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Troops anticipate breakfast in Baghdad

By Carol Devine-Molin
web posted March 24, 2003

Saddam Hussein clearly miscalculated in both 1991 and 2003, resulting in devastating wars against Iraq. However, this time, he may have indeed paid with his life, if rumors circulating about the media are accurate. Unofficial reports claim that Saddam, his two sons, and his top generals were all killed when their underground command-and-control center was eviscerated by US "bunker busting" bombs during the opening salvo of the war. This is all subject to confirmation, but it appears to have more than a grain of truth in it, based on intelligence tidbits already released to the major cable news channels. But if most of Iraq's top scoundrels are truly history, it certainly bodes propitiously for the US-led coalition and the future of the Iraqi people. It almost goes without saying that the Iraqi leadership was thoroughly decadent, and committed numerous atrocities throughout the years. They truly lacked insight, as well, and never really accepted the obvious - that their corrupt regime was about to end.

Young Iraqis react on the streets of Umm Qasr in southern Iraq as British Royal Marines drive through the town on March 22
Young Iraqis react on the streets of Umm Qasr in southern Iraq as British Royal Marines drive through the town on March 22

Operation Iraqi Freedom has not been a cakewalk, but it's still shaping up to be hugely successful. This is our current status: The US-led coalition appears poised to wrap-up this unprecedented campaign within the next few weeks. While massive air-power destroys specified targets, our ground forces are systematically closing in on Baghdad and processing thousands of surrendering Iraqi soldiers to boot. Although WMD's have not been utilized against our troops, the risk will clearly increase as coalition forces engage Ba'ath Party loyalists and the elite Republican Guard in-and-around Baghdad during the next few days. There are now reports that a chemical weapons factory, located south of Baghdad, has been seized by Americans. Hopefully, the evidence of chemical weaponry can now be confirmed. Our troop losses have been minimal so far, but tragic nonetheless. Moreover, about a dozen of our soldiers were recently captured by Iraqi forces - apparently, some were killed, and some were paraded before Al-Jazeera television for propaganda purposes, which is of particular angst to the American people. However, this is war, and this is to be expected. The good news is that average Iraqis appear welcoming and quite happy to have coalition forces liberate them from Saddam's awful clutches.

We cannot underestimate the importance of America's top-notch military in this very dangerous world -- a force of immense proportions, like nothing ever seen in the annals of warfare. This twenty-first century marvel has been honed by the incomparable Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who continues the military's transformation. And what makes for a sublime war machine? Not only state-of-the art weaponry and well trained, highly motivated warriors are integral to the mix, but the ability to bring overwhelming military power to bear for a quick and decisive victory, thus minimizing military and civilian causalities alike. But, more than anything else, Rumsfeld underscores that an ever-evolving military must be creative, resilient, and malleable in the face of emerging threats. That said, Rumsfeld has worked diligently to shake out the inertia of the Pentagon's antiquated bureaucracy and its old-guard, making way for new military leaders who possess the necessary vision and skills to get the job done.

And we should certainly marvel at America's first-strike in this war, which is fully illustrative of the new nature of warfare. Given our tremendous surveillance capabilities, we are now able to rapidly respond to morphing circumstances within the warfare milieu. In a page seemingly taken out of a "Hollywood" story line, we were afforded an opportunity to decapitate Iraqi leadership with one devastating blow at the inception of this campaign. In an amazing turn of events, intelligence sources pinpointed the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein, his two sons and other key Iraqi leaders in their underground bunker, thus enabling a pivotal strike. Did we succeed in hitting Saddam with the "silver bullet", which would knock him out of the box for good? The short answer is that we don't know definitively, although Saddam was carried out on a stretcher and has altogether failed to emerge on the Iraqi scene since that time (with the exception of pre-taped television appearances). Coalition decision-makers were certainly wise to take advantage of developing information. Moreover, this ability to rapidly gather intelligence and alter battle plans accordingly represents a new phase in our warfare methodology.

How does this current military campaign primarily differ from the 1991 Gulf War? Well, today we have the following key advancements:

* Strong media access to troops, with "embedded" reporters at the frontlines, which not only provides the military with better PR, but enhances its salient "psy-ops" efforts as we telegraph our devastating military strength to enemy forces. And this is proving to be effective at demoralizing Iraqi troops and facilitating surrenders.

* Precision Laser and GPS guided missiles now enable pinpoint accuracy, thus greatly reducing civilian casualties or "collateral damage". As President Bush stated, "I want Americans and the entire world to know that coalition forces will make every effort to spare innocent civilians from harm".

* Hi-Tech satellite surveillance that permits military command to view a highly nuanced battlefront, providing them with prompt feedback of war events.

* Because of command's adept surveillance and intelligence capabilities, it can readily respond to emerging targets and tweak battle-plans even when combat is underway.

Certainly, the American military of the 1991 Gulf War had already come to grips with the pivotal lesson learned from the Vietnam War - attack hard, and fast, with massive force for a quick victory. But, today's military has come to more deeply embrace this lesson than ever before, as evidenced by the concentrated "shock and awe" strikes that are currently underway. As President Bush has underscored in his recent radio address, this will not be a campaign of "half-measures".

Carol Devine-Molin is a regular contributor to several online magazines.

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