Painful irony from Iraq

Letter to the editor

Posted: Friday, November 11, 2005

I awoke Sunday morning to more of the painful irony I've come to associate with the "War on Terror" in quotes from two Marine commanders involved in the attack by U.S. and Iraqi government forces on the border town of Husaybah. This is a poor Sunni Arab town of about 30,000 people, targeted by coalition forces as a point of entry for foreign fighters from Syria.

Luckily, word of the "sweep," which was supposed to be a surprise, somehow got out to at least some of the town's civilian population. Soldiers found empty homes, with things put neatly away, as they encountered resistance from small arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47s. They were of course responding American-style, with fighter jets dropping 500-pound bombs and Bradley tanks firing their main cannons.

Col. Stephen W. Davis of the 2nd Marine Division had this to say about it: "I got bombs, he got bombs; I got more bombs than he got." Good one, Col. Davis: You're right up there with your commander-In-chief on that, but I don't think you were listening in government class when they told us that, in our society, the means were just as important as the ends.

Iraqi politicians have understandably derided attacks on towns in this way, which kill more civilians, women and children, than insurgents, who are actively fighting us and are better at getting out of the way. Personally, I have trouble understanding how a fighter jet or a tank would be any good in a house-to-house search, but Col. Davis also had this insight: "We don't do a lot of hearts and minds out here because it's irrelevant."

This doesn't square well with Bush wanting to give the military a more active roll in disaster-response here at home.

"The insurgents are throwing everything they have at the Iraqi people and coalition forces in an effort to derail Iraq's democratic reform," said Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, as he threw everything he had at the Iraqi people in an effort to derail their attempts to expel a foreign invader from their land.

Jamison Paul


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