General Clark: "A Quick War, Then Lots o

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Posted by Tony from ( on Wednesday, October 09, 2002 at 4:05PM :

General Clark: "A Quick War, Then Lots of Trouble"
General Wesley Clark, US Army, Retired Los Angeles Times

My guess is that most of the fighting in Iraq will be over within two weeks. We may need to prepare 250,000 troops, but many of those won't even get into the fight. Actual combat troops might number 75,000 to 100,000.

We are going to go in with perhaps 1,000 air and missile strikes the first night. Ten or fewer of those may miss or misfire and strike Iraqi civilians. And there may be some military targets that have to be struck that are so close to civilian housing that some civilians are hit in so-called collateral damage. Nevertheless, there are unlikely to be that many Iraqi civilian losses initially.

I would not expect any American casualties in the initial strikes, and overall, depending on the intensity of the fighting, perhaps a few dozen casualties.

Now those are my best-scenario expectations. The assumption is that the Iraqis will not precipitate conflict, and that when the Iraqis experience that first night of strikes and see the strength of the attacks coming, resistance will melt away.

The white flags will come out. There will be such an awareness of the inevitability of defeat by overwhelming American power that as soon as the Iraqi soldiers realize there is more danger from the front than the rear, they will find the opportunity to surrender. Saddam's apparatus will come apart from the bottom up, from the outside in. Our greatest problem in the fighting is likely to be how to handle hundreds of thousands of deserting and surrendering soldiers who are armed and hungry.

But then, even under the most optimistic scenarios, the troubles are likely to begin. Food distribution will break down. Health care will break down. There will be violence and revenge in the streets as Saddam's secret police melt away. Despite our efforts to maintain order, there are likely to be uprisings, as in Basra at the end of the Gulf War. The popular violence will be widespread and targeted on those associated with Saddam's regime.

The high-end casualty assessment is that Saddam sees us coming as we're staging in Kuwait. He says, "I've never liked those Shiites anyway," and he unleashes on them all his biological and chemical stocks, such as anthrax by the truckload, south of the 33d parallel. When the Americans drive through on their way to Baghdad, we will ingest all that dust and it will present a high risk to us. But more importantly it will affect the Iraqi people. And Saddam will try to say we caused it.

Here we are talking about 12 to 14 million people at risk in southern Iraq. Even if we have our protective suits on, how are we going to take care of all the sick and dying?

Saddam may also try to use his few remaining Scuds to strike Israel. The Israelis will shoot back with their anti-missile systems. And we will also be attacking the Iraqis to neutralize the threat from the Scuds.

Still, there is always the possibility that a Scud loaded with anthrax spores might slip through and strike Israel. And in that event, say the Israelis, they would have to respond against Iraq. This is the recipe for tens of thousands of civilian casualties.

There is some risk of short-term instability in the Middle East. There may be popular riots early in the campaign. But if the war ends quickly, the impact will probably be minimal.

Last year, once people on the "Arab street" saw that American forces were successful in Afghanistan, they abandoned Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. Once they see that Saddam Hussein is a loser, they will abandon him just as well.

But there is a long-term risk from a devastating defeat of Saddam that is extremely dangerous - a deepening of the Arab sense of humiliation across the region. They will view the American and allied victory as a reimposition of colonialism.

This perception is not helped by those who say we can pay for the war by taking a million barrels of Iraqi oil a day. That kind of talk just confirms the mistaken idea that America is doing all this only for oil.

Another danger is that Iraq could become a battleground of fundamentalists. There is little our American soldiers can do to prevent this - it will depend on establishing quickly an effective Iraqi government.

This comment by the former supreme allied commander in Europe has been adapted from an interview conducted by Nathan Gardels for Los Angeles Times Syndicate International.

Posted 10/9/2002 10:09:31 AM

-- Tony
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