Are We Winning? Not That Cut-And-Dry

U.S. Marines from the 3rd Batt., 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division take cover as they search an area near Az Bayr, Iraq, Saturday, March 22, 2003. The U.S. -led coalition continues war missions Sunday, with American forces progressing 150 miles (240 kilometers) into Iraq, halfway to Baghdad. AP

It's been less than a week since the war with Iraq began, but already the reality of bloodshed, death and prisoners of war is beginning to sink in.

In the early hours of the war, reports CBS News Correspondent Richard Schlesinger, it looked as if the conflict would be quick. That was before we saw that the other side has its own version of "shock and awe."

"I really thought the Iraqis would put up some initial minor resistance and then pretty much do what they did last time, which was put down their weapons and then surrender en masse," said retired USMC Col. Randy Gangle.

But since the going started getting tough, there has been a shift in expectations about the war among everyday Americans.

"They [the media] started talking about, you know, all the America soldiers getting killed and that kind of thing," said Cheryl Doss from Atlanta. "I just decided to turn the channel. I'm not going to listen to it."

Support for the war is not eroding, but expectations of a quick victory have all but disappeared. According ot a CBS/New York Times poll, 53 percent of Americans think the war will last many months.

"Military leaders are insisting the war is going according to, if not ahead of, schedule. But it doesn't seem that way to a lot of people on the home front who are settling in and getting used to the possibility of a longer, uglier war than they hoped for.

I don't think we were really prepared for casualties, although I think we should have," said Decatur resident Karimah Boston.

CBS News analyst retired Gen. Joe Ralston, former supreme allied commander of NATO, says, "It's true. There are those who haven't seen this before that say, 'Oh, my gosh, we're getting bogged down. There are POWs. There are casualties.' And there are an equal number on the other side of professionals that say, 'Oh, my gosh, we have gone too far, too fast. Gen. Franks has gotten troops to the edge of Baghdad, and the supplies haven't caught up yet.'"

Both are wrong, he tells The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler. Things are going according to plan.

"Truth of the matter is that it's very much on plan. Now, there is an element of managing expectations of the American public here because the very heaviest fighting is yet to come. It will be intense. It will be hard. So you don't want to get people overly optimistic because things have gone so well to date because there are tough times ahead," he said.

He noted that in the 1991 war, we fought Iraqis in Kuwait; now they are at home, defending their homeland. Also, he pointed out a couple of factors to keep in mind.

"In 1991, people like to talk about the four-day ground campaign," Ralston said. "Remember, there were 38 days of intense air campaign that preceded that. And you didn't have the embeds in Kuwait during that time. That's one factor. Secondly, you do have the embedded journalists this time, which I think are working quite well. But they give you snapshots. And if you happen to be with a small unit, they're getting fired at, that's intense fire at the time. What's left unsaid is in 90 percent of the areas, things are moving quite well," he explained.

As for what lies ahead, Gen. Ralston said it is hard to determine how many casualties Americans will have, once troops attack Baghdad.

He only said that he expects "intense fighting." On a positive note, he said, the sandstorms that hampered 1991 fighting may be easier to overcome. This time, he said, we have satellite-guided bombs to make finding targets easier.
  • Tatiana Morales

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