Politics & Policy

Saddam’s Victory

The president has said it so many times, even our adversary must believe him. Saddam can’t win this war. But he doesn’t have to. All he needs to do is survive, and to force us into a stalemate. Saddam has based his defense on his own version of shock and awe. And it’s not directed at us, but at the European nations and the U.N., which saved him once and may save him again.

The strategy is based on a very detailed model, that of Saddam’s close friend Yasser Arafat. The two are cut from the same cloth, and consult on many things. The principal benefit one of Arafat’s suicide bombers gets is a check payable to his survivors from Saddam worth about $25,000. Once the bomber successfully kills himself and some Israelis the check is paid. The bounty can even be increased if the bomber kills a greater than usual number of innocents. Arafat has survived any number of attempts to remove him, and even returned from and again avoided exile which, for him, is the same thing. Last year he seemed a goner until false claims of a massacre saved him. Remember the Jenin “massacre” of 2002?

#ad#Arafat’s suicide bombers had killed dozens of Israelis in a very short time. Fed up with the carnage, and not hearing any strong objections from Pennsylvania Avenue, Ariel Sharon sent the tanks into Ramallah, and cornered the rat in his hole. At the same time, the tanks rumbled into Jenin, where house-to-house fighting ensued. Soon, Arafat was screaming that 500 Palestinians were dead. The outcry against Sharon–led by the usual suspects in the Arab world and Europe–led to demands for Israeli withdrawal, which occurred shortly after Colin Powell threw in the towel. By that time, even Arafat drew the number of dead down to 56, against a toll of Israeli dead in the same battles of 33. The U.N. demanded that its own investigators–loaded for bear against the Israelis–be allowed to “investigate” and report to the Security Council. Seeing a war-crimes trial coming, Sharon refused to let the U.N. investigate, which derailed the train.

Saddam and his fedayeen are of the same ilk. They will be glad to kill hundreds or thousands of Iraqi civilians if they can–convincingly–make it look as though America did it. And this is, according to a good intelligence source, precisely what they have planned.

I say “they” because it’s not clear that Saddam is running Iraq. More likely, he is badly wounded, and his subordinates are fighting among themselves for his chair. While they fight, they are planning something like the Baghdad market bombing (which may or may not be the result of an American missile strike) but on a much larger scale.

Suppose Saddam’s illegals rounded up a crowd of, say, two or three thousand Iraqis, promising food or other rewards for making threatening gestures and throwing rocks. Suppose they then dressed up in the American and British uniforms we know they have. And suppose they then attacked and killed the thousand “demonstrators.” A handy snapshot or two while the shooting went on would be good, and the endless Al-Jazeera footage would be better. It would be omnipresent on the world’s television stations for days or weeks.

With that video in hand, the Arab League–which condemns the war and the U.S. on alternate days–would march into the U.N., where France, Germany and Russia would be waiting to join in condemnations and threats of U.N. sanctions and war-crimes trials unless we stopped in our tracks. The pressure to negotiate a ceasefire would be more intense than anything ever mustered against Israel, and the Democrats would finally have the ammunition they needed to attack the President. Calls for investigations, congressional special panels, and more press than anyone has ever seen anywhere would be all over the president. The war would be forgotten in this feeding frenzy.

The president insisted Wednesday that we won’t stop. But the onslaught the Dems, the Euros, and the Arabs would mount would make victory seem unattainable. Any ceasefire will do for Saddam, and the Saudis. Even if the ceasefire was only agreed to be for long enough to investigate the incident, it would become permanent. And Saddam would have won.

Far fetched? Think about how easy it is for the president and his Cabinet to be charged with war crimes in the Belgian courts, which proclaim their jurisdiction over war crimes anywhere, committed by anyone. Colin Powell is already being sued in that court, and a suit against Mr. Bush, based on the Iraq campaign, is due to be filed before the end of this week.

More importantly, what else can Saddam’s regime do? If they don’t force us to stop, or withdraw, they will all be dead or in exile in a matter of weeks. To say that they wouldn’t kill their own people, or kill them in those numbers, is simply fatuous. They do it all the time. Why not fake a massacre if it means survival? For them, it would be a simple choice. And so they may well choose it.

The only way to combat this monstrous strategy is to expose it before it is put in motion. I think we just did.

12:03 AM

URGENT

Reliable reports tell us that Griff Jenkins, Ollie North’s senior producer, has taken three Iraqi prisoners. Griff, one of the nicest and most competent people I know, apparently pointed his camera at them, and talked them in. Well done, dude.

