- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 30, 2002

Those men and woman who rushed to score political points against President Bush over the events leading up to September 11 can be categorized by a saying we first heard at the Pentagon years ago; "Ready. Fire. Aim. A tragic case of pedicide (shooting your self in both feet).

This is not to say the intelligence community doesn't need a shakeup. The Intel community has had some historic successes; for example breaking the Japanese code 60 years ago produced a great U.S. Navy victory known as the "Miracle at Midway" and reversed the course of the war in the Pacific. On the other side of the ledger was a more recent mistake missing the dissolution of the Soviet Empire.

Thus, fresh ideas, personnel shakeups and new ways of doing business should always be welcome and Congress is fully capable of pointing out problem areas. Our quarrel is with those who lie in ambush, without taking a position, and then publicly pounce with perfect hindsight. So we would like to use "20/20 foresight" to give those who oppose expanding the war on terror a chance to join a debate before they get a chance to grandstand after the fact.

To successfully defeat terrorists who may some day explode a nuke in New York Harbor or on the Mall in D.C. we believe the battle has to be taken to those nations capable of facilitating such an atrocity. One of the first stops after Afghanistan should be Iraq, which means on to Baghdad. It is understood that fair-minded, honorable and decent people may disagree and should speak out.

In fact, even when the first round is fired, a free open debate will rage. However, if the past is prologue there will an area in which all opponents of U.S. military action in Iraq had best tread lightly. The lesson of Jenin should be learned.

By all credible accounts the Israeli Defense Forces performed with extreme professionalism during close combat in an urban environment. Tragically, civilians were killed in the cross-fire. However, some in the European press tried to make the case that the battle in Jenin was a deliberate massacre of civilians. This slander was destroyed by the facts, but there was a rush to judgment. That it was flamed white-hot by Europeans is extremely odd. If ever a continent learned the difference between war and murder, it should have been Europe.

The same will happen if U.S. forces have to fight in Baghdad innocent civilians will be killed. The closest historical example of the worst case we could find was the battle for Manila in World War II. Gen. Douglas MacArthur withheld air power because he wanted to minimize casualties to his beloved Filipinos. What was originally considered to be the rapid liberation of a city filled with friendlies became a monthlong street fight leaving more than 100,000 civilians dead.

Therefore, there is a very high probability that the world will be shown footage of dead Iraqi woman and children that we killed. Elements in the foreign press will cry massacre and work to paint all America and especially our troops in the field as barbaric butchers. Minimizing the tragic deaths of civilians caught in a combat zone is something American troops seek, especially after Vietnam.

So it is simple: debate the next step in the life-and-death struggle against those who would murder us in our sleep. But remember, if the president and his team are successful, the probability of innocent civilians dying by acts of state-sponsored terrorism will be greatly reduced.

Unfortunately, in the modern 24-hour news cycle, the inevitable carnage of combat in taking the fight to enemy states will be made very visible over and over. But, woe be to those who try to fracture our unity by implying U.S. serviceman or woman carelessly and without remorse kill civilians. If any responsible person truly believes American troops will go into any battle on the war against terrorism to intentionally kill innocent civilians, let them speak up now.

Terrorists and the states that harbor them do initiate battle with the intention of killing innocents that is the difference and what this war is all about.

Edward T. Timperlake and William C. Triplett II are the co-authors of "Red Dragon Rising," Regnery, 1999.

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