Politics & Policy


MAR. 24, 2003: SGO

Jed Babbin: There is a lot of SGO in the war.


It is Day 5 of the war. Every American should be appalled by the lack of condemnation of Iraqi abuse of POWs from the “civilized” world, particularly the U.N. Kofi Annan spoke a little while ago. When asked about possible abuse of POWs, he warned both sides to care for POWs according to the Geneva Conventions. His moral lens is so clouded he sees no difference between our handcuffing prisoners and Iraqi torture and murder of our soldiers. Annan also said that the “oil for food” program will begin again as soon as possible. That program allowed Saddam’s regime to sell oil and use the money–at least allegedly–to buy food. We will deliver food aplenty, and cannot allow any “program” that will do anything to help Saddam by putting money in his pocket. Annan also warned that the citizens of Basra are facing a “humanitarian disaster,” laying the foundation for later condemnation of our actions. The contempt in which we hold this man must be so large as to be unmeasurable.

There is a lot of SGO in the war. (SGO being the term invented by one of my ex-SEAL pals, Al Clark, for “s#@t goin’ on.”) Speaking of the SEALs–and the Rangers, Green Berets, Marine Recon, Brit and Aussie SAS, and the Brit SBS–CENTCOM says their operations are “on track” and include both strategic reconnaissance and “direct action.” What that means is that they are continuing the work of pinpointing Republican Guard and other specific targets for air attack. Direct action, well, you know what that means. The term “targets of opportunity” comes to mind.

The main Republican Guard divisions–the Medina, near Najaf, and the Nebuchadnezzar, to the south and east of the Medina–are being hit by the continuing bombardment of Air Force and Navy aircraft. I am sure that is also true of the Nebuchadnezzar division, wherever it is. Because most of our ground forces are light and not the heavy armor, we should be knocking these guys down substantially for another night before we push to the outskirts of Baghdad. The more we destroy from the air, the fewer will be left to shoot at the guys on the ground. Some forces may get to Baghdad tonight, and more are on the way.

Iraq is placing more and more civilians near military equipment and formations of soldiers. It is likely that the only way we can reduce the numbers of civilian casualties is by obtaining the surrender of more senior Iraqi officers, and by special operations direct action against them. The spec-ops guys have already earned their keep, but will have to do it again and again, just like everyone else. We may lose a bunch of them in the next few days.

Saddam’s command-and-control systems still function, but are much reduced. One of the puzzling factors is why Iraqi government television is still broadcasting. At this point, it must be one of the ways Saddam’s government is communicating with its remaining forces. This is another reason why we should have allowed the formation of a provisional government. We could have taken Saddam’s TV off the air, and established a way for the new government to broadcast. If there’s a good reason why we haven’t done this, it escapes me. More later.

11:11 AM

MAR. 24, 2003: IRAQI REALITY TV The question lingers: Why is Iraqi government television still able to broadcast? The “shock and awe” campaign was supposed to have left the symbols and mechanisms of Saddam’s power in ruins. How then can we expect his troops to mutiny or his forces to surrender if they are bombarded as often by Saddam’s televised propaganda as they are by coalition aircraft? The now-daily images of captured Americans gives credence to Iraqi claims that the coalition will not win. Everyone in Iraq must remember 1991 when we stopped short of Baghdad. Their choice is between a possible liberation by the coalition and the certainty of brutality if Saddam manages to survive. Saddam remains in power so long as he–or his minions–can broadcast his message. The “intelligence” we can garner from its broadcasts cannot be of much use. The fall of Iraqi television will hasten our victory. Why is it still broadcasting? We need to knock them off the air pronto.

We will have a few days to contemplate this because the weather has gone bad again. The forecast is for severe sandstorms in the next couple of days, which means progress on the ground will be slowed and helicopters won’t be able to operate in many areas. This will leave both sides with time to contemplate what comes next.

Coalition forces are less than fifty miles from Baghdad. Three Republican Guard divisions protect the approaches to Baghdad: the Medina in the west, the Baghdad in the south and the Alnedaa in the east. American, Brit and Aussie forces will take them on when the storms abate, but the air forces’ assault on them has–fortunately–already begun. It will continue even through the weather. Special forces operating in the area have been feeding their GPS data into the data banks in Tommy Franks’s HQ and in the AWACS air control aircraft. When the storms blow, the satellites are unaffected. The smart munitions dropped by our aircraft can find their targets in the weather.

General Tommy Franks has finally bitten the bullet and recognized that the three remaining Republican Guard Divisions need to be hit long and hard from the air before any major ground assault. Yesterday’s helo operation–which proved the Apache Longbow a great helo, but not up to the role of bombers–went bad because the Buffs, B-1s, and B-2s hadn’t been there first. It also went bad because–according to one source–the Army helo drivers weren’t using their connection to Air Force JSTARS aircraft. JSTARS–a battle manager–provides detailed info on what the bad guys have, where they have it, and where it’s going. Why the Army helo guys weren’t joined at the hip to JSTARS is something Gen. Franks should be worried about.

It has taken less than a week to reach Baghdad, where the Republican Guards will stand and fight, at least for a while. They will surround themselves with civilian hostages, fake surrenders and kill our men whenever and however they can. Now is the time and this is the place for “shock and awe.” Let them sit there for a few days, under an unrelenting bombardment. There will be some civilians killed, but the blood of those civilians will be on Saddam’s hands, not ours. I–for one–am unwilling to pay the butcher’s bill that could result from much infantry and some armor assaulting the well-dug-in Republican Guard, manning positions they have had a decade to prepare. That sort of idiocy went out with the battles of Verdun, and the Marne, didn’t it? We must make sure it did. With apologies to the Bard: cry havoc, and let loose the dogs of air war. For a few days, at least. And for heaven’s sake, knock that damned TV station off the air.

09:52 PM


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