- Stung by the deaths of nearly 40 American soldiers over the past 10 days, the top American military commander in Iraq spoke of a “turning point” in the conflict on Tuesday and outlined a new get-tough approach to combat operations in areas north and west of Baghdad, strongholds for loyalists of Saddam Hussein.
Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez said operations would be stepped up against shadowy groups behind the increasing tempo of attacks on American troops in the Iraqi heartland between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
….”We are taking the fight into the safe havens of the enemy in the heartland of the country where we continue to face former regime loyalists, criminals and foreign terrorists, who are trying to isolate the coalition forces from the Iraqi people and break the will of the international community,” General Sanchez told a heavily guarded news conference in the Iraqi capital. He added, “They will fail.”
….Dispensing with euphemisms favored by many Bush administration officials in recent months, General Sanchez, commander of the 130,000 American troops in Iraq, described what they were facing as a war.
He was blunt in assessing the challenge posed by armed opponents who faded away as American troops overran the country in April, only to regroup, mainly in the area known as the “Sunni triangle,” between Baghdad, Tikrit and Ramadi. From those Sunni Muslim areas, the major beneficiaries of Mr. Hussein’s rule, attackers have mounted an increasingly sophisticated campaign that the general said accounted for more than 90 percent of strikes on allied forces.
Citing a deadly Oct. 26 rocket attack on the Rashid Hotel in central Baghdad, timed to coincide with the visit to the hotel of the deputy defense secretary, Paul D. Wolfowitz, the general said the attack was intended to “weaken the will of the coalition forces” and cause the United States to “walk away” from Iraq.
“It’s not going to happen,” he said. “We are not walking away, we are not faltering, we are going to win this battle, and this war.”
Aides to General Sanchez said the choice of the word “war” was part of a conscious effort by senior military officers to inject realism into debates in Washington. American officials disclosed Tuesday that the chief American administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer III, had left abruptly for talks in Washington.
….At another point, he responded brusquely to a reporter’s question that cited concerns among some in Europe and the United States that Iraq was turning into a new Vietnam.
“It’s not Vietnam, and there’s no way you can make the comparison to the quagmire of Vietnam, when you look at the progress that’s being made, when you look at the lack of popular support for the previous regime,” the general said. “There’s no alternative political structure that the people of Iraq are going to embrace that is connected to this anticoalition element. I think it’s just amazing that anybody would think that it’s an alternative to go back to that oppressive, brutal regime.”
….”Although the coalition can be benevolent, this is the same lethal instrument that removed the previous regime, and we will not hesitate to employ the appropriate levels of combat power,” he said in prepared remarks. In response to questions, he added, “What we are embarking on here is the absolute necessity to defeat the enemy,” in pursuit of which the “application of all combat power that is available to us” would be used. [NY Times]
Not only does extreme force need to be reapplied to eliminate the hardened enemy, it also needs to be used to reassure those who might be inclined to support the enemy that their cause is hopeless and that only death awaits them at the end of that road.
We’d better be as serious about this as we were about the initial invasion. A half-assed or piecemeal approach will only lead to delay and more death.