09:13 AM

FAIR KILL CHAINS

The worst news yesterday was that Iraqi TV was back on the air. The HPM (high-powered microwave) weapon–which some insist on calling the “E-bomb”–apparently knocked out only the international channel, leaving the in-country transmitter on the air. Amnesty International said that could be a breach of the Geneva Conventions. Baloney. It’s a part of Saddam’s command and control and propaganda mechanisms. It’s a fair target, and should be hit again and again.

Which is what we’re not doing to Iraqi’s defense headquarters. It’s still standing, but probably has had its abilities reduced. We must be leaving it standing because we’re talking to some of the thugs inside. Psyops and negotiations. They must know that their time is running out. Their own people are scared to leave the building.

They don’t want to go out, because they–and the Saddam Fedayeen–are being outfought inside Baghdad. A small–how small I didn’t even ask–bunch of special-ops guys are doing their job exceedingly well. Which is to say that for their small number, they are having a disproportionate effect on the enemy. That’s a polite term to describe the work of the scout-sniper. Reconnaissance is always the prime mission, and locating targets for immediate and later strikes is very important. But if we can kill a few Fedayeen every time they stick their noses above ground, pretty soon they won’t want to. A suppressed sniper’s rifle can drill you from several hundred yards away or across the street, and the guys near you won’t know where it came from. SGO, to the tenth power.

Yesterday, I promised an explanation of the “kill chain” and got diverted. Before that happens again, the “kill chain” is English for what the Air Force calls “F2T2EA”. Find a target, Fix its position, Track it, Target it, Engage it, and Assess the result. This is the reconnaissance and command -process to find and destroy targets. In Afghanistan, we thought it was taking too long. The Air Force and the Navy are shortening the “kill chain” by automating it. Now, once a target is seen by a pilot, much of the data on it can be gathered and processed through to the air controllers to speed the decision on whether and how to attack. On-board some modified aircraft is a system called “Link-16″ which takes over the data tasks. It’s taking minutes out of the process, which often is the difference between a hit, and an escape. We will see fewer escapes in Iraq than we did in Afghanistan. And you can thank Link-16.

09:21 AM

MORE EVIDENCE

Evidence of the abuse–torture and murder–of American POWs in Iraq may exist on videotape. There are apparently two versions of the tape shown by Al Jazeera. The second, shown over and over on Egyptian TV, shows both the murder of American POWs and the desecration of their bodies. Though the tape has been shown over and over in the Middle East, congressional requests for access to it have so far been denied. One source told me that some of what he saw reminded him of the murder of Danny Pearl. The public doesn’t need to see all these tapes. But more people in government do, and they need to tell the press. The lack of public reaction to these horrors troubles me greatly. Maybe it’s because there’s so little knowledge of any of the details.

The Marines continue to find anti-exposure suits and atropine injectors. The evidence of these increases suspicions that Iraq will use these weapons against our troops, or against its own people. The real issue now is how these weapons could be delivered. If only by mortar, they can travel only a short distance. In windy conditions, they won’t be very effective. If the winds die, and the Iraqis have missiles or artillery to deliver them, that could result in an attack that causes casualties.

The northern front, now opening because of the 173rd Airborne’s seizure of that airfield, will soon be very active. Up to this point, the Kurds were wisely holding back, and leaving the action to our special ops people. Now, there may be a bit too much confidence in it.

The Iraqi National Congress, an umbrella group of Iraqi opposition groups, has called for a general uprising against the regime. That may be premature. If we aren’t in a position to help, and coordinate actively with the rebels, it could result in a disaster like the one in 1991. It would be better to wait, and get the signal from us.

As much as we are entertained by incidents like my pal Griff Jenkins taking three prisoners, we have to be mindful that this is the exception, not the rule. The Saddam Fedayeen–commanded by Saddam’s son Uday–are ruthless criminals. Big Dog Rumsfeld called them “death squads” and “enforcers.” They may be dead enders. Dealing with them decisively may take some time. More later.

02:21 PM

MORE EVIDENCE

Evidence of the abuse–torture and murder–of American POWs in Iraq may exist on videotape. There are apparently two versions of the tape shown by Al Jazeera. The second, shown over and over on Egyptian TV, shows both the murder of American POWs and the desecration of their bodies. Though the tape has been shown over and over in the Middle East, congressional requests for access to it have so far been denied. One source told me that some of what he saw reminded him of the murder of Danny Pearl. The public doesn’t need to see all these tapes. But more people in government do, and they need to tell the press. The lack of public reaction to these horrors troubles me greatly. Maybe it’s because there’s so little knowledge of any of the details.

