Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Credibility Crisis 

The events in Iraq today were meant to embarrass the White House, create a credibility crisis and get Americans to leave the country. Who knows? It might work. Mutilating bodies, dragging them through the streets and hanging them all or in part from a bridge and wires is as savage as one can expect to see from anyone.

That is the message some Iraqis want to send to the world. Not only are we not civilized, we will perform atrocities with abandon to get our way. It's a powerful message and one used by warriors through history. The sheer recklessness through which life is destroyed is designed to shock all who see it. No wonder mobs can be cowed by a few powerful and unscrupulous individuals.

But having seen that kind of savagery, what is the right response? To leave the scene as we did in Somalia, or to stay the course as the White House has vowed to do? This is what Presidents are elected to decide. We know some answers are not workable. The US could respond with equal savagery but all that will do is further rile the people and the protesters will win. The US could cave and leave and the elements of hate will win again. The US can stay the course and watch more soldiers and civilians die. That is not desirable at home and the protesters will win still again. I'm happy I do not have to communicate administration policy now. It is a deadly box from which there is no easy exit.

Old soldiers from the Vietnam conflict can say, "I told you so." But, it isn't the same. There is no world power feeding arms into the country: The weapons used are what have been there for quite some time. However, the hatred is the same, and hatred will find a way to wound even with shovels and hoes.

Make believe you are working in the White House and trying to provide public relations counsel to the President and his advisers. What would you say?


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