- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 18, 2003

BAGHDAD Driving through Baghdad's streets, it's easy to speculate which buildings soon could be reduced to piles of smoking rubble by the precision and destructive power of American bombs.
There is Saddam Hussein's gaudy marble-and-glass palace in the Yarmouk district. One of about a dozen of Saddam's palaces in Baghdad, it features three massive bronze busts of the Iraqi leader on its roof.
On the city's east side is Olympic Committee headquarters, which is overseen by Saddam's son Odai. In the high-walled compound spiked with gun turrets is a prison where Odai is said to have beaten Iraqi soccer players who missed a scoring chance.
Then there is the 12-story concrete office building in central Baghdad of the Ministry of Military Industrialization, where Iraq's weapons programs are thought to be administered under Saddam's watchful eyes.
The Pentagon's target list is a secret held only by a few. But war plans leaked to the U.S. media in recent weeks speak of a blitzkrieg on Iraq of 3,000 precision-guided bombs and missiles in the first 48 hours of the air campaign 10 times the number of precision-guided weapons fired in the first two days of the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
The concentrated bombing of targets linked to Saddam, his security forces and his reputed weapons makers would pave the way for a ground attack on Baghdad to oust a shocked and reeling government, the reports say.
"The intensity and near simultaneity will cause a break in the enemy's will. The political and military leadership of Iraq will be made to feel impotent and entirely vulnerable," said Harlan Ullman, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and one of the authors in the mid-1990s of a tough first-strike concept called "shock and awe."
In a telephone interview from his Washington home, Mr. Ullman said he had no direct input into the Pentagon's war plans for Iraq.
But Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld was an early convert to "shock and awe," signing a letter to President Clinton with four other former defense chiefs in 1999 endorsing the idea as a way to wield U.S. firepower to win a war while deploying as few troops as possible.
The side effects of a military strategy aimed explicitly at traumatizing the Iraqi leadership into submission worry Baghdad residents, however. After more than three decades of autocratic rule, two devastating wars and 12 years of economic sanctions, the psychological fabric of this city of 5 million is already tattered.
"The ability of ordinary Iraqis to deal with a conflict is for the most part depleted," said Carel de Rooy, representative in Iraq for UNICEF, the United Nations children's agency.
As tensions build by the day, children are the most vulnerable. To cope with their fears about a potential war, some fantasize about brandishing weapons and stamping out evil like their favorite comic book heroes.
"My children crawl into my bed every night because they're scared. They say they want guns and want to be Superman and Batman so they can defend themselves," said a secondary-school teacher and mother of three children who earns the equivalent of $5 a month.
Then, too, state-run television airs footage daily of Israeli soldiers and tanks in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Iraqis draw the government's intended inference: If America is so interested in liberating Arabs, why not the Palestinians?
Amid these doubts about U.S. intentions and fears about what war will bring, many Baghdad residents cling to their city and its past with fierce pride.
Little wonder, for to call this city along the Tigris River "venerable" would be understatement. It was established about 2,800 years ago and became capital of the Islamic world after Arab fighters drove out the Persians in 762 A.D.
During a renaissance that preceded Europe's by more than 500 years, Baghdad's mathematicians discovered theories in algebra and calculus, while its literary salons translated Plato and Aristotle into Arabic and produced "Sinbad the Sailor" and other tales of "Thousand and One Nights."

Copyright © 2019 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