After we take Baghdad, how about Syria?

Watching the war.
April 3 2003 5:00 PM

Road to Damascus

(Continued from Page 1)

I don't mean to be callous or unpatriotic, but why are we celebrating so loudly? Before this war began, Jessica Lynch was safe and unharmed. Now she's safe and harmed. She went into Iraq with a 15-member company. She came out alone. Her company didn't take its casualties while fighting for a bridge or an airfield. It took them because it made a wrong turn.

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Worst of all, Lynch isn't one of the millions of Iraqis we're supposed to be liberating. She's one of the putative liberators. We've said this war isn't an invasion. We've said it isn't for us but for Iraq. And yet, while the average Iraqi's liberation gets no Pentagon fanfare and no air time, the liberation of Jessica Lynch is a 24-hour mediathon. We're celebrating her rescue for the worst of all reasons: because she's American.

2:50 p.m.: On Saturday, at a checkpoint near Najaf, Iraq, four American soldiers stopped a man who appeared to be a taxi driver. His car exploded, killing them all. Iraqi officials later said the man was an Iraqi military officer.

On Sunday, a contract worker at a U.S. Army camp in Kuwait, allegedly having locked his colleagues in a trailer, drove a pickup truck into 13 American soldiers.

On Monday, at a second checkpoint near Najaf, a car approached a group of U.S. Marines. According to the Pentagon, the driver ignored warning shots. Fearing another suicide attack, the Marines fired into the car. Afterward, inside the vehicle, they found more than a dozen women and children, most of them killed by the Marines' weapons.

What's the moral of the story? Let's consult the expert, Aesop. In the Wolf in Sheep's Clothing, he wrote:

A wolf found great difficulty in getting at the sheep owing to the vigilance of the shepherd and his dogs. But one day it found the skin of a sheep that had been flayed and thrown aside, so it put it on over its own pelt and strolled down among the sheep. The lamb that belonged to the sheep, whose skin the wolf was wearing, began to follow the wolf in the sheep's clothing; so, leading the lamb a little apart, he soon made a meal off her, and for some time he succeeded in deceiving the sheep, and enjoying hearty meals.

In the Boy Who Cried Wolf, Aesop told a different tale:

A shepherd-boy, who watched a flock of sheep near a village, brought out the villagers three or four times by crying out, "Wolf! Wolf!" and when his neighbors came to help him, laughed at them for their pains. The wolf, however, did truly come at last. The shepherd-boy, now really alarmed, shouted in an agony of terror: "Pray, do come and help me; the wolf is killing the sheep"; but no one paid any heed to his cries, nor rendered any assistance. The wolf, having no cause of fear, at his leisure lacerated or destroyed the whole flock.

Separately, each fable makes sense: Watch out for wolves dressed as sheep, and don't commit serial deception, or people will stop believing you. But what happens when the two stories merge into one? What happens when the serial deception consists of wolves dressing as sheep? What if people begin to suspect not that every boy who cries wolf is lying, but that every sheep is a wolf in sheep's clothing?

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