- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 8, 2002

Nothing is so dangerous as ignorance in action, especially in national security affairs like our impending attack on Iraq. The anemic defense by Rep. Mike Thompson,California Democrat, in The Washington Post Oct. 4 of his recent journey to Bagdad to fraternize with Saddam Hussein's myrmidons shows the folly of congressional pre-eminence in matters of war and peace. Indeed, Alexander Hamilton presciently warned of the hazard in Federalist 75.

Mr. Thompson simple-mindedly argues: "I wanted to see and feel the country before deciding whether to commit our troops. By getting my feet on the ground, I hoped to gain a better understanding of what can be done to increase our national security by stabilizing this region of the world."

"Respected generals who have testified before Congress know that a war with Iraq today would be an urban battlefield. As a combat veteran, I wanted to see what our 19-year-old soldiers could face."

But these remarks smack of geomancy and astrology. Walking around Baghdad gives no more clue of the casualty risks to Americans than satellite photos. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower's Overlord plans would not have been improved if he had previously buried his feet in the sands of Normandy or Omaha Beach. It speaks volumes that Mr. Thompson is unable to articulate a single epiphany or enhanced understanding of warring against Iraq from the clashing of his shoes with clods of Iraqi dirt.

Moreover, the signature of war is fog, chaos, and the unexpected, as everyone from Karl von Clausewitz to Leo Tolstoy has corroborated. The Russians were destined to surrender to Napoleon, but it didn't happen. Josef Stalin was certain to fall to Adolf Hitler, but it didn't happen. The Battle of Britain, according to the likes of Ambassador Joseph Kennedy and icon Charles Lindbergh, would be won by the Luftwaffe, but it didn't happen. The Fuehrer would unleash gas warfare when he confronted the abyss, but it didn't happen. And Iraq's fabled Republican Guards would undoubtedly prove a formidable foe of American troops in the 1991 Persian Gulf war, but it didn't happen (and Iraqis defected in droves, even to newsmen).

Yet Mr. Thompson lectures with the certitude of Euclidean geometry that an American war against Iraq would be tenaciously opposed on urban battlefields. But why would Iraqi troops be any more eager to martyr themselves for Saddam Hussein in 2002 than in 1991, or more than Afghan soldiers were for Taliban in 2001? The wise man knows what he doesn't know, as Socrates preached, a lesson the congressman has never mastered.

Mr. Thompson also maintains that: "An invasion could require a U.S. occupation force in Iraq for several years. I needed to see how that force would be received by Iraqi civilians, who are living in a state of human crisis created by Saddam Hussein." But his Baghdad caper added virtually nothing to our store of predictive knowledge on that score. American forces as liberators from tyrants or postwar occupiers have uniformly been greeted with wild cheering and delirium. Think of Afghanistan, Kuwait, Panama, Grenada, Germany and Japan. Berliners still remember with exuberance the Allied airlift of coal and candy that broke the Soviet blockade in 1949.

And the Japanese came to revere Gen. Douglas MacArthur like a deity for designing and administering a democratic Constitution that remains unamended more than a half-century later.

With regard specifically to Iraq, a large percentage of the country already exults in living under the protection of the American-British no-fly zones in the north and south and beyond the reach of Saddam's wretchedness.

The likelihood that the remaining Iraqis would repudiate a United States occupation is no greater than the probability that the Chinese dissidents in Tiananmen Square in 1989 would have booed if American paratroopers landed in Beijing. In Churchillian eloquence, the odds favor the Iraqis dancing on the Tigris and Euphrates, dancing on the landing grounds, dancing in the fields and in the streets, dancing in the hills, dancing forever.

Finally, despite Mr. Thompson's "grass roots" mingling with Iraqis, he conspicuously declines to claim any greater knowledge as to how they would greet American occupation forces from his Baghdad mission. So what justified the Iraqi escapade, which unwittingly provided an aura of respectability to Saddam's terrorist despotism?

The noncerebral congressman retorts: "What I really wanted to see was the human infrastructure that would be left behind in the event of a regime change. What I saw were the roots of terrorism that have been lost in the emotional and political drumbeats of war."

"Children dying from curable diseases because they have no access to medicine. Raw sewage contaminates drinking water. It is appalling how a nation once so rich is now a wasteland of disease and despair."

All the destitution that Mr. Thompson witnessed could have been learned in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the expense by reading consensus reports about the devastation President Saddam Hussein has brought to the Iraqi people. In any event, what he saw as the roots of terrorism poverty and misery was an optical illusion. Al Qaeda members do not predominantly sport underclass origins. The September 11 hijackers were not raised on contaminated drinking water, and 15 of the 19 hailed from Saudi Arabia, a welfare state par excellence. Convicted terrorists Robert Reid and Michael Walker Lindh were not raised in slums. Bangladesh, Haiti and Niger are not brimming with terrorists despite widespread abject poverty.

Mr. Thompson manfully asserts that after his pilgrimage in the face of criticism, "I still have a lot of questions, and I plan to ask them." But self-questioning of his appallingly facile assumptions about an Iraqi war and global terrorism would seem more in order.


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