Thousands of bombs may be raining on Iraq as you read this. I pray not, just as I pray for the safety of our troops. I'm hoping the handful of missiles fired Wednesday night marks a departure from the so-called "shock and awe" strategy of dropping thousands of bombs in short order. I fear otherwise.
This war has been in the planning a very long time. One day last summer, while watching one of my teenaged sons play soccer, I read a report in "USA Today" about the Pentagon's plan to slam thousands of bombs and missiles at Iraq during the first two days of war.
Like others opposed to this war, I could have supported a more modest campaign. I don't know anyone who doesn't want to see that sadistic monster, Saddam Hussein, driven from power, along with a dozen more tyrants around the world. But the prospect of massive bombing turned me against the Bush war plan.
If each of the projected 3,000 bombs kills ten people, then we will have killed 30,000 in the first 48 hours after the "shock and awe" plan goes into effect. Most of those 30,000 will be innocent victims, forced in harm's way by Saddam's megalomania.
I'm estimating blindly, of course. No one knows the future, but you can bet the government has an office deep in the bowels of the Pentagon that has calculated a more precise number. The President had a moral obligation to let the American people know such figures, so that we could have judged for ourselves whether this strategy was something our nation should undertake. Instead of telling it to us straight, however, soldiers and bureaucrats--even some reporters who should know better--hide the grim truth behind euphemisms like "collateral damage." They should stop it in the name of human decency. Most of us have figured out "collateral damage" involves burning, maiming and killing mothers and fathers and husbands and wives and sisters and brothers and children.
Thirty thousand may be an exaggeration, but it could be a modest figure, especially if the Turks invade the Kurds or both groups race to control the northern oilfields, or if the Shiites go for vengeance against the Sunnis, or if the Israelis are drawn in through Saddam's cynical targeting of Israel.
Why open this Pandora's Box when a more modest approach might keep it closed?
Let's assume Bush is right, that the Iraqi people are mostly miserable and will dance in the streets at sight of Americans. Let's assume the Iraqi army, including most of the generals, are defecting already.
Then why "shock and awe?" If our goal is to win the hearts and minds of the people, "shock and awe" seems like the worst possible idea. If one in ten of our bombs destroys bridges, power plants, telephone lines, roads, waterworks, daycare centers, hospitals, schools, food depots, railroads, ports, stores and mosques, won't we effectively obliterate the infrastructure of the entire country? Won't this lead to many more deaths and refugees and border clashes and general confusion? Won't this make relatives of the dead and wounded hate Americans for all time?
We all agree Saddam Hussein must go.
The question, is, why use a sledgehammer to crack a peanut? Is the irony lost on our leaders that we are about to kill thousands to prove our enemy has the capacity to do so? That we're defying the UN to make Saddam obey the UN? If most people in Iraq are ready to revolt, as TV experts say, why not slam two dozen more precision-guided missiles into Saddam's palaces and army bases and parliament and unleash the hordes who hate Saddam--then provide air cover while waiting for the inevitable collapse of the Iraqi army?
No, the only reason for a "shock and awe" strategy is to signal the world that we are top dog and intend to create the so-called "New American Century," a concept dreamed up by Paul Wolfowitz, William Kristol and Richard Perle. If this is the plan, then count me among the loyal opposition. No cabal of ideological schemers should be permitted to hijack America's government and treat the people of Iraq or any other country like cannon fodder in service of its ambition to dominate the world.
The age of empires is over. History will applaud if we cancel the horrendous notion of "shock and awe" and adopt a more modest means of dealing with Saddam Hussein. I hope the relatively light bombing so far means we have decided to show mercy on the children of Iraq. I fear otherwise.