Iraq: October 7, 2002


Rumors, rumors, we got rumors. The coming attack on Iraqi is surrounded by a thick cloud of punditry. The "secret plans" being discussed these days include;

1-Setting up Saddam for a coup. Many have tried and many have died while going after Saddam from the inside. But there never seems to be a shortage of plotters. The new angle is that Arabs in the Gulf, including a lot of senior Iraqi officials, are coming to believe the Americans are really, really serious this time. If this is the case, than Iraqi officials are going to have to consider their post-Saddam career prospects. If Saddam is allowed to go down fighting, meaning that his generals will resist as much as they can, then the 80 percent of the population Saddam and his cronies have been persecuting for the last 30 years are going to be out for revenge. But if Saddam's senior officials can finally kill Saddam and his inner circle (his most reliable associates, including two of his sons), then the rest of the gang can invite the US in to work out a new deal that will not include stringing Saddam's henchmen from lampposts (or worse.) Believe it when you see it. Saddam's been known to kill associates because he thought these poor guys might be thinking of considering disloyalty. But in this part of the world, just about anything is possible. And reports that Kurds in the north have been approached by Iraqi generals in charge of nearby units, with proposals to switch sides, are probably true.

2-Something's up down south, but no one knows what. Things have become decidedly strange in southern Iraq over the last few months. Saddam's people down there have not been their usual ruthless selves. Rumors abound of foreign commandos and agents operating in the area and deals being made with Shiite resistance groups. Arrangements for a mass surrender of Saddam's minions in southern Iraq? Attempts to get the Shiite rebels up in arms again? Or just the usual collection of coffee house rumors put on overdrive with all the talk of an American invasion? Take your pick.

3-The Stealth Buildup. Small numbers of US troops are moving into the area all the time, especially Special Forces and commandos. There has definitely been a growing number of US troops and equipment going to the Persian Gulf and nations bordering Iraq. One school of thought in Washington has advocated a sudden "Information War" attack, with bombers taking out Iraqi radio and TV broadcasting facilities and promptly replacing them with airborne American broadcasting. Warplanes destroy all military communications and headquarters and we call for rebellion, followed up by commandos, paratroopers and a few armored units moving in on the ground. The professional soldiers say this is possible, but too risky given the fact that we can also send a thousand M-1 tanks to Kuwait and enter Iraq with an offer no one can refuse. Either way, the Special Forces doesn't like to hold a press conference when they move their people into a combat zone. This, and the normal (and announced) movements of equipment for a possible invasion, is more likely to be what is actually going on.

4-Apocalypse Now. This is sort of an anti-invasion plan. Pessimistic pundits predict that Saddam will set fire to all his oil wells, fire Scuds (with chemical warheads) at Israel and all manner of chemical and biological weapons at American troops massing in Kuwait. Saddam might want to do a lot of destructive things at the end, just like Adolf Hitler did. But it's well to remember that Hitler was widely disobeyed when he ordered his officials to trash large parts of Germany's infrastructure because, "the German people don't deserve me." Unless Saddam's subordinates all have comfortable exile plans set up, they will not have a lot of incentive to blow up Iraqi oil wells (the most valuable asset in the country.) Going after Israel and American troops with chemical weapons also presents problems when it comes to actually doing it. You need to fire off a lot of chemical weapons to have any effect. A few Scuds fired off in the general direction of Israel is a gesture, not a serious attack (especially now that Israel has Arrow anti-missile missiles deployed). Getting hundreds of large artillery pieces near the Kuwaiti border unobserved,  for chemical attacks,  is very difficult. Other rumors have Iraq using crop dusters or trucks equipped with spray dispensers for nerve gas or other stuff. All possible, but all a lot more difficult to pull off than the average pundit realizes. It's much easier blowing up your own oil wells. Apocalypse Now is more likely to be Apocalypse Never.

5-War by Inches- The air attacks are increasing, with more and more of Iraqi air defenses being destroyed. While Iraq has put a lot of money into it's air defenses over the last ten years, and have used their missiles, radars and guns frequently to bring down an American or British warplane, they have never succeeded. Several UAVs have been brought down, but these unpiloted aircraft are sitting ducks (low, slow and unable to maneuver quickly). In addition to missile and radar sites, headquarters and communications sites are also being hit. If this increases, it's the equivalent of a major air attack, but in slow motion. Too slow, for example, to be detected by the media.

There are more rumors, and will be still more until all of this is over. But it's well to remember that during World War II, most successful military operations were surrounded and protected by a "bodyguard of lies." 


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