President Bush’s speech on Iraq was prompted by media carping and criticism. Like in Vietnam, our media are reporting a daily body count of Americans killed or injured while ignoring the heavy losses inflicted on the enemy. The difference is that it took years for the media to turn against U.S. policy in Vietnam while it has taken only months for them to do so in Iraq.
A letter-writer to the New York Post captured the sentiments of those who do not want to see American sacrifices in Iraq made in vain. She said, “Too many Americans have given their lives for us now to allow the United Nations to make a mess out of it because the media are pressing for quick results.” The irony is that Secretary of State Colin Powell says a new U.N. resolution on Iraq will only produce another 10-15,000 foreign troops. Some who were eager to go to war now want more American troops in Iraq, but U.S. officials argue that this will only increase the number of targets available for the terrorists.
One of the administration’s mistakes has been to assume that the media embedded with U.S. troops on the road to victory would remain on our side after the war. Instead, Dan Rather of the CBS Evening News has now gone to Iraq to interview “the guerrillas” killing American troops. The use of the term “guerrilla” rather than “terrorist” gives viewers the impression that they enjoy support from the Iraqi people.
Rather also interviewed Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, commander of American forces in Iraq. Here’s one of Rather’s loaded questions to Sanchez: “A woman in South Carolina is quoted today as saying, ‘We’ve got a tar baby on our hands.’ Others have used the word ‘quick sand’ and ‘quagmire’ out of the Vietnam era. I’m gonna give you an opportunity to respond to those very serious concerns among Americans who support what you’re doing here, support our troops.” Sanchez told Rather that “America needs to be told very clearly by, first of all, me as a military leader, and then by our press, that we’re not in a quagmire. The progress is unbelievable. We just have to make sure that?the American public realizes that and understands their sons and daughters are making a tremendous contribution to the peace and stability and the democratic future of Iraq.”
The media attacks over Iraq, plus a sluggish economy, have taken their toll. A Zogby America poll shows that only 45% give Bush positive marks for job performance. The irony is that the U.S. may be a victim of success. The war to topple the Saddam Hussein regime went more quickly than anyone anticipated. As Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has pointed out, war planners came up with strategies for dealing with environmental sabotage, the destruction of dams, and millions of refugees. None of that happened.
At the current time, the U.S. hasn’t lost as many soldiers in Iraq as were killed during one week at the height of the Vietnam War. Still, Dan Rather is raising the specter of “another Vietnam.” The enemy must think they can win this one, too. With the help of our media, they might.