Wednesday, March 19, 2003
By ROBERT M. WHITE
Special to the News
Sometimes anti-war protests save lives. Sometimes they do not. In the case of war against Iraq, a war soon to begin and one certain from the outset, those taking to the streets may, this time, come to know what commanders in the field have known all along, i.e. the pain of sending young men to their deaths.
The absence of a Turkish front, in the event we should have to go to war without it, is huge.
We’ve read much about the the 4th Mechanized Infantry Division and their tanks and fighting vechicles that are waiting in the holds of some two to three dozen ships to off-load into the Turkish port of Iskenderun.
We’ve also read that an armored division, with supplies, can be sea-lifted by eight roll-on / roll-off cargo ships. The math suggests the possiblity that something more than than the 4th Division waits at anchor.
I wonder if those who have taken to the streets in protest have taken the trouble to count on their fingers the number of armored divisions (as opposed to mechanized heavy infantry units like the 4th in the ships at Iskenderun and the 3rd in Kuwait) that the U.S. Army lists on its active duty rolls?
The Army has two armored divisions on active duty; the 1st Armored and the 1st Cavalry. What have we heard of them of late? Is it likely to think that these two units, not to forget the Big Red One, the 1st Infantry Division, would be kept out of a fight the likes of that which is coming? That they would be relegated to a “follow-on” role?
It is important for those against war to speak their mind. And sometimes circumstances will allow individuals against a war to take some small measure of comfort in the possiblity that their voice did not echo that of the commander in the field who must live, day to day, with the certain knowledge that he has ordered men and women to their deaths.
That will not be the case here. Those against military action against Iraq, whether they be in the circle of the Security Council at the United Nations, or in the streets around the world, have spoken with a voice that has gone out to the border of Turkey.
It may have been just a single division that was to have crossed into northern Iraq. On the other hand, it may well have been an entire corps, consisting of a preponderance of this country’s armored strength. If the latter is the case, this war may be quite different than its planners had hoped.
Those who are acting in good conscience by taking to the streets in protest are doing what they must. But they must also understand that the political and military realities of this war, given its certainty from the outset, have given to their voice, not the power to save life, but rather to increase death. They are not to blame but, this time, they must shoulder, along with the officer in the field, the responsiblity.
Robert M. White lives in Parkdale.