View Full Version : "Safire gets it," or, "my turn to cut and paste"

Ken Hall
03-28-2003, 08:34 AM
I read this piece in the morning's Plain Dealer and thought it was important enough to track down and post. For what it's worth, it fits my view: If you have decided to go to war, for whatever reason and for better or worse, this is the only war aim that makes any sense.

Some of you may agree; others will disagree with the cause and the conduct.

Help Iraqis Arise

"America can't take casualties."

That was the first part of the message over the telephone from an Iraqi officer, eager to hedge his bets in case Saddam lost, to a friend in the coalition-held north.

Saddam's plan is not to defeat the Americans and British in some mother of all battles. That proved a loser last time. Rather, the strategy in Baghdad is to use guerrillas Baath Party Vietcong to harass our troops everywhere, in order to demoralize America and achieve a negotiated peace.

He's no fool. Every U.S. casualty or prisoner is fully reported in America's media. Television interviewers eager to match the human interest of gutsy frontline journalists exploit the suffering of relatives. Grief-stricken responses make for riveting television and ratchet up calls to stop the war.

Nor can Americans take Iraqi casualties, according to Saddam's plan. Twelve years ago, Bush 41's fear of appearing cruel stayed our forces from attacking Saddam's routed troops on the televised "highway of death." Even now, our concern about inflicting civilian casualties causes us to pull our punch at military targets, despite Saddam's abuse of women and children as human shields, and use of hospitals and mosques as military supply depots.

That strategy of inviting civilian deaths is also manifest in Saddam's use of "paramilitaries." His widely dispersed terrorists disguise themselves in U.S. uniforms or civilian clothes, and are assigned to kill not just coalition soldiers but also Iraqi civilians in cities like Shiite Basra who want to welcome the liberators.

Such murderous suppression of Iraqis who want the coalition to end Saddam's tyranny brings up the second part of the message inherent in "Americans can't take casualties."

Millions of individual Iraqis still left in Baghdad wonder: Is the coming battle a fight to the finish of the regime or merely the prelude to a negotiation? Should we help the liberators or join the Baath loyalists or just try to hide?

Now we are down to the essence of Saddam's defense. If he can persuade long-intimidated Iraqis that America's humanitarian concern about casualties its own military losses and Iraqi civilian deaths will lead to a deal, then it will be easier for him to suppress any uprisings. Who would be so foolish to take up arms against a dictator whose regime even if it will be Saddamism without Saddam remains in power again to exact vengeance?

Helping to advance Saddam's purpose of survival from our view, peace without victory is the latest Saudi call for negotiation. As the allied army inexorably moves through sandstorms toward Baghdad, Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah aids Saddam by echoing the Arab League's demand for withdrawal with his plea that we return to the Security Council for another round of appeasement.

How should we counter Saddam's strategy of using killers in civilian clothes to enforce resistance, and his tactic of horrifying television viewers in the U.S. by inviting and inflicting civilian deaths? How do we overcome the terrorized Iraqi population's fear of an outcome in which Saddam again snatches survival and revival from the jaws of defeat?

The answer is to adopt the proposition set forth by Gen. U. S. Grant in our Civil War, and Roosevelt and Churchill in World War II: declaring irrevocably that the only acceptable end to hostilities is unconditional surrender.

We have not yet done so with imprecise calls for "regime change." Indeed, in hopes of getting Iraqi troops to lay down arms as the war began, we offered "articles of capitulation." Instead, President Bush and Prime Minister Blair, meeting today, should emulate their World War II predecessors. They should pre-empt proposals for bombing halts and armistices with a ringing statement about the only way to end the war: by unconditional surrender.

Change the leaflets and broadcasts. No talks about terms; no amnesties for paramilitary killers; no deals on exile for torturers. Surrender, plain and simple.

Pledge that Saddam's terrorists now blocking the distribution of food and medicine will suffer for such atrocities. Assure Iraqis that Saddam's Baathist murderers of Iraqi civilians will face certain retribution.

Guarantee that those who rise against Saddam will not only be protected from his thugs now, but also honored later by the liberating force and by the free Iraqi officials certain to take over.

stan v
03-28-2003, 08:38 AM
That is an excellent piece by Safire. I agree completely.

Wayne Jeffers
03-28-2003, 10:19 AM
"The answer is to adopt the proposition set forth by Gen. U. S. Grant in our Civil War, and Roosevelt and Churchill in World War II: declaring irrevocably that the only acceptable end to hostilities is unconditional surrender."


