the Spirit of Grant in Iraq
Craig von Buseck
When American forces finally engaged the enemy in fierce
fighting last week, and the number of casualties increased, many
citizens finally woke up to the fact that we are truly at war
-- and the worst is yet to come.
The bodies of fallen American soldiers are now arriving back
in the United States in a somber procession.
Short of a surrender by the Iraqi military in the next few days
-- an event that seems highly unlikely at this point -- toppling
Saddam Hussein will require crushing the Republican Guard dug
in on the outskirts of the city, and then taking Baghdad in a
President Bush has continually praised the efforts of U.S. troops
against "ruthless enemies" in Iraq. "The path we are taking is
not easy, and it may be long. Yet we know our destination. We
will stay on the path -- mile by mile -- all the way to Baghdad,
and all the way to victory."
The next phase of the war will find coalition forces coming up
against the elite Republican Guard stationed around Baghdad. When
the Iraqis ultimately fall back into the city, we will relentlessly
pursue them. Untold dangers await our troops once they enter Baghdad.
Military analysts estimate that in urban combat, the kind that
will be necessary to take Baghdad and ultimately defeat Saddam
Hussein, our troops could suffer up to 30 percent casualties.
When we enter the city, fighting will be fierce, and the death
toll for coalition troops will be high. The closer we get to the
heart of Baghdad -- into Saddam's lair -- the bloodier the combat
In Great Britain, Prime Minister Tony Blair prepared his people
for this titanic struggle. "There are those, closest to Saddam
that are resisting and will resist strongly. They are the elite
that are hated by the local population and have little to lose.
There are bound, therefore, to be difficult days ahead, but the
strategy and its timing are proceeding according to plan."
In every war, people hope that victory will be achieved quickly,
with minimal loss of life. In monumental struggles that pit the
will of two philosophies against each other -- as is the case
in this war -- this is almost never the outcome.
Lessons from the Civil War
In the U.S. Civil War -- the bloodiest of all American military
conflicts -- both sides predicted that the other would cut and
run at the beginning of the first engagement. Both the North and
the South placed the length of the war in terms of days, or possibly
weeks. But after the rout of Northern forces at the Battle of
Bull Run, the first major battle between the two armies in the
war, it became obvious that the South was determined to secede,
and would fight valiantly to defend its homeland.
The North held a tremendous advantage in resources and troops.
But they were fighting for an abstract idea -- restoring the union.
Southerners were outgunned and outnumbered, but they had a concrete
reason for fighting -- their homeland had been invaded.
When one Southern POW was asked by a Northern officer why he
was fighting, he answered simply, "Because you're down here."
Though we believe the cause in this current war to be just --
liberating the Iraqi people, and overthrowing the ruthless dictator
-- it is still an abstract concept, similar to that of the Union
forces in the Civil War. The Iraqi military that is loyal to Saddam
have the same will as the Southern troops. In their eyes we have
invaded their home, and they will fight to the death to see us
ousted from their country.
After dozens of Civil War battles where the South showed its
resolve, President Abraham Lincoln recognized that there was no
other choice than to utterly crush the rebellion in order to achieve
victory. One of the reasons that the Civil War lasted as long
as it did was that no Union commander could be found who would
muster the courage and will necessary to utterly defeat the Confederates.
The Union army endured a string of commanding generals who lacked
the necessary nerve to crush the enemy -- Winfield Scott, Henry
Halleck, Irvin McDowell, George McClelland, John Pope, George
McClelland again, Ambrose Burnside, Joseph Hooker, George Meade
-- Lincoln couldn't find the general he needed to win.
In frustration he declared, "No general yet found can face the
arithmetic, but the end of the war will be at hand when he shall
With the fall of Vicksburg on the banks of the Mississippi, Lincoln
found his general -- Ulysses S. Grant.
It was Grant's philosophy of war that brought him victory, and
brought him to Lincoln's attention. "Find out where your enemy
is," Grant declared. "Get at him as soon as you can, and strike
him as hard as you can. And keep moving on!"
The resolve of the man was evident in a message that he sent
after suffering extreme losses at the Battle of Spotslyvania:
"I shall take no backward steps."
