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The Idiot Prince Will Have His War

by Stan Goff

© Copyright 2003, From The Wilderness Publications, All Rights Reserved. May be reprinted, distributed or posted on an Internet web site for non-profit purposes only.

[FTW asked retired U.S. Army Special Forces Master Sergeant Stan Goff to re-examine what we can expect on the battlefield when the United States begins its invasion. The former instructor of military science at West Point describes a scenario that is vastly different from what was expected last September before the Bush administration encountered effective economic and political opposition. Now denied the luxuries of a multi-front invasion from Turkey and Saudi Arabia the U.S. war strategy has changed. The bottom line is that a great many more innocent civilians are going to be killed. And the first and possibly crippling breakdown of U.S. plans will happen in Kurdestan. – MCR]

March 17, 2003, 1500 hrs PST (FTW) -- The full-scale, unilateral US invasion of Iraq appears – to many – to be imminent as this is written. In just hours President Bush is expected to give Saddam Hussein a 72-hour ultimatum to leave the country or else the bombs start falling. I have a reservation or two left about that, based partly on hope, but partly on the even riskier assumption that this administration realizes that it has miscalculated and that the consequences of invasion may now outweigh the risks – from their standpoint – of no invasion.

The Bush regime seems to have a clear understanding of what desperate straits they were in well before 9-11. The empire is in decline, and this means Americans will have to reconcile themselves to a new world in which their profligate lifestyle becomes a thing of the past.  Americans do not understand that this is an irremediable situation.  That is why we are witnessing the beginning of what is possibly the most dangerous period in human history.

If the administration decides miraculously in the next few days not to invade, the most unthinkable risks will recede significantly.  But this Junta has repeatedly displayed a reckless adventurist streak that alarms even their own political allies, and it appears that the hotter heads will prevail.

The actual tactical situation, never terribly auspicious because of the Kurdish wild card that receives far too little attention (and which I will address later), has deteriorated for the US.  The denial of a ground front from both Saudi Arabia and Turkey has completely reshuffled the tactical deck, and caused many a sleepless night for harried commanders from Task Force Headquarters all the way down to lonely infantry platoon leaders.

The ground attack will now go through Kuwait, a single front across which an unbelievable series of heavy, expensive, high-maintenance convoys will pass, many on long journeys to 18 provincial capitals, 19 military bases, 8 major oil fields, over 1,000 miles of pipeline, key terrain along minority Shia and Kurdish regions, as well as Baghdad.  But attacking forces are not the only mechanized ground forces.

The huge logistical trains that must consolidate objectives, set up long-term lines of communication, and deliver daily support, will also be held up until airheads are seized within Iraq to augment ground transportation with airlifts of people and equipment.  This shifts a higher emphasis onto airhead seizures (and therefore Ranger units), and forces the security of the airheads themselves before they can become fully functional. 

Baghdad may require a siege, which has already been planned, but now that siege doesn’t begin without a much lengthier invasion timeline that depends much more heavily on airborne and airmobile forces that can be dropped onto key facilities to hold them until mechanized reinforcement can arrive.  At this writing, the 101st Airborne (which is actually a helicopter division) has not even completed its deployment into the region.  Sections of the 82nd Airborne (a genuine paratroop division) are still occupying Afghanistan.

The increased dependence on airlift is further complicated by weather.  While extreme summer heat doesn’t reach Iraq until May, the pre-summer sand storms have already begun.  US commanders have pooh-poohed the effect of these storms, but they are simply putting on a brave face for the public.  Sand can be a terrible enemy.  It clogs engine intakes, just as it clogs eyes and noses, gathers in the folds of skin, falls in food, works its way into every conceivable piece of equipment, and takes a miserable toll on materiel, machinery and troops.  When air operations become more critical to overall mission accomplishment, and when light forces (like airmobile and airborne divisions) are operating independent of heavier mechanized logistics, weather like sand storms matters...a lot.

The order of battle is widely available on the web, and there's no reason to recount it here.  The reason is, even with all these debilities and setbacks, the results of the invasion are certain.  Iraq will be militarily defeated and occupied.  There will be no sustained Iraqi guerrilla resistance.  There will be no Stalingrad in Baghdad.  We should not buy into the US bluster about their invincibility, but neither should we buy into Iraqi bluster.

Last September retired Marine General Paul Van Riper was selected to play the Opposing Forces (OPFOR) Commander named Saddam Hussein for a 3-week-long, computer simulated invasion of Iraq, called Operation Millennium Challenge.

He defeated the entire multi-billion-dollar US electronic warfare intelligence apparatus by sending messages via motorcycle-mounted couriers to organize the preemptive destruction of sixteen US ships, using pleasure vessels.  At that point, the exercise controllers repeatedly intervened and told him what to do; move these defenders off the beach.  Stop giving out commands from mosque loudspeakers.  Turn on your radar so our planes can see you.  Because every time Van Riper was left to his own devices, he was defeating the US.