In truth, Grant gave the Army of Northern Virginia generous surrender terms. His view was that they were his once and future countrymen and it was best to start the healing sooner, rather than later.

The allies demand for unconditional surrender in WWII lengthened the war and allowed the Soviets to conquer all of eastern Europe, which they dominated for the next 50 years.


Ken Hall
03-28-2003, 03:00 PM
Wayne, thou honorable opponent smile.gif , Grant indeed granted generous terms...but not until General Lee handed over his sword. That is the entire point.

03-29-2003, 08:06 AM
This is a formula for massive Iraqi casualties, just like Grant, only he didn't have to do it to civilians like we will, or on worldwide TV. Good thinking!

[ 03-29-2003, 08:51 AM: Message edited by: Rocky ]

Andrew Craig-Bennett
03-29-2003, 08:59 AM
I agree with Mr Safire to the extent that one huge problem bedevilling our forces is that our politicians have not stated their war aims clearly enough. The answer need not be "unconditional surrender", it might be "elimination of the Baath Party". But it MUST be stated if the Iraqi people are to start trusting us. Remember, they are certainly being told "Rumsfeld is after our oil!"

stan v
03-29-2003, 09:27 AM
ACB, how many times do you need to hear, 'Regime change'?

03-29-2003, 09:31 AM
If we do it this way we'll have a different regime all right, but maybe not the one we want.

stan v
03-29-2003, 09:37 AM
Does someone want to tell me how it could be worse?

Andrew Craig-Bennett
03-29-2003, 09:38 AM
Stan, I can hear that.

But "officially", remember, we are "seeking out and destroying weapons of mass destruction".

No wonder the Iraqis are confused. We are "officially" removing their Government's nasty toys, not "officially" changing their Government. Yet "unofficially" we are telling them that we are aiming to change their regime.

"What will you change our regime to?" an Iraqi might reasonably ask, before deciding whether he or she is for us or against us.

We have said very little about that. So an Iraqi might hesitate, just as you or I would in their shoes, before deciding that either:

(a) he will fight for us, (that's what we are asking him to do) because we have told him, and he trusts us, that we will eradicate the Baath Party and the security services associated with it.


(b) he will fight against us, because we are aiming to re-colonise his country, steal his oil, and leave the instruments of Saddam's repression in place to do our bidding.

stan v
03-29-2003, 09:45 AM
My dear open minded friend, ACB. How would any Iraqi who lives in a country with a state operated airwaves know anything at all except we want them dead? I doubt Damsad and his regime allow equal time on TV. Then, when Baghdad Bonior and McDermott, Sean Penn show up as sympathizers, it's twisted to show how much support the Iraqi government has with American policy makers. Twisted again to demonstrate the love Hollywood (who the Iraqi's despise) has for the regime. I mean how bad can a regime be if American elected officials show up at your doorstep? Not to mention the air time given to the UN security counsel. No sir, the Iraqi people are clueless. They think we are exactly what some on this board think, that America is imperialistic.

Andrew Craig-Bennett
03-29-2003, 10:07 AM
Stan, I partly agree with you, but if you are right then there is no point in trying to bring the people of Iraq onto our side, in which case we might as well not have started the war.

We have to have some simple, clear, credible (by Iraqis) war aim, which we can repeat until they all hear it.

The longer we keep giving mixed messages, the easier it is for their propagandists.

There are pretty good precedents for what I am saying. Your Civil War provides one. The Emancipation Proclamation was a simple war aim that everyone could understand; it worked.

stan v
03-29-2003, 10:17 AM
No sir, what the Iraqi people will learn is what they are SEEING. As we continue taking ground, giving aid to injured soldiers, giving aid to civilians, feeding the people, not massacreing the population as we advance, in general behaving as the American military behaves (with compassion, yes compassion) they will learn our intentions. It won't be anything written or broadcast that will win the hearts/minds of the people, it will be what they see. What a contrast from what they've heard.

Andrew Craig-Bennett
03-29-2003, 10:21 AM
I agree, Stan. I'm just looking for ways to speed up that process. It can be incredibly difficult, even where there is a common language, which there is not, in this case.

03-29-2003, 11:00 AM
I'll tell you how it could be worse, Stan, you'll get someone in there who makes Osama look like a kindergarten teacher.

stan v
03-29-2003, 11:07 AM
Give me a break. Watch the skies Rocky, could be a meteor on the way.