Union soldiers, who were used to the timidity and second guessing
of many of their commanders, said of him, "Ulysses don't scare
One Northern soldier said of the commander of the Union forces,
"General Grant habitually wears an expression as if he had determined
to drive his head through a brick wall, and was about to do it."
It was Grant's tenacity that enabled him to accept tens of thousands
of casualties in battle with the goal of defeating the Secessionists.
Though it is brutal, that is the fighting spirit that will be
needed to defeat Saddam Hussein.
In this current Gulf War, some are holding up America's technical
superiority as the reason for optimism. After all, we suffered
no casualties at all in the operation to stop genocide in Bosnia.
Our losses were relatively minor in the first Gulf War, and before
that in our police action in Panama.
Americans haven't seen major casualties in battle since the Vietnam
War -- but that was the last time we faced urban warfare.
Weapons of Mass Destruction
Beyond the perils of fighting on the streets of Baghdad, there
is another potential danger that we have not faced on a massive
scale since World War I -- the threat of chemical warfare.
The discovery of 3,000 chemical suits in a hospital in central
Iraq that had been used as an Iraqi base raised further speculation
that Saddam Hussein's regime was prepared to use chemical weapons.
Every day since, coalition forces have found more hidden chemical
suits, gas masks, and nerve gas antidote injectors as they move
closer to Baghdad.
"What we found at the hospital reinforces our concern," said
Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has warned about this possibility.
"Intelligence reports tell us that the closer U.S. forces get
to the Iraqi capital the greater will be the danger of chemical
U.S. officials say the Iraqi leadership has drawn a "red line"
around the map of Baghdad and once American troops cross it, the
Republican Guard has been authorized to use chemical weapons.
Intelligence reports indicate that the Iraqi leadership has distributed
chemical weapons, most likely nerve gas.
News reporter, Paul Strand, is an embedded journalist with the
American Army's 3rd Infantry Division, the spearhead of the attack
against Baghdad. From the battlefield he confirmed this information
in his report. "Saddam has pushed the level of authority for using
chemical weapons down to the commander level. That means young
officers have the orders now that they can go ahead and use these
things if they are about to be overtaken. That is a disturbing
development. Not only have we found the warheads, but now officers
can use them."
From the day coalition forces entered Iraq, they have worn chemical
suits, boots, and gloves, and they have carried gas masks. "The
masks fully protect us," Strand reported. "In our pack we have
atropine that we can shoot in our legs, and pills against anthrax.
The soldiers seem very comfortable with getting hit with this
And yet with all of this confidence, there are still the unknowns.
Will the suits actually work in a real-life attack? Do the Iraqis
have battlefield nuclear weapons that they can unleash on our
troops? How many lives will be lost in street-to-street fighting
inside Baghdad itself?
Invoking the Spirit of Grant
Americans have endured long lists of war dead in the past in
Vietnam, Korea, World War II, World War I, the Spanish-American
War -- and in the bloodiest conflict in our history, the Civil
A Confederate survivor of the grisly Battle of Cold Harbor in
1864 described the Union soldiers who followed the orders of General
Grant: "The dead covered more than five acres of ground about
as thickly as they could be laid."
The slaughter at Cold Harbor led to the grueling siege of Petersburg,
which eventually led to the end of the Civil War. The ultimate
sacrifice of these brave men, under the stubborn and courageous
leadership of General Grant, ended slavery forever in America,
and brought us together as one nation.
With our technical superiority, hopefully we will not see the
massive number of dead in this struggle that Americans faced in
the Civil War. But the American people will need to muster the
same resolve that Grant showed as we face the inevitable casualties
that will be required in the coming battle of Baghdad -- a conflict
necessary to bring freedom to the Iraqi people, to end this tyrannical
regime, and to rid the world of one more terrorist threat.
More from Craig von
Buseck on CBN.com
von Buseck is the Programming Director for CBN.com. E-mail
your comments to him.
CBN IS HERE FOR YOU!
Are you seeking answers in life? Are you hurting?
Are you facing a difficult situation?
A caring friend will be there to pray with you in your time of need.