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Jason Leopold: The Reality of War Sinks In

The Reality of War Sinks In With Casualties of U.S. and British Soldiers

By Jason Leopold

I hope the stock market gets hammered. I hope the Iraqis set fire to as many oil fields as possible. I hope oil prices in the United States surge and shortages persist. I hope the antiwar protestors become disobedient. I hope the economy never recovers. I hope Iraq doesn’t have weapons of mass destruction. I hope our troops make it home alive.

This is the only way to drive home the point that war is brutal no matter who the enemy is. After the bombs dropped on Baghdad and hundreds of Iraqi soldiers surrendered to U.S. and British troops, the pundits on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC reported that the war could end within a month.

“Nonsense,” I said.

This war would be an easy victory for the U.S. and its allies, the cable news outlets said. Kind of like watching the Los Angeles Lakers pummel the Los Angeles Clippers. Reaction here to the commentaries and the real-time images was swift. The stock market soared. Oil prices plummeted. It appears that the outcome of the war is measured by how well the Dow Jones Industrial Average performs

Since last Wednesday, I have been glued to the television, watching in shock and awe how the pundits on the cable news outlets reported on the conflict like it was some sort of sporting event. The television and print reporters covering the war failed to ask any questions about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction and where they were hidden. It’s as if the media forgot the reasons the Bush administration said we were invading Iraq in the first place.

Then last weekend, the realities of war set. A few military helicopters crashed. U.S. and British soldiers died. On Saturday, a dozen American soldiers were captured and may have been executed in an ambush by Iraqi soldiers, which was aired on an Arab news station. President Bush warned that if U.S. soldiers were executed it would violate the Geneva Convention and that those responsible would be prosecuted for war crimes.

Excuse me for being cynical, but for a president who only last week promised to eradicate Saddam Hussein’s regime and everyone who fights on behalf of it, why would Iraqi soldiers abide by the rules of war? What’s the incentive? The way they see it they’re dead men walking.

Reaction here to the two-dozen U.S. and British casualties in the four-day war has been anger, frustration, even disbelief. And the ground war against Iraq’s elite Republican Guard—which promises to bring even more U.S. and British combat deaths—hasn’t even started yet.

What this proves is that the public can’t and won’t accept the loss of U.S. life in exchange for the Bush administration’s goal of overthrowing Saddam and liberating the Iraqi people. Nor should they.

Sure, the U.S. will prevail. We will win this war. Saddam will be history. Iraqi’s will be free. But it will come at a cost. Only when the reality of war sets in, when mothers lose their sons, wives lose their husbands and children lose their fathers and mothers will people start to question the motives of invading a country that so far has proved to be nothing more than a nuisance to the U.S., not a threat.


- Jason Leopold is an investigative journalist based in California, he is currently finishing a book on the California energy crisis. He can be contacted at This story is available for republication, please contact the author by email.

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