The O’Boyle household has just returned from a visit to what we refer to as “The Farm.” Located deep in North Florida cracker country the farm is a 10 acre patch of weeds, brambles and live oaks. It features the world’s most poorly constructed mobile home, a really long fence and a homebuilt pole barn barely big enough for the 60 year-old Ford tractor named Nancy.
We were at the farm when the war began. My belief the war shouldn’t have begun is one of the few things on which my liberal friends and I agree. Now that it has begun it is only right to wish for the quickest and least bloody end possible.
To get into the spirit of war and bolster my patriotic enthusiasm for armed conflict I’ve taken to giving our routine daily tasks Official Operation Names. My two boys dug up a molehill behind the barn just to try to find the critter. They worked on the dig for hours, produced an excavation sufficient for a small swimming pool, found his tunnel but no sign of the mole. They called it Operation Mo’s Mole Hole.
Instead of just taking Nancy the tractor (as opposed to Nancy my mother-in-law after whom the tractor is named) out to mow the weed patch I began Operation Meadow Lightning. It made the job much more satisfying. The trip to Wal-Mart for gardening supplies was Operation Furious Shrubbery. Our visit to the local bowling alley with the day-glow interplanetary background murals became Operation Neptune Impact. Plant a few perennials in the front yard, Operation Permanent Daisy.
Naming your operations is a fun way to while away the hours between reports of progress in the war while upholding a properly patriotic reverence for official pronouncements. We are still looking for suitable family activities for some of our favorite Operations Names. Operations Huffy Poodle, Leather Bicycle, Thrusting Meerkat and Bipartisan Marsupial are all awaiting the right mission. Operation Steadfast Rain of Burning Death is one we will leave to our betters in public office.
On the subject of war news, while the smart bombs and Apache gunships do their work in Iraq, fraud and euphemism are the weapons of choice here at home. The groveling mainstream press shuns the words “invasion” and “war against Iraq,” because a war and invasion would require a declaration of war from Congress. By simply “disarming” a rogue state to bring the blessings of liberty to an oppressed people, no such constitutional formality is necessary. Few things in politics are as entertaining as the pious bald-faced lie. Clinton was a master, but George II has proven himself an able contender.
“Shock and awe” is an amusing little deceit as well. It proves the adage that generals plan the next war to win the last. “Blitzkrieg,” was the term they had in mind but the “Lightning War” is cursed with the bad reputation the Germans gave it in WWII.
And here is my opportunity to change the subject again and plunge into the mud bath of history. I like history for the same reasons I like a good fan dancer, she teases, taunts, and titillates with hints of the truth, but leaves the discovery of it to the watcher.
The German’s first ‘shock and awe’ campaign went so well that it surprised everyone, especially the Poles, the Belgians, the Dutch and the French. Hitler was encouraged. He hurled his Panzers and Stukas in a blitzkrieg against the Russians, who controlled vast reserves of oil, which the Germans wanted for themselves.
German strategists believed the Russians would give up easily. The Soviet Union at the time was run by a murderous tyrant, Joseph Stalin, who by any measure was far worse than Saddam. He was responsible for the deaths of millions of his own citizens. The Germans believed the Soviet people would not fight for such a leader.
The Germans also had a technologically superior force. The shock and awe campaign went along as planned at first. But in Stalingrad it became less awesome. The Germans may have been right about the average Russian’s regard for Stalin. With that in mind, the Russian commander, Marshal Zhukov, on assuming command skipped the usual pep talk and instead had every tenth man shot. Although tough on morale, it was wonderfully effective in producing a willingness to fight.
As it turned out, blitzkrieg didn’t work so well in cities. Desperate Russians had to be blasted out of every building, cellar and tower. Snipers took a terrible toll. The cost in lives on both sides was appalling. While fighting desperately from house to house the Germans were counterattacked and surrounded. German General von Paulus surrendered with 300,000 men, most of whom died in captivity.
I mention this battle not because I believe it will or wish it would happen, but because Saddam has threatened to turn Baghdad into another Stalingrad. American forces cannot lose in Iraq. Iraq has no divisions to counterattack and surround Americans who may be fighting street to street in Baghdad. The danger is that fear of death from behind may inspire the Republican Guard to fight desperately enough and turn operation Iraqi Freedom into operation Iraqi Quagmire. The cost to both sides in blood and treasure may become more than Iraqi freedom is worth. Pray for a quick victory.