On Point: Just Give CENTCOM a Chance

by Austin Bay
April 4, 2003

Afghanistan should have been the definitive lesson. October 2001followed a sine wave of emotion, with peaks of euphoria tagged by troughs ofdistress, the one consistent theme from major media being Central Commandwas failing. Afghanistan, in the critics' lingo, was an instant Vietnamquagmire.

November 2001 showed that to be a hasty, faulty, utterlyfruitcake judgment. However, in The Saddam War phase of the War on Terror,we've witnessed the same sad contrail of fret and hysteria, often fed bypoliticized commentators whose bias further clouds the fog of war.

Perhaps this demonstration will be more convincing. PeterArnett's form of urbane warfare -- the smug wisdom of leftish elites -- isflawed, not CENTCOM's war plans. The urbane warriors lack the Pentagon'ssophistication in urban warfare, mountain fighting and desert battles. It'snot that the Pentagon gets it exactly right -- no military ever does -- butthat it has earned public patience.

After that hard knock on the biased, let's praise the realreporters embedded in U.S. and British units. With few exceptions -- Geraldothe premier culprit -- their coverage has been courageous, magnificent andinformative. Though cable television news often lets that medium's demandfor drama-every-half-hour distort issues and events, many frontline reportsby their embeds are much more than the first brush of history, they arehistory immediate and witnessed. They are also taking pictures of troops ina generation where TV isn't novelty, but normality. All American soldiersseem to ask is that reporters respect them and not tell the enemy where theyare.

Which brings us to Baghdad. With Baghdad being surrounded,probed and in places liberated, we've an opportunity to assess what we'vewitnessed on the battlefield.

The bold strokes Central Command made early in Operation IraqiFreedom are now paying off. Seizing the huge airbase complexes in westernIraq was a strategic coup. Holding the huge western airbases has allowed theallies to suppress the so-called Scud box. This denies Saddam Hussein hisgreat strategic stroke, a chemical attack on Israel to expand the war.CENTCOM's western successes have diminished that threat.

The second bold stroke was the 3rd Infantry Division'sunprecedented blitz to Baghdad. They bypassed resistance, which now meansmopping up snipers and death squads. However, the 3rd ID seized weaklydefended bridges and cut off Iraqi units, which ultimately will save alliedlives, as well as time. When the 3rd Infantry reached Karbala, it fixed andheld Baghdad's Republican Guard defenders. Then, the rain of U.S. precisionmunitions began to devastate the units that empower Saddam's outlaw regime.

Add another evident success: seizing oil fields to preventeco-terror, both economic and ecological disaster.

Up to now, the allies have minimized civilian casualties. Praythat this continues, but mark it as a tentative success since street battlescontinue in several cities.

It looks like the March 19 bombing raid on Saddam's bunkermissed him. However, it's a sure bet that surviving Baath Party bigwigssuspect someone in their inner circle now talks to the CIA. There's no trustamong tyrants. Now trust inside the regime is less than zero.

Taking Baghdad Airport -- -an enormous complex -- offers a newroute for supplying allied forces in the Baghdad area. Though an attractivetarget for Iraqi artillery, especially chemical shells, it also provides aready base for the 101st Airborne's helicopters. Controlling the airport isalso an information warfare coup. The Baath regime's key propaganda messagehas been the United States is lost in the desert and that allied forces arebeing defeated. This helps keep the Iraqi people afraid and under control.

But 3rd ID tanks on the tarmac expose that lie. From now on,Baghdad's grapevine and gossip will challenge the regime's televised lies.

These political effects may not be immediately evident, but givethem time. The Iraqi people, and probing allied troops, deserve a littlepatience.

To find out more about Austin Bay and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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