The Road to Disaster

"War has no certainty except the certainty of sacrifice." - President George W. Bush March 17, 2003

Never in the history of the world has so much power been exercised in the prosecution of war as is proposed in this war on Iraq. Members of the Bush administration and pundits continue to state with confidence that war will be a matter of "only a few days" or perhaps weeks and that victory is assured even before hostilities commence. There is little public discussion of the things that could go wrong.

Defense Department officials, on a more somber note, have tried to prepare Americans for the possibilities of casualties while at the same time mirroring the optimistic tone of the administration. Defense Department plans call for an initial "shock and awe" strategy in which forces will drop 10 times the bombs in the opening days of an air campaign than they did in the Kuwait Gulf War. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Meyers, expresses confidence that this will create "such a shock on the system that the Iraqi regime would have to assume early on that the end is inevitable."

The air campaign would be followed by the rapid advance of ground forces in a drive to capture key strategic assets and with the goal of reaching Baghdad in a matter of days. The entire premise is based on an assumption that Iraqis will not offer much real resistance and may even "welcome" the American liberators.

Unforeseen circumstance, however, may make this optimism seem misplaced once U.S. troops enter the country. What if these assumptions turn out to be false due to lack of understanding of the Iraqi people and overconfidence (dare I even say hubris) on the part of the U.S.? The history of human wars is filled with stories of unexpected catastrophes.

I returned from Iraq in late January after being involve in a severe calamity of my own. I was traveling throughout the country with members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams to learn about Iraq and better understand that country. As we returned along the main highway from Basrah to Baghdad the tire of our SUV blew out causing a rollover accident. One member of our team, George Weber, was killed outright when he was thrown from the car. I suffered three compression fractures of the spine and spent the next three weeks in Iraq in recovery.

But what does this have to do with plans for war in Iraq?

What I experienced during my trip is that Iraq is quite different from how it has been portrayed by the Bush administration. This leads me to consider that there is a clear lack of information in Washington about that country and how they will react if war comes. At the same time I have learned that things don't always go as planned and disaster can strike from unexpected quarters. Experienced military strategists know these things as well and understand that once war begins all bets are off.

If (we say "if" because we hold out hope for a peaceful resolution to the end) the U.S. launches a war it can be expected that things may not go according to plans drawn up thousands of miles away from the sands of Iraq. While the best and brightest of the Defense Policy Advisory Board scheme they should remember that Iraqi military leaders plot likewise. They may have also read Sun Tzu words, "Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory."

Let us hope and pray that the highway to Baghdad does not instead become a road to disaster.

Peace - Charlie


Charlie Jackson, founder of Texans for Peace, recently returned from his second trip to Iraq, undertaken through the Christian Peacemaker Teams organization of Chicago. He is a high-tech CEO and lives with his two sons in San Antonio.


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