- The Washington Times - Monday, January 20, 2003

The Bush administration has been debating exactly how to justify an invasion of Iraq, with some officials demanding a "smoking gun" while others are saying Baghdad's persistent thwarting of arms inspectors is sufficient.
One senior U.S. official said a window being discussed for beginning the war is Feb. 21-28. At that point, the United States expects to have sufficient ground troops and strike aircraft in Turkey and the Persian Gulf region to mount a multifront attack. No final decision has been made, the official said.
A three-star general said, "It would be criminal to wait until summer." He was referring to the region's blistering summers, which would put extra physical stress on combat troops.
The administration and military officials also are finalizing a list of targets for the air campaign that would start a war. Officials said in interviews that some State Department officials argue for a "constrained" target list, while some commanders want a more robust one. Whichever side prevails, the air-war phase will not be as broad-based or long-lasting as Desert Storm in 1991.
Officials say President Bush has not made a final decision to go to war. But they say an invasion seems more likely as Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein fails to account for prohibited weapons of mass destruction, as U.N. Resolution 1441 demands.
The White House said last week there is no "specific timetable" for when ongoing U.N. inspections should end. But Mr. Bush said later that "time is running out" for Saddam to comply with a series of U.N. resolutions that compel him to disclose components for nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.
Officials said the debate generally can be divided into two camps. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, among others, are said to favor declaring Iraq in continued violation because Saddam has failed to disclose his weapons arsenal as required by Resolution 1441.
In an interview yesterday on "Fox News Sunday" Mr. Rumsfeld said: "The test is, is Saddam Hussein cooperating or is he not cooperating? That is what ought to be measured. That's what the U.N. asked for. That's what the U.N. said. 'File a correct declaration, open things up, show the world what you have
"He's not doing that," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "And if the test is, are the Iraqis going to cooperate? That's something you're going to know in a matter of weeks, not in months or years.
"You could spend years and years roaming around a country that size trying to find underground tunnels and see where he's located them," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
On NBC's "Meet the Press" yesterday, Miss Rice said such a long wait was not an option.
"We do not have the luxury of allowing Saddam Hussein to drag the international community again through the kind of charade that he did for the last 12 years," she said.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell is said to favor a "smoking gun" inspectors finding a hidden cache of prohibited weapons that clearly demonstrates Saddam is defying the United Nations.
In an interview yesterday on CNN's "Late Edition," Mr. Powell spoke of last week's discovery of a cache of empty chemical warheads in those terms.
"This is the kind of weapon that Iraq says it no longer has. And yet there it is. Now whether that constitutes one person's smoking gun or it's another person's smoking gun, I think it contributes to a body of evidence that suggests Iraq is not disarming and is not cooperating" with U.N. inspectors, he said.
Officials said the Rice-Rumsfeld view appears to be winning inside the administration.
Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters last week that finding a "smoking gun" may hinge on the inspection team being able to escort Iraqi scientists and their families out of the country for questioning.
"In the event that information like something approximating a smoking gun is to be found, it will, I suspect, be via that route," he said.
Gary Milhollin, director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, said the United States may be withholding intelligence on weapons sites so they can be bombed in a war.
"The need for political support in the world and at home is more weighty than the need to conceal targeting information. So if we have specific information about what's being built and hidden where, I think we have to put it out before we go to war," Mr. Milhollin said. "But I'm uncertain that we have it."
On the air campaign, officials said the administration had yet to agree on a final set of targets. For example, there is a debate on whether to take down electric power, as was done in 1991.
"We ought to leave the lights on so every Iraqi knows the war is against Saddam, not against the people," said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney, a former fighter pilot. "Go after regime-change targets, weapons of mass destruction, palaces, those troops that choose to fight."
He added: "In some cases you don't want to knock out all communications. There's a value to leaving certain communications open."
Gen. McInerney said the war against Iraq already has begun in the form of stepped-up air strikes in the no-fly zone south of Baghdad.
"The air war began five months ago," he said.
British and U.S. pilots are not only striking air-defense batteries that threaten them, but also command posts and relay stations that make the entire network function.
"This is a network that's throughout the country that connects the early warning radars in the south and their capability to engage in the south with anti-aircraft fire or with missiles that might deploy down there," said Gen. Richard B. Myers, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman. "It connects all that, and so [air strikes] would have an effect on it. And we think it has, actually."
In what is almost a daily announcement, U.S. Central Command yesterday reported another bombing.
It said American and British planes attacked eight unmanned sites that are part of Iraq's air defense command-and-control system.
If there is war, the plan calls for an intensive round of air strikes likely lasting less than 10 days before heavy forces invade from Kuwait and the north.
The United States would fly forces inside Iraq to set up forward operating bases and quickly control pockets around the country. In the west, troops would be sent in possibly from Jordan to stop any attempt by Baghdad to fire Scud ballistic missiles into Israel.
Ellen Sorokin contributed to this report.


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