On day two of the war in Iraq, some
American Marines faced "fierce"
resistance, before being assisted by British
Artillery about 45 minutes later.
"Ha!" said some pundits, "You
said this would be quick, but people are
Now I'm no military expert but the above
doesn't quite sound like "fierce"
resistance. In fact it sounds like the
Americans were "advancing to contact"
when they contacted the enemy. The American
company commander, I imagine, would have
conducted a quick reconnaissance of the
enemy position and had a brief chat to
his attached artillery Forward Observer.
The commander would have formulated a
quick attack plan, supported by the FO's
fireplan and, hey presto, 45 minutes later
H-Hour and the poor Iraqis receive an
artillery fire mission on the head. The
American Marines advance and clear the
Iraqi pits - end of mission, target destroyed,
what's next? Or so you would think.
What seems a pretty stock standard example
of a company or battalion-level combined
arms operation, becomes "fierce resistance".
We shouldn't be surprised, because in
this war, journalists and pundits regard
the ambush of a coalition vehicle as a
re-run of the Battle of the Bulge.
The ABC's Geoff Thompson asks a US Marine
Artillery Sergeant "What do you imagine
is happening on the other end of this
The Sergeant jokes: "I see a lot
of people praying."
However, Thompson observes on the US
gun line "they are digging and hoping
that, here, prayer won't be necessary
on this night." The report cuts to
footage of a Marine digging in. Thompson's
implication is clear; for all the bravado
things aren't going well for the Americans,
they are bogged down and facing fierce
resistance, so much so they are digging
Right, okay, Geoff. But isn't digging
standard operating procedure, rather than
a reflection of the progress of the war?
I must confess it's hard to share the
gleeful pessimism of some journalists,
largely because it is so ludicrous. After
about 14 days the Coalition forces had
arrived in the North, captured several
towns in the South, by-passed others and
were on the outskirts of the capital.
They had total air supremacy. The Iraqi
regime's command, control and communications
infrastructure has seen better days, and
civilian casualties have been kept to
a minimum. At the time of writing 27 Britons
and 51 Americans have been killed. Tragic
but staggeringly low casualties. To put
that in perspective, in 2002 the Australian
Defence Force had 44 fatalities from training
accidents, car accidents, cancer and natural
If you were Tommy Franks would you be
disappointed with the war's progress?
Not me, but Brian Whitaker from The
Guardian thinks he should be,
as "invasion forces are making slow
headway". Whitaker is clearly a 'glass
half empty' kind of chap. He probably
believes the 6 Day War was 5 days too
long - what an absolute shower those Israelis
are! The fact that Coalition, oops sorry,
invasion forces, weren't handing out tea
and medals after 24 hours is, for Whitaker,
a terrible indictment of the planning
of the war, the US in general and Donald
Rumsfeld in particular. Those dumb Americans
again, here comes another Vietnam. Yes,
just like Afghanistan.
Journalists like Whitaker have latched
onto Seymour Hersh's allegations of infighting
between old Rummy and the military men.
Apparently Rumsfeld, or so the story goes,
didn't give the military men enough troops
because he didn't account for the "fierce"
resistance. All parties have denied it,
so in journalist parlance it must be true.
Here we have the fundamental problem with
the media and this war.
There are so many armchair experts, each
with access to unprecedented coverage
of the war, to speculate and second-guess.
An infantry company encounters some difficulty
securing an objective and it makes the
evening news around the world. The perception
is of an army going slow, and it's a good
chance for opponents of Rumsfeld in the
Pentagon to take a few pot shots and score
a few points, and some journalists are
more than willing to assist.