by Austin Bay
April 9, 2003 topple Saddam's tyranny with as few allied and Iraqi civilian casualties
possible, and with as little damage to Baghdad and Basra as fedayeen and
Republican Guard resistance permits.
The break down of Baath regime control in Baghdad indicates the "judo throw" is
The 3rd Infantry Division's armored probes throughout Baghdad
and occupation of key regime facilities are highly calculated military
Central Command can mount these operations -- sending armored
forays into the city -- because organized resistance is diminishing. Baghdad
is huge, and defending it effectively requires many dedicated defenders. At
this point, it appears few Republican Guardsmen in the divisions arrayed
outside the city managed to retreat into Baghdad. The 3rd Infantry's rapid
advance "fixed" divisions so air power and precision artillery fire can
destroy them. The allies are benefiting from these battles of "annihilation
by precision fires."
Fast-moving armor on well-reconnoitered routes is tough to stop,
even in cities. Though Baghdad's wide boulevards aren't perfect tank
country, they do give armor some space to maneuver. When possible, military
planners seek routes through areas with comparatively low
population-densities and fewer buildings. America's M1A1 tanks and Britain's
Challengers are expensive behemoths, but they are also quick, sturdy and
mechanically reliable. "Stabilized" tank cannons allow tank crews to stay
locked on to targets while the tanks roll.
Linking intelligence gathering sources and sensors, then rapidly
disseminating that intel to the troops as the movement occurs, is another
reason the United States can conduct these operations.
Special operations forces (SOF) are seeded throughout Baghdad,
watching for Iraqi movements, fedayeen snipers and even civilian traffic.
One source told me that allied SOF may well be warning anti-Saddam civilians
to avoid sectors of the city where the tanks are conducting probes. The
Green Berets and Seals also look for land mines on the roads. Mines are a
threat to the armor.
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), like the Predator drone, patrol
Baghdad's skies and provide "real time" images of the side streets, as well
as the route of advance. Manned aircraft and helicopters add more eyes.
Digital communications let tank and Bradley infantry vehicle commanders tap
this data as they wind through the city.
While embedded reporters' cameras have focused on the armored
units, trust there is action on the rooftops. Observation teams infiltrate
areas UAVs cannot adequately observe. These teams are in contact with
artillery units capable of hitting Iraqi troop concentrations within seconds
of a team member's "call for fire." Helicopters can deliver these teams.
Attack helicopters also "overwatch" the moving armor. Sniper teams also
prowl rooftops. A critical sniper mission in urban warfare is to pin down
enemy shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile teams that threaten the
Training makes this kind of intricate combat ballet possible,
where electronic eyes and ears cue human minds and snipers cover helicopters
that watch tanks covering infantry. All this takes place beneath the
umbrella of allied air forces armed with precision weapons.
Which is why judo is an apt term for what we're witnessing, a
mix of muscle and leverage, the "finesse" of advanced intelligence
capabilities and highly trained troops combined with the allies' firepower.
Allied commanders have several goals. Militarily, they hope the
probes will "segment" the Iraqi defense by destroying key defensive
positions and cutting communications. This isolates remaining defenders.
Isolation usually leads to demoralization.
The raids are also political demonstrations, armored
advertisements that the fascist regime's in its death throes.
As Baghdad's civilians gain confidence, they'll rat out fedayeen
death squads to Special Forces units and CIA paramilitary teams -- another
GIs gawk as they traipse through Saddam's various bunkered
Versailles', his Baghdad palaces with plush-pile bordello carpets and acres
of marble. The new Clown Prince of Denial, Iraq's Information Minister
Mohammad Said Sahhaf, can spew his various big lies, but with American boots
on the palace grounds, the Baath regime's era of theft, murder, oppression
and excess is nearly over.