[Editor’s Note: The General failed to mention the US already destroyed Iraq’s infrastructure during 12 years of bombing. The General failed to mention Bush Administration plans to occupy Iraq. And, the General failed to mention how the US blew up chemical weapons at Khamisiyah, Iraq, resulting in the world’s largest friendly fire incident — exposing 140,000 US troops to chemical warfare agents.
If war comes, the United States will not be trying to conquer Iraq or destroy its infrastructure and armed forces. Rather, the goal will be to surgically remove Iraq’s leadership, neutralize weapons of mass destruction and reach out to Iraq’s own citizens to form a new nation.
The mission requires a different kind of soldier—Special Forces that can slip inside a country, link up with dissident groups, and find and destroy hard targets. I had the honor of commanding our Special Operations Forces (SOF) during the Panama invasion and the gulf war.
The SOF—Delta, SEALs, Green Beret A Teams, Rangers, Night Stalker helo crews, Air Force commandos—are the best in the world, highly trained, well led, superbly equipped. Many of them were “blooded” in combat in Afghanistan or have been thrown into hot spots around the world.
They were once disparaged by the regular military as oddballs and “snake-eaters,” but no longer. Gen. Tommy Franks of U.S. Central Command, the overall commander in the region, knows the value of Special Forces. He will make use of them, I believe, to a greater degree than ever before.
Removing Saddam Hussein and his cronies probably cannot be achieved by straightforward high-level bombing. Our high-tech intelligence gathering from planes and satellites is amazing, but Saddam is a well-practiced deceiver who rarely stays in one place for long. We may need troops on the ground to track and spot, using laser designators (as they did so successfully in Afghanistan) or, conceivably, an old-fashioned sniper’s rifle.
One of their trickier tasks will be to root out chemical and biological weapons. Bombing WMD sites from the sky runs the risk of unleashing deadly plumes that can kill surrounding civilian populations. We may have to use our own soldiers to find and disarm these deadly weapons. Without going into detail, I can say that we have teams well trained for this dangerous work.
U.S. forces may also have to stop Saddam from delivering WMD. It has been reported that there are already Special Forces roaming the Western Desert of Iraq. If so, they are looking for mobile Scud launchers put there by Saddam to launch a surprise attack on Israel. After the gulf war, it was widely reported that the United States had failed to find or destroy any of Saddam’s Scuds.
I know this is not true. I have seen the helicopter-gunship video of their successful strikes and debriefed their operators. I know that SOF took out six to eight Scuds, mostly by using SOF helicopters operating 250 miles behind enemy lines and guiding in airstrikes.
A couple of Scuds were destroyed by antitank missiles launched by the teams. In the after-action reports, one sergeant major described being so close to a Scud launcher that he had his face singed by the explosions ignited by an airstrike he called in.
Denying Saddam the support of his people and the Army is a daunting task. SOF Psychological Operations units (about a quarter of whom are women) will use TV, radio, leaflets, videos and newspapers to sow discord and doubt. In the gulf war, psy-war operations were instrumental in persuading 50,000 to 70,000 Iraqi defections.
Even more critical, perhaps, will be SOF and CIA support to the Iraqi opposition. If they succeed in fomenting a rebellion against Saddam, the war could end quickly—without heavy cost of Iraqi or American lives.