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By Dick Morris


March 26, 2003
Wednesday - 1:15 pm


As American troops face Iraqi soldiers, they confront an enemy whose major defense is our reluctance to use the force we have if there is a significant danger that we will kill innocent civilians. No better example can be found of what Henry Kissinger called the process by which "the weak grow strong through effrontery and the strong grow weak because of inhibitions."

By stationing tanks inside hospitals, dressing as civilians, driving regular cars, and hiding inside the homes of ordinary people, Iraqi soldiers are deploying their most fearsome weapon: our own refusal to kill noncombatants.

We have already demonstrated that we are willing to spend billions of dollars to avoid killing civilians. Precision guided munitions, smart bombs and the like are all costly measures designed to save the lives of the innocent.

But what should we do when saving the innocent means killing American soldiers and prolonging the war?

Once we let Iraqi soldiers become confident in the belief that the United States won't attack them if they mingle with civilians, are we not encouraging them to do so? Won't our policy lead to the exact thing we are trying to avoid: more and more civilian deaths as the Iraqi Army deliberately mixes with the population to avoid American attacks?

But the political premise: That Americans will rebel against the war if we end up killing civilians, is not true. If the Administration and the military make their case that the Iraqis are deliberately abusing our good will and manipulating our efforts to avoid civilian deaths, Americans will understand that we cannot ask our soldiers to take fire and not shoot back for fear of hitting civilians.

This is, after all, a war, not a hostage situation, however much the Iraqi Army wants to make it one.

The Pentagon spokespeople should stress, in their briefings, the way the Iraqi Army is endangering citizens by using them as human shields to deter American attacks. They should stress how our own policy of civilized warfare is leading to casualties. Americans will approve of loosening the rules of engagement to let our soldiers win this war quickly and with a minimum loss of American life.

Should the Iraqi Army melt back into Baghdad, a siege situation could develop where there are three things we can do: shell and bomb the enemy, starve him out, or go in and get him.

Starving him would be unacceptable politically. It would leave Saddam in power for too long and give the anti-war movement around the world too much time to mobilize and too much of a weapon as photos of starving children sear the world's conscience.

Fighting in the streets of Baghdad is a little like "going into the water to fight the shark" (Winston Churchill's description of a land war in Asia against the Japanese). Churchill's metaphor tells us all we will ever need to know about street to street, house to house fighting in Baghdad. Were we to fall into that trap, we would become the latter day equivalent of the Israeli Army, condemned as it buries civilians in bulldozered buildings.

The answer must be to unleash our military from its current restrictions and permit bombardment of whichever buildings shelter the enemy. Americans will understand that there will be civilian deaths, but they would vastly prefer those to unnecessary American military casualties.

Should the Iraqi Army use chemical or biological weapons, then all bets are off. The resulting outrage that would sweep America, and the way the war would be instantly justified to anyone with eyes to see, would remove many of the inhibitions that currently restrict our efforts.

Let's understand that Americans can be trusted to grasp that war is war and that it leads to deaths of innocents. But the tactics of the Iraqi Army will assure that the blame falls on Saddam, not on us.



Dick Morris has become a familiar figure as a commentator for the Fox News Channel. He writes weekly columns for the New York Post, The Hill Magazine in Washington D.C. and The National Post in Canada.

Copyright 2003 Dick Morris, Distributed by Cagle Cartoons, Inc. to subscribers.


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