While all this is surely amusing, does it really mean the Iraqis will defeat the US during an invasion?

Certainly not.  It will, however, make it far more expensive, slow, difficult, and deadly for Iraqis.

The Iraqi military won't prevail because they can't. They are weak, under-resourced, poorly led, and demoralized.  What the delays mean is that the US will depend on sustaining the initiative and momentum through brutal, incessant bombing designed to destroy every soldier, every installation, every vehicle, every field kitchen in the Iraqi military.

War will inflict terrifying casualties on the Iraqi military.  There will be collateral damage to civilians, even with attempts to attenuate that damage, and in case we fail to remember, soldiers are like everyone else. They have families and loved ones.

What is uncertain is the aftermath.

This is the variable that is never factored into the thinking of our native political lumpen-bourgeoisie; their deeds plant the seeds of future and furious resistance.

If half million Iraqi soldiers die, and 100,000 civilians are killed in collateral damage, we have to remember that there are at least (for the sake of argument) five people who intensely love each of the dead.  And if we think of the grief of millions after this slaughter, and of the conversion of that grief into rage, and combine that with the organization of the internecine struggles based on historical ethnic fault lines (that the Ba'ath Party has repressed), we begin to appreciate the explosive complexity of post-invasion Iraq.

This invasion will also ignite the fires of Arab and Muslim humiliation and anger throughout the region.

Most importantly, in my view, there are the Kurds.

Anyone who has followed the news has heard about "Saddam's" gassing of the Kurds.  That's how it is portrayed.  Nonetheless, few people have bothered to find out what the truth is, or even to investigate this claim.

Stephen Pelletiere was the Central Intelligence Agency's senior political analyst on Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war.  He was also a professor at the Army War College from 1988 to 2000.  In both roles, he had access to classified material from Washington related to the Persian Gulf.  In 1991, he headed an Army investigation into Iraqi military capability. That classified report went into great detail on Halabja.

Halabja is the Kurdish town where hundreds of people were apparently poisoned in a chemical weapons attack in March 1988.  Few Americans even knew that much.  They only have the article of religious faith, "Saddam gassed his own people."

In fact, according to Pelletiere – an ex-CIA analyst, and hardly a raging leftist like yours truly – the gassing occurred in the midst of a battle between Iraqi and Iranian armed forces.

Pelletiere further notes that a "need to know" document that circulated around the US Defense Intelligence Agency indicated that US intelligence doesn't believe it was Iraqi chemical munitions that killed and aimed the Kurdish residents of Halabja.  It was Iranian. The condition of the bodies indicated cyanide-based poisoning. The Iraqis were using mustard gas in that battle. The Iranians used cyanide.

The lack of public critical scrutiny of this and virtually all current events is also evident on the issue of the Kurds themselves.

That issue will come out into the open, with the vast area that is Kurdistan, with its insurgent armed bodies, overlaying Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and even parts of Syria, which will realign the politics and military of the entire region in yet unpredictable ways.

As part of the effort to generate an Iraqi opposition, the US has permitted Northern Iraqi Kurdistan to exercise a strong element of national political autonomy since the 1991 war. This is a double-edged sword for the US in its current war preparations, particularly given this administration’s predisposition for pissing all over its closest allies. Iraq's Northern border is with Turkey, who has for years favored the interests of its own Turkmens in Southern Turkish Kurdistan at the expense of the Kurds, who have waged a guerrilla war for self-determination against the Turks since the 1970s.

The Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan or PKK) (Kurdish Worker's Party), Turkish Kurds fighting for an independent Kurdish state in southeast Turkey, was singled out on the US international terrorist organization list several years ago, in deference to fellow NATO member, Turkey.  PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan is so popular with the Kurds that Turkey was forced to commute his death sentence, subsequent to his capture, to life imprisonment, for fear that his execution would spark an uprising.

Other non-leftist Kurdish independence organizations developed and alternatively allied with and split with the PKK and each other. Turkey now claims that PKK bases are being constructed in Iran, with Iranian complicity, from which to launch strikes against Southern Turkey. Groups other than the PKK, more acceptable to the US, predominantly the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Kurdistan Patriotic Union (PUK) have been administering Northern Iraqi Kurdistan as an autonomous zone under the protective umbrella of the US no-fly zone. The Turkish government fears the influence of this section of Kurdistan in the wake of a US military action that topples Saddam Hussein’s Ba'ath government, because Kurds have declared their intention of declaring an independent Kurdish state there. The Turks find this absolutely unacceptable, and have declared forthrightly they will invade to prevent this happening. They have also threatened to attack Kurds in Iran, but this is a far less credible threat.

Kurdish nationalists have long experience with betrayals and alliances of convenience, and know American perfidy very well. They have declared at the outset that in the event of an invasion, they will defend themselves from Turkish incursions. They are not willing to lose the autonomy they have gained over the last eleven years in Northern Iraq. This not only puts them at odds with US ally Turkey, it potentially puts them at odds with the US itself, even with US wishes that they participate in indigenous actions against Iraqi forces. The US does not want that region destabilized in the post-invasion period, because Kirkuk in the East of Iraqi Kurdistan is a huge oil producing zone.

