- The Washington Times - Monday, June 17, 2002

In a fight for his survival, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein would be likely to unleash his arsenal of chemical and germ warheads on American troops and Israel, military sources and analysts say.
That deadly prospect, they say, makes it paramount that any war plan approved by President Bush contain tactical surprise, pre-emptive air strikes and a strategy for turning some Iraqi military units against their supreme leader.
"You can hope for deterrence to work," said Kelly Motz, editor of Iraq Watch, which publishes research on Baghdad's varied weapons programs. "But if you are saying you are going to change the regime and take Saddam out of power, what does he have to lose if he favors power over his life?"
The Bush administration is seeking ways to oust Saddam on the argument that he eventually will succeed in developing nuclear weapons and threaten the national security of the United States.
John Hillen, an Army veteran of the 1991 Persian Gulf war, said that this time the Pentagon will not have the luxury of a six-month buildup of forces in the region. Then, the mission was to evict Iraqi forces from Kuwait. This time, the target is Saddam himself, and he knows it.
"Any buildup would be seen by Saddam as a spear pointed at his heart, and he would be smart to act pre-emptively with chemical weapons against the first units showing up," said Mr. Hillen, an adviser to the 2000 Bush campaign.
"Thus, you need to act decisively and with total surprise, a la October 7 in Afghanistan, relentlessly destroying his assets with whatever you have in theater now," he said.
Mr. Hillen said that once U.S. air strikes began against key targets, the buildup of more U.S. forces would begin. The first waves of attacks should "have the effect of keeping him down and not being able to retaliate against vulnerable airfields and ports."
Not all military experts believe Saddam will be able to tap his arsenal of chemical bombs, artillery shells and missile warheads.
Retired Air Force Col. John Warden, who from a Pentagon basement room helped design the 1991 air campaign against Iraqi forces, said getting Saddam on the run and isolated is pivotal.
"If things look that grim Hitler in the bunker I'm not sure that many people would follow his orders," Col. Warden said.
He said a key element of a war plan against Iraq is to persuade disaffected Iraqi military officers to turn on their dictator. The Washington Times reported last week that war planners are examining such a strategy.
"In the Gulf war, one mistake we made was seeing the war as a war against Iraq, as opposed to a war against Saddam," Col. Warden said. "When we allowed ourselves to think in that way, we made an enemy of the Iraqi military, rather than thinking at that time what would we need to get the Iraqi military to march on Baghdad. We attacked the Iraqi military and made it virtually impossible for them to do anything."
The first Bush administration limited the aims of the Gulf war to freeing Kuwait to hold together a larger international coalition. After the 1991 cease-fire, President George Bush urged the Iraqi people to rise up against Saddam. But the United States gave no military support, and Saddam brutally suppressed rebels in the north and south. Subsequently, Saddam's intensely loyal security forces put down several assassination attempts by military officers.
This time, Col. Warden said, a U.S.-inspired insurrection, plus air strikes on Saddam's security forces, and command and control stations, would be preferable to a land invasion.
Saddam agreed to U.N. weapons inspections after his defeat in 1991. But Baghdad has concealed a good portion of its military-industrial complex from inspectors, the last of whom left the country in 1998.
Based on U.N. reports, Iraq Watch estimates that Baghdad has scores of aerial bombs, munitions and missile warheads capable of delivering chemical weapons such as VX nerve gas. Evidence indicates there are 157 bombs and 25 missile warheads suitable for germ agents anthrax, aflotoxin and botulinum.
"We know that they built such things before the Gulf war, and we know not all of them have been found," said Gary Milhollin, director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, which includes Iraq Watch.
Although Iraq says it has destroyed all of its Scud ballistic missiles 93 were fired at Israel and allied countries in the 1991 Gulf war Iraq Watch believes the country may still have as many as 50.
The United States says there is no evidence Saddam used weapons of mass destruction during the Gulf war.
An Army officer who belongs to a unit that could be called into action against Iraq said planners expect Saddam to make some military move once a buildup begins.
"The concern is that Iraq has reasoned out what led to their demise during Desert Storm is that they sat by for six months and watched the United States build up combat power without wiping it out as soon as it began to build," the officer said. "How does the United States counter this? We build up combat power in phases."
The president has repeatedly threatened Saddam with military action, most recently in a commencement speech June 1 at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.
Mr. Bush spoke of "unbalanced dictators" with weapons of mass destruction who "can deliver those weapons on missiles or secretly provide them to terrorist allies."
"Our security will require all Americans to be forward-looking and resolute, to be ready for pre-preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives," he said.
The next week, Vice President Richard B. Cheney referred to Saddam's pursuit of nuclear weapons as "this gathering danger [that] requires the most careful, deliberate and decisive response by America and our allies."
Mr. Bush has not decided whether to order an attack. Planners at U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Persian Gulf, are working on war contingency plans.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide