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Americans bought war story, but it’s not returnable

You know that sinking feeling when you buy something, and it turns out to be a dud.

For almost a year, the American public was given the soft sell of an easy war. Former assistant defense secretary Ken Adelman’s “cakewalk” comment and Vice President Dick Cheney’s statement on Meet the Press that a long, costly and bloody battle was unlikely were just two examples of a consensus that Iraq would quickly capitulate in a morass of mass surrendering and anti-Saddam uprisings. A notion the other senior members of the Bush administration, right up to the issuing of the 48-hour ultimatum, did not feel inclined to dispel.

Among the general public, with memories of the collapse of the Taliban in Afghanistan fresh and talk of tax cuts in the air, it was not surprising there was sizeable support for a “quick” war that promised no burden on those at home.

Now, as the “cakewalk” is beginning to get decidedly sticky, friendly fire in the guise of reported disagreements about strategy has erupted between Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the U.S. military high command.

First of all, Lt. Gen. William Wallace, the senior U.S. army officer on the ground, reportedly angered Rumsfeld with his confession that the U.S. military is facing a different enemy than the one it role-played. Let’s hope Wallace is not in North Korea.

With blame looming on the horizon, evidence of a rift between Rumsfeld and the military emerged from The New Yorker magazine Monday, reporting unnamed Pentagon sources as saying that Rumsfeld, wanting to “do war on the cheap,” repeatedly insisted prior to the start of hostilities, that the number of troops be reduced. The article also alleges that Rumsfeld overruled General Tommy Franks’ wishes to delay the start of the war until the U.S. forces denied access via Turkey had been relocated to Kuwait. The pair will probably never invade a country together again.

All this would, of course, be but tittle-tattle if the war was going according to plan as the Pentagon still maintains. Reports from embedded reporters, the stalling of the advance on Baghdad and the deployment of more troops, however, indicate the contrary.

A BBC journalist embedded with the U.S. Marines situated 50 miles from Baghdad reported his unit is rationed to just one meal a day, and supplies of fuel and munitions are worryingly low. Having vastly underestimated Iraqi resistance, the Pentagon has been forced to amend its immediate military goals to the securing of their vulnerable 300-mile supply lines and the quelling of Iraqi resistance in the south of Iraq.

All this is a far cry from the brief conflict envisioned by the military who, so as to avoid engaging Iraqi forces later in the year when temperatures in Iraq soar, made clear their desire to initiate the war by March at the latest. Now, with no immediate end to the conflict in sight, the prospect of waging war in the fierce Iraqi summer — chemical suits and all — seems inevitable.

A further major miscalculation by the Bush administration was its stated belief that Iraqi civilians would welcome them as “liberators.” In hindsight, the notion that these beleaguered people, with their proud history of resistance to colonial powers, would welcome foreign intervention on their soil seems as believable as the “self-cleaning oven” sticker on my cooker. Hatred of Saddam Hussein does not necessarily equate to love of the United States.

It is traditional these days to read of ludicrous and preposterous ideas couched in the most plausible terms. Tragically for the people of Iraq and the British and U.S. forces engaged, Operation Iraqi Freedom will still be there when they wake up tomorrow.

Chris O’Donnell is a sophomore majoring in mass