Thursday, July 24, 2003

So much for a great victory

There are few outside the most loyal Saddamites who would say that the passing of Udai and Qusai is not something to cheer the mind at least a little. But still there is an important question that needs to be asked and, surprisingly, some in the establishment media are asking it:
Excessive Force? The U.S. military is celebrating the deaths of Saddam’s sons. But some are questioning whether Uday and Qusay could—and should—have been taken alive By Rod Nordland NEWSWEEK WEB EXCLUSIVE July 23 — It was much-needed tangible proof that America was making progress in the war in Iraq. After several weeks of drooping morale and a daily, if single-digit body count, the U.S. military on Tuesday announced its soldiers had killed Saddam Hussein’s sons in a ferocious firefight in their Mosul hideout. AMERICAN OFFICIALS crowed about it, troops around Iraq high-fived each other, friendly Iraqis fired their guns in the air in celebration. Even the stock markets rose on the news. Certainly only a few diehards mourned the passing of Uday and Qusay Hussein; the regime’s Caligula and its Heir Apparent were if anything despised and feared even more than their dad. But as details became clearer of the raid that eliminated what the U.S. military calls High Value Targets (HVTs) Nos. 2 and 3, a lot of people in the intelligence community were left wondering: why weren’t they just taken alive? Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez answers questions at a press conference in Baghdad on Wednesday At a news briefing today, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, squirmed his way past that question repeatedly. It was, he said, the decision of the commander on the ground based on the circumstances and his judgment—”and it was the right decision.” But was it? Who beside the sons might have better information about the one HVT that really matters, Saddam? “The whole operation was a cockup,” said a British intelligence officer. “There was no need to go after four lightly armed men with such overwhelming firepower. They would have been much more useful alive.” But Sanchez insisted it wasn’t overkill. “Absolutely not. Our mission is to find, kill or capture high-value targets. We had an enemy that was barricaded and we had to take measures to neutralize the target.”
This brings up what is quickly becoming known as the Noriega option: why, once we knew where Udai and Qusai were holed up, couldn't we simply surround the house they were in and starve them out? Why couldn't we blast their compound 24 hours a day with a mixture of Cher, Neil Sedaka and Ah Ha! until they begged to be dragged off to camp X-ray? Wouldn't they have provided a lot of useful information about where there father is? Couldn't they have provided information about where the WMD are? Was it really necessary to blast them back to hell? It's only been, what, 48 hours since this great victory and already the administration is already starting to feel the heat from these questions. I would say the flower is definitely off the vine as far as the media's love affair with the Bush administration is concerned. Note: I'm not saying the soldiers who attacked the house were ordered to kill the brothers. But I have to wonder if the frustration of our military forces might have lead them, once they received sign of resistence, to say, "Fuck it! Let's waste them!"


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