The last battle


IF THE Pentagon has one consistent institutional defect, it is its ability to shoot itself in the foot -- devastatingly, egregiously and unnecessarily. This flaw was evident in the military's heavy-handed attempts to manage the news during the Persian Gulf war.

The latest example came last week when Newsday revealed that, two days after the start of the cease-fire, U.S. troops engaged in one of the biggest land battles of the war, wiping out the last remaining Republican Guards division in the area.

Few Americans would waste a moment mourning the destruction of Saddam Hussein's hand-picked butchers. But everyone should be disturbed by the way the Pentagon underplayed -- if not actually covered up -- the battle, its extent, its timing and the videotape footage that accompanied it.

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