The over-hyped Operation Swarmer

With President Bush’s overall approval rating hovering anywhere from 35 percent to 42 percent (depending upon which polling firm one chooses to believe) and with his approval rating on the war now, according to the latest poll from Newsweek, having plummeted to 29 percent, it finally seemed to be the time for a change of policy or at least in strategic planning. Therefore it came as no surprise when the Pentagon announced a new plan in Iraq. Would it be a staged withdrawal of troops or at least a redistribution of forces? Nope.

Instead, Operation Swarmer was launched in mid-March and was to be “the largest air assault since the beginning of the war.” Not only would this attack strike a blow against the insurgency it would also serve the dual purpose of showing the commitment of the United States to the region as well as showing that the United States and the fledgling Iraqi Army could function together in combat.

Well that was the theory, but the reality is that on Thursday the United States sent 1,500 troops into the Samarra region of Iraq. Instead of the crushing blow against the insurgents that was promised, the main accomplishment, according to Time Magazine Online, was the capture of 48 “suspected” insurgents of whom 17 were immediately cleared and released. Well, that and they found a couple of mortars and some telephones.

Granted such a haul isn’t a bad day’s work for a couple of squads, although a bit skimpy for a force of this size, but it wasn’t exactly the second coming of D-Day the press played it up to be either. Especially once one considers the fact that there was absolutely no resistance whatsoever and no shots were fired by either side. Instead of being a daring action, it ended up being more of a milk run than your average patrol on the streets of Baghdad.

In the administration’s defense, the term “air assault” simply refers to soldiers being transported via the air, usually by helicopter, rather than by the ground and does not necessarily include aerial bombardment. However, while the media was mistaken in its initial reporting of this operation, it was an error that the White House and the Pentagon were in no particular hurry to fix. And through its initial depiction of the operation they fostered the image of A-10 Thunderbolts dealing death from the skies instead of soldiers wandering around in the sand for 15 hours.

The simple truth of the matter is that Bush has run out of ideas. His stubbornness will keep the United States from leaving the region without total victory, and since the fighting is looking more and more like Vietnam with sand, every day it’s very unlikely that we’ll be able to win the peace after winning the war three years ago. Therefore with no end in sight in Iraq, he’s forced to rely on publicity stunts such as this operation in an attempt to convince the American public that things are still under control when they clearly are not.

The above column is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.