On Point

Urban Judo

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 working.

The 3rd Infantry Division's armored probes throughout Baghdad and occupation of key regime facilities are highly calculated military operations.

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 helicopters.

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 judo throw.

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.

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