The Marines continue to find anti-exposure suits and atropine injectors. The evidence of these increases suspicions that Iraq will use these weapons against our troops, or against its own people. The real issue now is how these weapons could be delivered. If only by mortar, they can travel only a short distance. In windy conditions, they won’t be very effective. If the winds die, and the Iraqis have missiles or artillery to deliver them, that could result in an attack that causes casualties.

The northern front, now opening because of the 173rd Airborne’s seizure of that airfield, will soon be very active. Up to this point, the Kurds were wisely holding back, and leaving the action to our special ops people. Now, there may be a bit too much confidence in it.

The Iraqi National Congress, an umbrella group of Iraqi opposition groups, has called for a general uprising against the regime. That may be premature. If we aren’t in a position to help, and coordinate actively with the rebels, it could result in a disaster like the one in 1991. It would be better to wait, and get the signal from us.

As much as we are entertained by incidents like my pal Griff Jenkins taking three prisoners, we have to be mindful that this is the exception, not the rule. The Saddam Fedayeen–commanded by Saddam’s son Uday–are ruthless criminals. Big Dog Rumsfeld called them “death squads” and “enforcers.” They may be dead enders. Dealing with them decisively may take some time. More later.

02:21 PM

AMERICAN PHILISTINES?

Simon Jenkins, a columnist for the London Times, says that the war in Iraq is being conducted by a bunch of Philistines. Says the culturally concerned Mr. Jenkins, there are a huge number of historic treasures in Iraq. “The Art Newspaper has published an awesome list of Iraqi sites near bases, factories and scientific works, some of them damaged by bombing errors in 1991.” Mr. Jenkins would apparently allow Saddam sanctuary for himself and his troops anywhere there is art or history, and he would add to the list of America’s crimes the crime of destroying Iraqi culture. Where do guys like this come from?

Thursday morning, we were treated to a press conference with some of America’s finest who had been wounded in action. Marine Lance Corporal Joshua Menard sat with Army Sergeants Jamie Villafane and Charles Horganof. Their wounds were not life-threatening, but serious all the same. They described matter-of-factly they combat in which they were hurt. Horganof described how his Humvee was hit with a wire-guided rocket, and when he found he couldn’t stand, he discovered his foot was gone. Villafane, a guy with a great gruff New York accent, talked about how he was wounded and then proceeded to keep fighting, capturing several Iraqis. We need to be clear with the likes of Mr. Jenkins. The life of one of these young men is worth all the art treasures of the Middle East. Given the choice between saving one of those lives and burning the Louvre, I’d donate the gasoline and strike the match.

With all the attention to America’s misbehavior by the effeteniks in Europe and at home, there is still almost no attention to the institutionalized pattern of war crimes in Iraq.

I have confirmed that the Al-Jazeera tape, all twelve minutes of it, is merely an excerpt of the hour-long version being shown regularly in Egypt and elsewhere. The short version shows the interrogation of some U.S. soldiers and the defamed dead bodies of others. The longer version includes all that, plus the murders and later abuse and mutilation of the bodies. Apparently, the whole thing is out there on the internet. I don’t want to watch it tonight. Maybe tomorrow morning, when the mind is fresher, more able to withstand it.

Today British P.M. Tony Blair condemned the murder of two captured British soldiers, and Marine General Peter Pace, vice chairman of the joint chiefs, confirmed the murder of Americans. I cannot for the life of me understand the lack of outrage at these horrific crimes.

Over the past few days, the press coverage of the war has been drifting to the dark side. It began when they hammered Big Dog Rumsfeld into snapping at them, demanding to know why he created the expectation of a short war, which he hadn’t. The press is divided among three camps: the embedded reporters, who are on the side of the troops they’re with; the conservative press, which wants to stand by the troops, and their commander in chief; and the ivory tower types, who brought you Vietnam. They want to bring it to you again. The increasingly hostile questions pointed to the CENTCOM briefers reached their first climax when one reporter demanded more general information about the war, and asked why he should keep coming to the briefings if he didn’t get it. Gen. Vince Brooks, the briefer, told him he could stay or go as he liked. It will only get worse. Some of the decay is the Pentagon’s fault. It believes, foolishly, that by seeking more arab press, and welcoming them into the briefings, minds can be changed. Fat chance.

We will encircle Baghdad in the next few days. Before that, you will see what shock and awe means to the Republican Guard. Those divisions dug in around Baghdad and Tikrit will soon be subjected to a tremendous bombing campaign, far more than television viewers have seen, far greater as to be almost unimaginable. To all but our war planners, it is. Go back to your cloister, Mr. Jenkins. The only art we can be concerned with now is the art of war.

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