The very first complication of post-invasion Iraq will likely be the demand that US commanders disarm the Kurds.

Northern Iraq could easily become contested terrain involving partisan warfare between Turks, Kurds of three factions, the Iranians, and the US, with the Syrians in a position to play the silent interloper. This would amount to the devolution of Northern Iraq, a key strategic region, into another Afghanistan or Somalia. It is already straining relationships between Turkey and the United States, NATO allies, even as the NATO alliance itself comes under severe strain, with a Euro-American trade war as a backdrop.

And the Kurds have the motivation, tenacity, and fighting spirit to do those kinds of things that General Van Riper did to defeat the Rumsfeld "Robo-Military" in Operation Millennium Challenge.

We begin to see how the Bush Junta is the equivalent of a mad bee keeper, that no longer leaves the hive stable and merely smokes it into a stupor to harvest the honey. It now proposes to simply start swatting all the bees and taking the honey by brute force.

We cannot see the war as an extricable, external phenomenon. We have to see it as it is embedded in the larger complexities of the whole period. When the cruise missiles fly at 400 per day, that is 400 times $1.3 million in self-destructing technology. 30 days of this is $15.6 billion in Cruise missiles alone. This is great news for Raytheon and Lockheed-Martin, but it is bad news for public schools.  At the antiwar demonstration in Washington DC, March 15th, I met many more teachers, now wearing buttons that said "money for education not war." This is a reflection of the deepening consciousness of the American people, but one that has not yet grasped the depth of the crisis that drives the war. Nor does it measure how every missile’s impact increases the rage of the Southwestern Asian masses and the justifiable anxieties of Africa and East Asia.

The real bet that Bush & Co. make on this war is that it can secure oil at $15 a barrel, rescue dollar hegemony, gain the ability to wage its economic war on China and Europe, and inaugurate a fresh upwave of real profit. That will not happen.

When the invasion goes, we will certainly see plenty of images of cheering "liberated" Iraqis. This is common after any successful military incursion, a combination of real relief in some cases, as we saw in the first stage of the 1994 Haiti invasion, but also of self-defense and opportunism.

The costs incurred by the war, combined with the insane Bush tax cuts for the rich, will deepen the Bush regime’s economic conundrums. The coming social crisis in the US will emerge against a backdrop of elevated public expectations.  The hyperbole employed by this administration to justify this war, against rapidly strengthening resistance and a corresponding loss of credibility outside the indoctrinated and gullible United States, led them to warn the public about perpetual "war on terror," but with the sugar coating that there would be no domestic economic sacrifice. The mountain of personal and institutional debt in the US, the threat of deflation, the trade deficit, the overcapacity, the rising unemployment and insecurity, all these factors will be worsened by the Bush doctrines. And Bush, like his father before him, will go down. Along with him, Tony Blair and Jose Maria Aznar will go down in political flames, and it will be a long time indeed before anyone can align themselves with the US as an ally. As in the last elections for the Republic of Korea, candidates will find that election victory depends on now independent one can prove oneself of the United States.

We have had our course charted now, and the military option is all the US ruling class really has to maintain its dominance. After Iraq, there will certainly be increased asymmetric warfare, "terrorism," if you will, directed at Americans, American institutions, American targets. And when the rest of the world recognizes how thinly spread the US military is, thinly spread physically, but also economically because it is not a sustainable institution in its current incarnation, rebellions will occur. They have already started. Then the response of the weakening US will be to lash out, often with totally unforeseeable consequences, just as the consequences of this impending invasion are unforeseeable.

Our military might is no longer a sign of strength, and the US military is not invincible. Its use as both first and last resort is a sign of profound systemic weakness. That its employment could destabilize the world, and cause us to stumble into a Third World War is a real possibility.

We in the antiwar movement have struggled to protect the Iraqi people. We may fail in that. But as resistance fighters in WWII or national liberation fighters in the post-colonial era, we must differentiate setbacks from defeat, when we suffer those setbacks we can not be demoralized and demobilized. We will keep our eyes on the fact that the system itself is failing and this adventure is a symptom of that failure, and continue to work for the political destruction of our current regime as a tactical necessity. The perfect storm is coming. It's in the genetic code of the system right now and inevitable. And while we don't know how it will look, we have to keep our eyes on the prize - emancipation from the whole system, and let that be our lodestar.  Never quit. Never. We are in the stream of history, and we have been given a grave and momentous responsibility. Every day we delayed them was a victory.

There is a long struggle ahead, and it will become more terrible. But just as those before us fought slavery, apartheid, fascism, and colonialism, we will take up our historical task with confidence and determination, and assert our humanity against these gangsters.

Freedom is the recognition of necessity.


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