Friday, July 01, 2005

Booting Helen

Mr. Natural sez, Helen Thomas is losing it. Time to give her the boot. Put her out to pasture once and for all, please. Here's from her column insisting that George Bush get all the American troops out of Iraq right this very minute:

There are precedents for the U.S. to retreat from danger zones. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan withdrew from Lebanon after 241 servicemen were killed when their barracks was bombed near the Beirut airport.

President Bill Clinton also pulled out of Somalia in 1993 after 18 American soldiers were killed. Neither president suffered any lasting public repercussions. In fact, the country heaved sighs of relief. Bush should follow suit and leave Iraq to the Iraqis under a protective U.N. umbrella.

No, no repercussions at all. Nope. Nary a one. Oh, OK, maybe one. Or two. Like this one:

Because Osama sez:

"After leaving Afghanistan, the Muslim fighters headed for Somalia and prepared for a long battle, thinking that the Americans were like the Russians. The youth were surprised at the low morale of the American soldiers and realized more than before that the American soldier was a paper tiger and after a few blows ran in defeat. And America forgot all the hoopla and media propaganda ... about being the world leader and the leader of the New World Order, and after a few blows they forgot about this title and left, dragging their corpses and their shameful defeat."

And ... well, I'll let the interviewer tell the rest of the story:

The Somalia operation, in some ways, made bin Laden. During the Afghan war, the CIA had been very aware of him (although the agency now insists it never "controlled" him), but in Somalia, bin Laden had taken a swing at the biggest kid in the school yard and given him a black eye. The next fight, a few weeks later, would begin with a sucker punch.

It was snowing in New York on February 26, 1993, when a massive truck bomb exploded at the World Trade Center, tearing through three levels of the building's underground garage, basement, and foundation. At the time, I was a reporter for NBC. As I walked through the scene, I saw a cop I knew from an antiterrorist unit. Initial reports were that it had been a gas explosion or a transformer that blew up. "They're not saying this now," he warned, "but this was a bomb. Too big to be a car, probably a truck on the lower level of the garage. There just isn't anything down there that could blow up and make a hole this big."

The goal wasn't to gut the parking garage: it was to knock one tower over, into the other, and bring them all down in a rain of ruin on New York City. It took him only two tries to get it right.

Helen should write less and watch more TV. She might have heard CNN's Jeff Greenfield connect the same three dots:

It began as a peacekeeping mission in March, 1983. U.S. Marines were sent to Lebanon to try to stop a bloody civil war. Seven months later, 20 years ago today, a massive truck bomb blew up the Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 U.S. servicemen -- the worst single-day loss of life for the American military since Korea.

Grim as the news was, it was, in part, overshadowed by the U.S. invasion of Grenada two days later, to overthrow a hard-left pro-Cuban government.

And when President Reagan ordered the Marines to leave Lebanon in January, 1984, not many Americans paid attention.

But by some accounts, others did pay attention. That terrorist act of 20 years ago may have helped to convince some of America's adversaries that the United States, for all of its might, was vulnerable, that heavy losses could be inflicted upon it at a relatively low price.

After all, the reasoning went, the U.S. had lost a war in Vietnam, not because it was militarily weak, but because it did not have the political will to bear the costs. And over the years, these adversaries seemed to take heart from what they saw as American weakness, from what the U.S. did not do when it left Saddam Hussein in power after the first Gulf War, when it pulled troops out of Somalia in 1993 after 18 Americans were killed -- the Black Hawk down incident -- when it failed to strike hard after the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing or the 1998 embassy bombings in Africa that killed 19 Americans, or the attack in 2000 on the USS Cole that left 17 dead.

That history may have been what Osama bin Laden had in mind when he said, three months after 9/11: "When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse." Indeed, one of the principle arguments made for American military action in Afghanistan and in Iraq was that the U.S. had to prove by direct action that America was not a weak horse, that al Qaeda and its allies were misreading America's resolve. If that's true, that Beirut bombing of 20 years ago may have been where that miscalculation began.

So, please bring Helen in out of the rain. And tell her her U.N. umbrella is full of holes.

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