A Mogadishu Moment? Not Likely.

Gwynne Dyer: Footage could’ve brought on a Mogadishu moment
I haven’t been watching a lot of TV but have seen some of the footage, though it was crowd reaction, and jubilation, while dragging the bodies around. The author’s thesis is that we would pull out of Iraq if the American people could see the footage. Her reasoning depends on Mogadishu. I disagree for a few reasons.

First, Somalia was strictly a meals-on-wheels operation. Our soldiers behaved heroically, as was documented in the book and movie Black Hawk Down, and they gave far more than they got. We lost 18 and there were more than 1000 Somali belligerents killed on that day, as the article notes. The American people didn’t see that or hear about it. What they saw was one of our soldiers being dragged through the street. It wasn’t necessary, or even particularly useful to the country, for us to be there in the first place, though our pullout sent an unmistakable signal to bin Laden.

Second, the networks haven’t been showing us a lot of footage in recent years. We haven’t seen the bodies of the soldiers that have died defending this country — I realize that this appears to work against my argument, but stay with me — however we also haven’t been seeing the footage from 9/11. At all as far as I can remember. It seems to have been embargoed shortly after 9/11 and people get up in arms if a picture of the man plummeting to his death pops up on Instapundit. I’m not sure what the networks are up to, but they are sparing us of a lot of horror on both sides of the equation. Even if they had shown the footage of the people that were killed, I doubt it would have lead to a pullout, which leads me to reason number three.

Iraq is not Somalia. We could have skipped the Iraqi war — it was optional in a sense and we could have continued containing Saddam with no-fly zones and economic sanctions indefinitely — but it is part of a larger strategy, namely bringing democracy to the Middle East and knocking out state sponsors of terrorism. It is not a meals-on-wheels tour by any stretch. It was done in our own interest because attacking terrorists at the source and having a credible threat of force is the best defense against an enemy that can attack from any direction.

We can’t anticipate all of the ways terrorists can attack, which means the only viable alternative is to destroy them at the source. That means getting their sponsors, too. Iraq was a state sponsor of terrorism and is, to date, the only state to leave the State Department’s list. Libya might get to leave the list as well, voluntarily in a sense, and it largely has to do with our attack on Iraq. Gadaffi wants to avoid Saddam’s fate. I don’t blame him.

For more see the National Security Strategy (summary here, full report here) released in 2002.

Brigadier-General Mark Kimmit, deputy director of operations for the U.S. occupation forces in Iraq, described the events as a “slight uptick in localized engagements.” Meanwhile, analysts back in the United States compared the pictures from Fallujah to footage of dead American soldiers being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu by cheering crowds in 1993 — footage that led directly to the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Somalia.

But Americans were shielded from the real ugliness of the killings in Fallujah by their television networks; Arab viewers saw it all.

True, the murder and mutilation of four American civilian contractors in Fallujah really was just a “slight uptick” in the violence in Iraq. In the previous 48 hours there were two Britons hurt in violence in Basra, an Iraqi shot at a U.S. checkpoint, an attack on an Iraqi paramilitary recruiting station in Baghdad, a soldier killed near Ramadi, a suicide bomb against the home of the police chief in Hilleh, a U.S. Marine killed near Fallujah, several American soldiers wounded in Mosul, five more Marines killed by a roadside bomb, and 15 Iraqis wounded by a car bomb in Baquba.

In other words, the four unfortunate American contractors in Fallujah were just another drop in the bucket. It was the manner of their deaths — set on fire, beaten with pipes and mutilated by a cheering crowd who then dragged their charred bodies through the streets and hung them upside down, handless, footless and in one case headless, just above the roadway on the old railway bridge across the Euphrates — that made it so different. That, and the fact that the whole thing was filmed.

If American viewers had seen what Arab viewers saw — the obscene enthusiasm of the crowd, the blithe disregard with which local people were driving under the burned American corpses half an hour later — then President Bush might be having his Mogadishu moment right now. They never will see it, of course, but the question won’t go away: At what point will the American public decide that the price is too high and pull the plug on this foreign adventure? They did it on the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Lebanon intervention in the ’80s and the Somalia intervention in the ’90s. They will almost certainly do it on Iraq, too, in the end, but when?

Her entire piece is predicated on the notion that we will lose. The price won’t be too high because we will win.

UPDATE: Spoons has a post by Max Sawicky, a flaming leftist, who doesn’t share Kos’s perverse view of the recent deaths in Iraq.

Also, if you would like to see a memorial to the soldiers who have died in Iraq, complete with names and some pictures, click here. We should see the price that is paid, even, or especially, if we support a strategy that will cause some of the soldiers to not see home again. Appropriately it is called Faces of Valor.

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