Everything's rosy at HQ

Stuart Lawrence stuartwl at walrus.com
Thu Mar 27 18:39:38 MST 2003

Invidious comparisons with Vietnam have been few and far between in
mainstream media coverage so far, so this piece is striking for its
portrayal of the disconnect between HQ briefings and the reports
reaching the press from the field.


Central Command Says Iraq Operation Fine

Filed at 7:25 p.m. ET

CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar (AP) -- Some U.S. Marines are running short of
food and ammunition. Others are pinned down for days trying to clear
Iraqi resistance.

But at U.S. Central Command headquarters, everything in Operation Iraqi
Freedom is going just fine. There have been no problems that weren't
planned for in advance, no shifts in strategy to deal with a
wilier-than-expected opponent. Or so they say.

"Our plan is working, and we're one day closer to achieving our
objectives,'' Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks says at a daily briefing, which
like those in Vietnam, paint a rosier picture of the war than those from
the field.

Veteran war watchers say a disconnect between the spin from command
headquarters and reports from the field is only natural -- more so in
this war because of the reports by some 500 journalists "embedded'' with
the U.S. military.

Their up-to-the-minute reports of enemy fire, of havoc wreaked by
sandstorms and of advances slowed by pockets of Iraqi militias give an
impression of an invading force that has been caught a little off guard.

But here, there is little acknowledgment of reported complaints by field
commanders that they're running low on food, fuel and ammunition, or
comments by soldiers that they never expected the Iraqis to fight, or
that the war has gone anything but according to plan.


Lawrence Korb, an assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan
administration, was less generous.

Commanders are "having to adjust as they go along,'' he said. "They
didn't anticipate the fierce the fighting in the south, didn't
anticipate problems getting humanitarian aid in, didn't anticipate the
guerrilla tactics.

"There's no way that they can come out and say we really messed up,'' he
said. "To say this is going according to plan is nonsense. It's just
like arguing that the coalition is like the one in 1991. You're
insulting people's intelligence saying that.''


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