Let me say that the Marine and Army units fought bravely in Fallujah.
Nevertheless, this is how we snatch defeat from the jaws of victor. You don’t enter a mosque with your feet shod. That goes double if you’re not Muslim–you don’t enter, period.
That we’ve yet to apply or enforce this simple, basic fact across the board almost two years after we invaded Iraq goes a long way towards explaining why we’ll lose this war. We can win every battlefield encounter, and in fact, we will. But an insurgency isn’t crushed on the battlefield–it’s crushed when its appeal is extinguished in the hearts and souls of the people whom the insurgency seeks to win over to its side.
Somewhere, there’s a young Iraqi making copies of this picture–a picture which was splashed across the front page of the Los Angeles Times, by the way–and plastering them all over the street and the Web. And while we may have killed a couple thousand insurgents in Fallujah, twice that number will fill their ranks, seeing in that picture everything that they hate about America.
Imagine how you would feel if twenty al-Qaeda thugs, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, were to shell the National Cathedral with mortars, then come inside, and take a break inside the ruins. Now multiply that feeling by at least a factor of 100, and that’s how your average Iraqi feels after seeing that picture.
That’s why winning Iraqi hearts and minds–and losing them, as we have, and continue to do every day–is so important. And pictures like this, in a war like this, are a terrible defeat, a defeat as terrible as any we could suffer on the battlefield.