- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 7, 2002

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, after months of some members resisting a new war, now fully back using military force to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
Administration officials said in recent interviews that some Joint Chiefs members initially raised some objections or "what ifs." The chiefs worried about casualties, Saddam's likely use of chemical weapons against American troops and an open-ended occupation of Iraq once the dictator is evicted from Baghdad.
But, as the Pentagon's hard-line civilian leadership has pressed the Bush administration policy to remove Saddam, all six chiefs have come to a consensus, two administration officials said.
"The chiefs have come over because they can read the handwriting on the wall," said an administration adviser. "Now the senior leadership is on board."
The adviser said that in past administrations, if a four-star general offered "my best military advice" that war was ill-advised, the civilian leadership was likely to heed the warning.
But the Bush administration is stacked with civilians who believe military force against Iraq is the only viable way to oust Saddam and get rid of his potent arsenal. They do not take such advice as the last word.
These advisers are led by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, a man who, as one uniformed officer said, "has the guts for war."
The chiefs' unanimity on Iraq comes as the Defense Department is stepping up war planning in anticipation of an invasion, perhaps as early as the winter of 2003.
In war fighting, the chiefs of the four branches, the vice chairman and the chairman principally are advisers to the defense secretary and provide support to the combatant commander. The war-fighting chain of command goes from the president to the defense secretary to the combatant commander.
For Iraq, the commander is Army Gen. Tommy Franks, who heads U.S. Central Command. Gen. Franks briefed President Bush at the White House on Monday night on war options. Central Command runs U.S. military operations in the Persian Gulf, as well as in counterterrorist missions in Afghanistan.
Two administration sources said yesterday that the most likely plan would involve about 200,000 air, ground and naval troops, as well as wide-ranging air strikes and aid to indigenous anti-Saddam forces.
Sources say all of President Bush's top national security advisers agree on the need to topple Saddam by covert or overt action. But Mr. Bush has not settled on a war plan, and no attack is imminent, they say.
A linchpin of any final war plan will be psychological-warfare programs to convince Iraqi military commanders that they will suffer great losses if they do not join the fight against Saddam or, at least, refuse to take up arms.
One administration official said that if this strategy is to work, the United States must build a sizable ground force in Kuwait.
"A bigger force they put there sends an unambiguous message 'If you fight, you will die,'" the official said. "The smart thing to do is to put a large number of troops on the border."
The source also said that Bush civilian appointees are finding that it is not always easy to find generals who, like them, believe there is no alternative, in some instances, to war.
"The system has created a military that is a professional bureaucracy," said the official, who asked not to be named. "Once you make one star, they start sending you to charm school."
Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters on Monday to be skeptical of reports that nations in the region would not support U.S. action against Saddam.
"I think if you sat down with the leadership of any country over there that you'd find they have a very low regard for that fellow," Mr. Rumsfeld told representatives of the National Association of Black Journalists. The Pentagon released a transcript of the interview yesterday.
"You'd also find they're much smaller countries, and they're much weaker," he said, in a reference to Kuwait, among other neighbors.
Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, propelling the United States into a war against Saddam that lingers today in the form of enforcing northern and southern no-fly zones.
"When you have a neighbor that is that big and has that big an army and has chemical weapons and has used them on its neighbors then it's like the little guy in the neighborhood's fairly careful about what he says publicly," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "I don't know of anyone I've talked to out in the region who would walk across the street to shake Saddam Hussein's hand."
Mr. Bush justifies tough talk about Iraq on the grounds that Saddam is aggressively pursuing nuclear weapons that could one day be used against the United States.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide