they had lots of sensitivity training but that doesn't include much insight on how to field strip an AK-47!

Watch those radio communications. A whole lot of folks are listening, and America is rather short on friends these days so assume everything you say is monitored and will get back to the enemy.

So where is all this going? Why, an old soldier should already know the answer to that one: it's going to hell in a hand basket!

You can survive this with your honor (and hopefully your body) intact. Trust in God and trust in each other; stick together. You front line types need to spend every spare minute you can find getting the rear area folks up to speed on weapons drills and helping them improve their chances of survival when ambushed. Those people are going to be doing a lot more soldiering than the recruiter led them to believe.

If it gets real ugly they'll pull the girls out — so plan to work short staffed.

God willing, we'll get you folks home someday soon where you can do something about really defending our freedoms. A couple armored divisions could do some useful work on our southern border. Try to imagine freedom without territorial integrity and then ask yourself why we'd attack Iraq and yet not defend our own country. Just don't ask me — it defies logic.

The trouble is nobody is paying much attention to logic right now.

Be careful not to lump us right wing folks who speak out against this madness with those ridiculous anti-war protesters who seem to think reenacting their "exploits" of the sixties will somehow matter. Their agenda is of the left and ours is most certainly not. Read up on the Revolutionary War and see just what those folks envisioned for this country, and you'll see what kind of America we stand for. It has nothing to do with the insanity of the Republicans and Democrats!

The neo-conservative war lovers are already shouting for less restraint in our use of heavy ordnance against the Iraqis. They know very well that if "they" can pull off this war in less than a month, the American people are dumb enough to let them attack the other countries on their hate list.

Since it was those same chicken hawks who propagated the lie that this war is for the liberation of the Iraqi people, it is a sign of just how shameless these former communists are that they should now be calling for less care in the assignment of targets. That's genteel talk for murder but they hire out their killin' so it's no big deal to them.

Ultimately they'll get their way, they always seem to, and besides, we are once again running low on "smart" weaponry, so soon it will be back to basics regardless. The Iraqis will become more and more fanatic and murderous as we kill their families in bombing attacks and this war will deteriorate into what it always does — a knife fight in a dark cellar.

Mr. Peirce [send him mail] fought with the Rhodesian freedom fighters (the Ian Smith side, of course).

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