Today the New York Times had a picture of a girl, the same age as my son. She was kneeling and she was crying. Blood ran off her hands and over her clothes. It was the blood of her parents. They allegedly ran a checkpoint. They were killed by US forces. We'll probably never know what happened. Did her father realize it was a US checkpoint? Did he fear SU forces would kill or torture his family and rape his daughter? Was he afraid it was an insurgent checkpoint? Did he even see it? Did he really choose to run, or did he never know he'd arrived at a checkpoint? Did the troops follow procedures? Was the checkpoint marked?
It doesn't much matter. That picture was the best summary of the war so far. I'd mail it to George Bush, but that would be a waste of a stamp; at most it would get me a call from the secret service.
On the same day as that picture came out, the Guardian had an interesting editorial by Max Hastings. I believe Hastings has been a relative supporter of the US effort. He feels the military effort is lost, but he holds out hope for Iraq. Emphases mine.
There is growing dissension and dismay in the US armed forces about their prospects of victory in Iraq. The yellow ribbons, lapel pins and yard signs expressing solidarity with the nation's soldiers are still conspicuous around army bases across America. But commanders and soldiers alike are conducting an increasingly anguished debate.It's a curious proposition. The thesis is that we should hope that Iraq really is Vietnam -- where we lost the military conflict but won a sort of strategic semi-victory. Small consolation to the wounded.
There are four reasons for this. First, many service people are shocked by the incontrovertible evidence that the justifications offered by the Bush administration for invading Iraq - WMD and a link with international terrorism - were false. Second, bitter and painful fighting, notably in the showpiece assault on Falluja, has failed to suppress insurgency. Third, there is deep scepticism about progress in recruiting Iraqis to assume the security burden. Even General David Petraeus, the US airborne general charged with organising Iraq's new forces, is said to be increasingly despondent. And finally, the army and marine corps are acutely aware that they have to sustain the occupation without sufficient troops to control the country effectively.
Having begun the campaign convinced of the justice of their cause and their ability to secure victory, many members of the US military and their families now suspect that the cause may be invalid and the battle unwinnable...
... In the minds of many US soldiers looms the spectre of Vietnam. In recent years, the US army has been forged into a motivated, effective tool for large-scale military operations overseas. But it has never been suited to combating insurgency. Guerrillas and suicide bombers can impose a deadly corrosion on conventional forces.
... The US armed forces are fighting the sort of conflict that least suits their capabilities. It would be a devastating blow to the confidence painstakingly rebuilt since Vietnam if the US, having committed enormous resources and suffered painful casualties, was obliged to quit Iraq without achieving its purposes.
... I do not think the US armed forces will achieve their military purposes in Iraq. The American soldiers who have become pessimistic about the campaign they are waging are probably right. But in a long historic view, Microsoft and DreamWorks could achieve a dominance of Baghdad and a power over Iraqi society that eludes George Bush and his armoured legions.
I think Chechnya may be the better comparison. We'll see how things go after the retreat. Militarily, however, we have lost.