The story of PFC Jessica Lynch’s rescue made us all feel good last week, but it also exposed one of the ironies of war.
According to the story, when Lynch and her squad were ambushed, she kept firing her gun until she had used up every last bullet, taking out as many enemy soldiers as she could before she became a POW. The Pentagon hasn’t confirmed those details yet, mostly because of the lack of witnesses (after all, everyone else died), but if they’re true, then good for her. After all, that’s what you’re supposed to do if you’re an American in battle.
The irony is what Lynch allegedly did is exactly what the US has been telling every Iraqi soldier not to do. Our psychological operations teams, from the top of command to the bottom, has been urging the enemy to give up. Their cause is hopeless, they have no chance, the regime will be toppled, they’re going to lose, and if they fight, they’ll probably die.
Of course, that’s what you always want your battlefield opponent to think, and in this war, it is obviously true. However, that’s exactly the opposite of what we, as Americans, expect our warriors to do.
Can you imagine a Marine lieutenant telling his squad, “Well, it looks like there’s more of them than there are of us, so we might as well put our guns down and our hands up.” The other Marines would shoot him, and then go right back to fighting the enemy.
Just look at our movie icons. In “Die Hard,” did Bruce Willis give up when he was trapped inside the Nakatomi Building, outnumbered by desperate and well-armed thugs? No, he kept fighting to take them out and save the hostages. In “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” did Newman and Redford surrender when cornered and out-gunned? No, they chose to go out in a hail of bullets.
Sally Field’s “Norma Rae” didn’t stop fighting for a union in her textile mill, no matter the personal consequences. Gary Cooper didn’t give his town up in “High Noon.” In “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington,” Jimmy Stewart refused to give in to a corrupt political machine determined to run him out of the Senate. Instead, he filibustered and proclaimed that “sometimes, lost causes are the only ones worth fighting for.”
In real life, did Lance Armstrong hang up his bicycle when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer? No, he kept working hard and became the only American to win the Tour de France four times. Did Erin Brockovich back down against a huge team of corporate lawyers determined to crush her clients’ legal hopes? The answer, again and again, is no.
I’m not saying that the Iraqi army and Republican Guard should put up more resistance. The difference here is that most of them don’t believe in the cause they are fighting for, because it’s not their cause, it’s Saddam’s. When the cause actually is lost, the Iraqi people may have a better chance of winning in the long run. For the ones who have surrendered, perhaps giving up is a way of fighting for independence.
Speaking of independence, how about that little band of rebels who fought for American independence? The British had more of everything, from men and ships to guns and ammunition. Yet, here we are. Thank goodness our colonial forefathers — with more than a little help from the French, by the way — didn’t listen to King George’s 18th-century psychological operations, whatever they were.
Of course, they had one great thing going for them. They didn’t have Geraldo around to tell the Redcoats exactly which way we were going.