View From Lodi, CA: Fantasy And Failure In Falluja
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By using our town of Lodi as an example, I'll explain why the "taking" of Falluja will prove futile.

Operation New Dawn is more about destroying Falluja than "taking" it. But for today, I'll use the military parlance.

Falluja, a Sunni city of about 250,000, was once the headquarters of approximately 3,500 insurgents. Today, only a fraction of those remain. They are disorganized and ineffective.

Because the White House determined that a secure Falluja is essential for safe and orderly Iraqi elections in January, early this week a coalition of 6,500 US Marines and 2,000 Iraqi troops stormed the town, launching rocket fire and mortar shells.

During the weeks leading up to the ground assault, American aircraft repeatedly bombed Falluja knocking out power and other essential services.

In anticipation of the American-led attack, however, nearly 70 percent of Falluja residents—about 150,000 people—fled in fear for their lives.

Pentagon officials concede that many insurgents including kingpin Abu Musab al Zarqawi were among those who escaped. And the escapees are known to be conducting terrorist attacks in other cities.

The American-led conquest of Falluja is done in the name of a free Iraq—Operation Iraqi Freedom. And a broader goal of the war is, according to the White House, to plant the seeds of democracy throughout the Middle East.

Now I ask you: if Lodi were Falluja and the same 70 percent of residents (42,000) evacuated to avoid a deadly invasion from armed foreign troops and the 18,000 who stayed behind witnessed rampant death and destruction, how many converts would be made?

Unfortunately for the American public, the presidential election did not provide a meaningful forum about the nation's goals in Iraq.

Campaign pomp and circumstance stifled many military expert opinions that predicted that the Iraq War, as it is currently being managed, is doomed to deadly failure.

Among those who are pessimistic about the ultimate outcome in Iraq are:

  • Four Star General Wesley Clark who predicted, "The war will go on for years…without the willing cooperation and active participation of our allies…"

  • General Norman Schwarzkopf, Commander Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm, agrees with General Clark: "In the Gulf War we had an international force and troops from many nations. We would be lacking if we went it alone. ... It is not going to be an easy battle but it would be much more effective if we didn't have to do it alone."

  • Four Star Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni, "It's pretty interesting that all the generals see it the same way and all the others who have never fired a shot and are hot to go to war see it another way"

Someone should have listened to Generals Clark, Schwarzkopf and Zinni.

But because no one did, Americans have suffered heavy losses.

Here is a list of American casualties that I pegged to important dates in the Iraq War. These totals will only go up for the foreseeable future:

  • Since the war began (3/19/03): 1163

  • Since Bush's "Mission Accomplished" statement (5/1/03): 1026

  • Since the capture of Saddam Hussein (12/13/03): 701

  • Since the handover by the U.S. to an interim Iraqi government (6/29/04): 302

President Bush should have listened to his father.

George H. W. Bush wrote in his book, "A World Transformed," that after Desert Storm had the U.S. invaded Iraq:

"We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect rule Iraq. The coalition would have instantly collapsed. ... Going in and thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations mandate would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different - and perhaps barren - outcome.''

And Bush's former Secretary of State James Baker added this prescient observation:

"Removing him [Saddam Hussein] from power might well have plunged Iraq into civil war, sucking U.S. forces in to preserve order. Had we elected to march on Baghdad, our forces might still be there."

To date, every prediction the Bush administration has made regarding the war has been wrong. Falluja will likely be one more sorry chapter in the sad saga that is Iraq.

Not only has the administration been unable to capture Osama bin Laden, it can't catch al Zarqawi either.

President Bush owes Americans, who oppose his Iraq policy in ever increasing numbers, an honest evaluation of the nation's course in the war.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.

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