A War in Which Everybody Appears to Be Under Fire

Topic started by Human being (@ orion.singnet.com.sg) on Fri Mar 28 07:23:03 .
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A War in Which Everybody Appears to Be Under Fire
L. Ramnarayan, Arab News Staff

JEDDAH, 28 March 2003 — The road to Baghdad, the allied — or, to be precise, the Anglo-American — forces are finding out, is not strewn with roses but weighed down with bodies and riddled with uncertainties.

In the mad rush to war that trampled the wider international argument for peace and reasonable alternatives under foot, the political leaders who caused this conflict will have to carry the heavy responsibility of the lives lost in this illogical war — illogical, because the weapons of mass destruction are now arrayed against the very person and government said to have hidden them. The war began despite global condemnation and calls for diplomacy to prevail.

President George W. Bush was given emphatic backing for this war by the people of America, who wanted, somehow, to get their own back for Sept. 11, 2001. Now the US/UK forces are discovering that Iraq will not be such easy pickings as they thought. Despite Saddam’s brutalities to his own people, their patriotism and distrust of the invading forces have stuck a pin in the allied bubble.

A week has gone by in this conflict and claims and counterclaims have dominated the airwaves. The only certainty in all this is that the war now will be fought on Saddam’s terms, despite the “shock and awe” bombardment by the allies.

They may yet pay a heavy price, chasing the goal of regime change in Iraq, which remains defiant. For the bitter clash for Baghdad will be fought between the US forces and Saddam’s elite Republican Guards, and the threat of heavy casualties still looms.

Death and injuries are to be expected in the heat of battle. But what has been singularly unexpected is the failure of the “smart” weapons that the allies boasted of.

The conflict began with fatal chopper crashes that displayed a lack of cohesion among the allied ranks. Also, weapons using satellite and other technology for precision guidance failed to be precise in where they landed.

They first drew the wrath of Iran for being less than adept in geography, before the Apache and a Blackhawk either fell or were captured intact on Indian territory.

But the real damage was the loss of lives following attacks from within and friendly fire. And the British have been at the receiving end of this. First a Patriot missile hit one of their aircraft; another battery fired at a friendly aircraft; and then there were reports of a friendly aircraft targeting a Patriot battery.

This was all surreal. Were they at war or at games? But tragedy struck from their own quarters as grenades were launched in a camp at Kuwait by one of their own, and then a Challenger challenged another Challenger.

No, it was not Bush throwing down the gauntlet to Saddam for a one-on-one on the mat. But, ironically, two Brits lost their lives on Tuesday when the two British tanks exchanged fire. A case of “brotherly” rather than “friendly fire” you could call it.

In another grenade attack, another American was killed.

And in yet another case of friendly downing, it is reported by the Daily Mail that the probable deaths of the three ITN journalists could have been the result of friendly fire. An investigation is under way. Reports are that these journalists came under allied tank fire, or could have been caught in a crossfire.

Many could still die from the guns fired from their own side, but the length of the conflict could well be defined by imponderables. It could also increase the scale of death.

The two main questions being, first how the vaunted Republican Guard will measure up to the awesome allied firepower, and the second being whether the allies, if lured into urban warfare in Iraq, can live up to their aims of limiting civilian casualties.

Whatever the outcome, the new millennium is going to see a lot of realignment. Widespread international outcry against the war is sure to grow. For, left unchecked, all could be at the mercy of the ultra right, or the ultra self-righteous.

As the scenario unfolds in real time for all of us, the only hope is that this pressure by the people will put the US and UK governments under fire. Be it friendly or brotherly. For freedom itself is at stake.


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