- The Washington Times - Monday, July 22, 2002

About 5,000 ships from battleships to small landing craft loaded with 130,000 troops and more than 1,000 air transports to drop three divisions of paratroopers was the Allied plan for the invasion of Normandy scheduled for early June 1944. Imagine Operation Overlord for D-Day splashed all over the front page of the New York Times. Unthinkable, you say.
Then imagine the German high command's plans to repulse the Allied invasion announced by Adolf Hitler himself in a meeting with his closest advisers and then leaked to a London newspaper. Equally unthinkable.
But this is how the invasion of Iraq by the United States and Saddam's plans to counterattack have been played out in the New York Times and a Kuwaiti newspaper all before a single shot has been fired.
Iraq's longtime dictator read about the U.S. plan to invade his country from three directions with 225,000 troops courtesy of the New York Times. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was apoplectic. He was born into an age when such leaks would have been high treason, punishable by death before a firing squad. He ordered his staff to find the leaker and scores are now being run through lie detectors and voice-stress analyzers. But before anyone faces a court-martial or dismissal from the civil service, perhaps the guilty party should be praised for having smoked out Saddam's plan courtesy of a leak to a Kuwaiti newspaper.
We now know Saddam would unleash all his assets on all fronts e.g., terrorist "sleeper" cells in the United States, in Pakistan and in the oil-producing states of the Persian Gulf and wherever even in Afghanistan. The Iraqi ambassador to Pakistan, K.A. Ravi, speaking at a national day reception in Islamabad, added more juicy details. Raising a glass of orange juice, he intoned: "The jihad [holy war] in Afghanistan will begin shortly, and jihadi groups will kick out America from Afghanistan just like what they did to Russia. The jihadis will also continue to play an important role in Kashmir [against India]. Pakistan, with the entire Muslim world and Arab countries, will retaliate against any U.S. intervention in Iraq."
Saddam's man in Pakistan spoke as if President Pervez Musharraf didn't exist. So assassination of the Pakistani president was presumably part of the Iraqi plan to counter a U.S. invasion.
The Bush administration's war against Iraq has already become a regional conflict with blank ammo fired through the media in both camps. With luck, the coming war will be fought to a Mexican standoff before that first Iraqi Scud missile with a chemical or biological warhead lands in downtown Tel Aviv.
This writer can add several more leaks to the mother of all blank wars. The latest U.S. battle plan includes a precision-guided blitzkrieg against all strategic targets (including the post office in Basra) and the quick mobilization of thousands of Iraqi troops the Pentagon assumes will surrender without a fight. They would then be placed under the command of the dissident Iraqi generals who met in London recently and ordered to march against Baghdad and flush out Saddam's Republican Guard divisions defending the city. U.S. war planners have no intention of getting involved in street and Saddam-palace-by-Saddam-palace urban guerrilla fighting.
Assuming these Iraqi deserters still have the stomach to fight and manage with the fortunes of war to liberate Baghdad, an anti-Saddam Iraqi general would assume power and prepare to turn the country back to pre-1958 civilian rule.
After that, the law of unintended consequences kicks in. The liberation of Baghdad doesn't take place. Instead, the war becomes the prolonged Siege of Baghdad. Thousands are slaughtered and the Iraqi deserters, now on the U.S. team, surrender again, back to Saddam's ranks. At the same time, Iraqi saboteurs (with a little help from al Qaeda's "sleepers") are blowing up oil installations up and down the Gulf, and violent demonstrations break out in Muslim capitals from Morocco to Malaysia. Pakistan's Mr. Musharraf falls victim to an assassin's bullet and an Islamist general the retired former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Hamid Gul, who hates America with a long-burning passion takes over.
Gen. Gul immediately declares that Pakistan's 35-weapon nuclear arsenal is now at the disposal of the Islamic "Umma," a global Islamic community. A 500,000 ton-tanker flying a Liberian flag blows up in the Strait of Hormuz. Terrorist frogmen, on a moonless night, had pulled up alongside the vessel in a rubber Zodiac outboard speedster and stuck a brace of limpet mines on the tanker's hull.
The House of Saud is toppled by hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in the streets of Riyadh, Jeddah and Dhahran shouting pro-Osama bin Laden slogans. The 24,000-strong royal family (including princesses) race for airports only to find their fleets of private jets under hostile armed guard. The Saudi army, led by a dissident prince, switches sides, and Osama is proclaimed president of the RSA (Republic of Saudi Arabia). Gen. Gul flies to Riyadh for a summit meeting with Osama and a joint communique is issued proclaiming the two countries' fusion in the Umma. The Shi'ite regime of ayatollahs and mullahs across the Gulf in Iran are paralyzed with fear. But they swallow their pride and issue a communique that damns the new alliance with faint praise.
By then, of course, the Western world is plunged into economic depression. It's the unintended exit strategy.
The American planners clearly had not read the history of World War I when British Gen. Sir Charles Townshend, commanding two Indian Army divisions, marched on Baghdad to seize the capital of what was then Mesopotamia and kick out the Turkish army. Townshend was repulsed and fell back on the city of Kut, where the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers meet. After a bloody siege during which Townshend's troops ate their horses, the Turks prevailed and Townshend surrendered. The History Channel put it in the category of "Military Blunders of World War I."
High time to brush up on military history and for senators to ask the tough questions.

Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.

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