On Memorial Day, Jessica McBride, WTMJ's answer to Ann Coulter, tells her readers that she read a report about the situation in Iraq by retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey. Her summary:
The picture that emerges: There is steady progress, and we can win this fight. But it won't be easy, and it won't be short, and our will can not waver. Because it can also be lost. In other words, our support for the effort is imperative.
That’s some Churchillian stiff-upper lip talk for Memorial Day! And, just for good measure, she takes what appears to be a shot at the majority of Americans who now question the war:
Something to remember on this Memorial Day. We must see our side with the moral clarity some reserve only for soldiers of the past.
Actually, here, as in so many other cases, Jessica’s in no position to talk about moral clarity. Because as a reporter (and in this capacity she is a reporter) her moral imperative is to accurately describe the contents of the memo she’s describing. Yes, McCaffrey says the Iraq war (or in Jessica speak “the effort”) can be won, but his portrait is far, far more bleak than what she presents. And he’s a supporter!
To be sure, McCaffrey’s report starts rousingly with praise for the morale, fighting effectiveness, courage and confidence of the U.S. combat forces. “These are the toughest soldiers we have ever fielded,” he writes. “It was a real joy and an honor to see them first-hand.” Heck, even someone so un-American as Russ Feingold could agree with that.
McCaffrey’s second bullet point, about the Iraqi army, starts promisingly as well. “The Iraqi Army is real, growing and willing to fight.” Awesome! “They now have lead action of a huge and rapidly expanding area and population.” Sweet! “The battalion level formations are in many cases excellent – most are adequate.”
Whoa. Most are just "adequate"? Maybe the Army will pass muster in the next sentence.
“However they are very badly equipped with only a few light vehicles, small arms, most with body armor and one or two uniforms.”
Huh. Maybe in the fifth ...
“They have almost no mortars, heavy machine guns, decent communications equipment, artillery, armor, or IAF air transport, helicopter and strike support.”
Dude, how can the Iraqi army be "real" if it has almost no mortars or artillery?
The kicker for this bullet point is the penultimate sentence: “We need at least two-to-five more years of U.S. partnership and combat backup to get ready on its own.”
Two to five years? Jessica was a reporter. Reporters should present things vividly. Saying “we might be providing combat support for a barely functioning Iraqi army in 2011” is much more vivid than saying the fight “won’t be short.”
Next, McCaffrey tackles the Iraqi police. And they are beginning to show improvement. Which is good because “The crux of the war hangs on our ability to create urban and rural local police with the ability to survive on the streets of this incredibly dangerous and lethal environment.”
There’s one catch:
The police are heavily infiltrated by the AIF and the Shis militia. They are widely distrusted by the Sunni population. They are incapable of confronting local armed groups. They inherited a culture of inaction, passivity, human rights abuses and deep corruption.
Sounds worse than Milwaukee government! How long will it take to turn this around? “This will be a ten year project …” McCaffrey writes. Did anything in Jessica’s report suggest it’s going to take 10 years to fix the police force – “the crux of the war” (sorry, effort)?
It’s not that McCaffrey doesn’t think we can prevail in Iraq. He believes we can. Others disagree. But even he sums up it like this: “The situation is perilous, uncertain and extreme – but far from hopeless.”
And he brings it all back home in the second-to-last paragraph:
There is no reason why the U.S.cannot achieve our objectives in Iraq. Our aim must be to create a viable federal state under the rule of law which does not: enslave its own people, threaten its neighbors or produce weapons of mass destruction. This is a ten year task. We should be able to draw down most of our combat forces in 3-to-5 years. We have few alternatives to the current U.S.strategy which is painfully but gradually succeeding. This is now a race against time. Do we have the political will, do we have the military power, will we spend the resources required to achieve our aims.
The general believes the U.S. can win. Many military experts and retired officers disagree. But he acknowledges that even a scenario in which the U.S. would prevail would be lengthy and costly. Lengthier and costlier, one suspects, than much of Jessica's audience suspects.
McBride trots out the warblogger-worn phrase "moral clarity." To truly claim that mantle, here's some things McBride & Co. must do. In between bashing the media for not reporting the alleged good news coming out of Iraq, they must remind their audience that our situation there remains "perilous, uncertain and extreme" after two years. They should say it won't be for three to five years before most of our forces are withdrawn. They should calculate how many more lives will be lost over that period.
And then, oh yeah, there's that no weapons of mass destruction thing.
Until McBride & Co. say how many Americans they're willing to see die in a war based on deceptions, saying things like "our will cannot waiver" is not moral clarity.
It's moral cowardice. And no amount of British bulldog woofing can cover it up.