- The Washington Times - Monday, June 16, 2003

The general who planned the first air war against Iraq says once “total security” is established in the country, a U.S. inspection team will determine what happened to Iraq’s large arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.

“Absolutely, Iraq had WMDs,” said retired Air Force Lt. Gen Buster Glosson, who was an adviser to the CIA in the 1990s. “The only question is what weapons or precursors did they ship out of the country or destroy immediately prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

President Bush largely justified the war in Iraq as the only way to rid Saddam Hussein of his chemical, biological and nuclear weapons components. To date, the United States has discovered two mobile facilities used to produce germ agents — matching a prewar CIA intelligence report. But it has not found the weapons, spurring charges from some Democrats that the president sent troops into battle on false pretenses.

Gen. Glosson disagrees.

“We need to be patient, and the results will speak for themselves. Once total security is established in Iraq and the shadow of Saddam removed, the Iraqi people will provide the WMD information for the world to see,” he said. “That will be a very humbling day for the rush-to-judgment naysayers.”

On other postwar issues, Gen. Glosson said Operation Iraq Freedom already has provided several lessons to guide commanders in the future.

Author of the Persian Gulf war book, “War with Iraq: Critical Lessons,” the retired general said in an interview that the just-completed war once again showed that commanders should allow air power and special operations forces to destroy enemy ground troops before soldiers and Marines engage in land combat.

It also demonstrated that attack helicopters cannot survive intense ground fire in extremely hostile battlefield environments. Also, it was a mistake to allow Iraq’s state-operated TV to stay on the air, enabling Saddam’s regime to communicate with the masses.

“Operation Iraq Freedom demonstrated that surprise, speed and precision are the three tenets of tactical operations for modern warfare,” Gen. Glosson said. “Air power with precision weapons can destroy a field army, but we can never forget only soldiers and Marines can occupy a country and control its populace.”

Gen. Glosson said this new twist to an old strategy worked in Iraqi Freedom because the ground commander, Army Lt. Gen. David D. McKiernan, and the air commander, Lt. Gen. T. Michael Moseley, put a premium on joint operations.

“McKiernan paused after day six and asked Moseley to obliterate the Republican Guard between Najaf and Baghdad, and the results speak for themselves,” Gen. Glosson said. “Moseley directed fixed-wing fighters over Baghdad when many thought it unwise.”

Gen. Glosson, who since his retirement generally has stayed mum on commenting on military affairs, broke his silence before Operation Iraqi Freedom. In a speech at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, Gen. Glossen, a former fighter pilot who flew combat missions in Vietnam, expressed fears that planners would not give air power enough time to destroy key ground targets.

“The criticism was valid at the time it was made,” Gen. Glosson said. “Prior to the war, I was very critical of the initial size of the ground force requested. Fortunately, Defense Secretary [Donald] Rumsfeld’s leadership alleviated this concern.

“Also, I found it difficult to believe that the planning and strategy did not include early securing of the oil fields with soldiers and Marines, or obliterating the Republican Guards with precision air power and special forces, prior to ground engagements. However, McKiernan changed the plan during execution and he should get the credit for bold and decisive leadership.”

While a few retired generals appeared on network and cable news programs to criticize Gen. Tommy Franks’s plan in the war’s early stages, Gen. Glosson refused all requests to play “talking head” during the war.

“There are only a finite number of tactical execution options for any military commander,” he said. “I believe it is irresponsible for retired general officers to second-guess or hypothesize about future tactical actions during a war. The time to voice differences of opinion is before or after the shooting — not during.”

In the end, a ground, air and sea force of about 230,000 ousted Saddam from power in four weeks.

“We won with minimum loss of life,” Gen. Glosson said. “Secretary Rumsfeld’s insistence that we maximize our technology advantage and use only the ground forces required for decisive victory was an example for future political leaders to emulate.”

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