Have you noticed that the military has been strangely quiet (for once) regarding their chances of victory in Iraq? It's certainly quite different from the days of Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf squealing with glee over the ass-stompin' he gave Saddam back in '91. There are two reasons the current war has less bluff and bluster: 1) It's common knowledge the military is going to obliterate Baghdad--so why act insecure about it? The U.S. has more precision-guided bombs than Iraq has members of the Republican Guard. And 2) Bush already has enough trouble combating the image of being the world's biggest bully without the military bragging about how they have as many precision-guided bombs as Iraq has Republican Guard.
What follows is a partial list of "what we've got" vs. "what they've got"--you'll be hearing a lot about these military toys in the days to come. And while it's been said that Iraq's arsenal mainly consists of a bucket of rocks and a dirty pair of underwear that will soon be converted into a surrender flag, don't underestimate the other team just yet! Remember, the '91 Gulf War was all about Iraq keeping their hands on Kuwait--which, when push came to shove, was easy to give up. Now they'll be fighting for their lives. And while they may be outgunned, as any hunter knows, there's nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal backed into a corner.
WHAT WE GOT
TROOPS--According to Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as of last week, the number of U.S. forces hanging around the Iraqi border exceeded 225,000 and more were on the way. (This is roughly half the number of troops sent in '91.)
WHAT THEY GOT
TROOPS--At best estimation, the Iraqi armed forces are still the biggest in the region, with 375,000 in the army and 400,000 in reserves. Even if true, they remain in deep doo-doo thanks to a lack of technological know-how.
WHAT WE GOT
THE MOTHER OF ALL BOMBS--Forget what I said earlier about the military not tooting their own horn. The Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) is a 21,000-pound non-nuclear bomb that the Air Force tested last week in Florida. Unofficially, MOAB is an acronym for the "Mother of all bombs"; a teasing allusion to Saddam's famous quote where he referred to the Gulf War conflict as the "mother of all battles." Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made no bones about it; the MOAB test was designed to scare the shit out of Saddam. "The goal is to not have a war," he said. "there is an enormous incentive for Saddam Hussein to leave and spare the world a conflict." However, a hotel receptionist outside the Air Force test zone who noticed the effects of the MOAB blast when it rattled her windows, remained unimpressed. "It was kind of weak," she noted.
HUMAN SHIELDS--According to a senior defense department report from February, Saddam looooves putting human shields in so-called "no-strike areas." The official claims that Saddam has been moving ammunition supplies into bunkers next to civilian neighborhoods and schools since last year. They also claim the Iraqis built a mosque in the middle of an ammunition depot. Naturally, this is intended to dissuade coalition forces from bombing military equipment and troops--but it can work against them as well. In 1991, Saddam reportedly placed non-combatants (U.S. citizens, Kuwaitis, POWs) at military facilities to deter bombing, but when his actions created an international uproar, he let the captives go. See? Unlike Bush, Saddam understands the cost of bad publicity!
WHAT WE GOT
MICROWAVE AND LASERS--Okay, we got your electro-magnetic pulse emitter (or "E-bomb") capable of frying electronics without killing people. We also got your lasers, designed to disable weapon optics and blind opponents. (In 1995, Human Rights Watch asked for a ban on laser beams, labeling them as "unnecessarily cruel and injurious." As opposed to what? An AK-47?) But what many are calling the "technological trump card" is the Microwave Weapon, which is intended to knock out electrical supplies without causing unnecessary death--or so they say. According to a Jane's Defense Weekly report, not only could this weapon accidentally kill power to hospitals and schools, if turned up a notch too high it could cause "terrible burns as well as permanent brain damage." The microwave device is also being tested for use in crowd control, and when aimed at rioters makes "the water molecules just beneath the skin vibrate violently, creating an intense burning sensation." Again, however, if uncontrolled, problems could occur. An unnamed scientist in the report added, "All the fluid in their body cells would instantly vaporize into steam." Forgive me for saying this, but Aww, COOL!
WHAT THEY GOT
GUNS AND ROCKS--Laugh if you like, but rocks freaking hurt! And if you remember a little movie called Black Hawk Down, then you'll know what happens when a small technologically superior fighting force meets up with a thousand pissed off Somalis with guns and rocks. (P.S. It doesn't help that the highly sensitive equipment that America loves so much hates sand.)
WHAT WE GOT
PRECISION-GUIDED BOMBS--A simple President demands a simple plan, and here's the one they came up with: Bomb the ever-lovin' shit out of Baghdad. According to an ABC news interview with Ret. Gen. George Joulwan, "It's designed to really give a signal, right off the bat, that this is going to be lethaldevastatingand the intent is to destroy the will of the Iraqi army." Devastating is right! U.S. Defense department officials are banking on an outright assault of 3000 precision-guided bombs--with the help of Predator unmanned spy planes--doing the trick. (Just to put this in perspective, in the 1991 war, only 10 percent of bombs were satellite-guided. This year it's going to be 80 percent.) The problem with this plan is that it has to work. If not, the U.S. forces are going to come face to face with their worst nightmare
WHAT THEY GOT
URBAN WARFARE--Some military strategists are betting the "3000 bomb theory" won't get the job done, which means in order to take Baghdad, U.S. troops will be drawn into a bloody street fight. In that case, Iraq has pledged "thousands of suicide attackers" to step in, carrying small arms, anti-tank missiles, and if worse comes to worse, rocks. Though trained for urban warfare, U.S. troops cannot help but be ill-prepared for hand-to-hand combat in the narrow streets and dark alleys of Baghdad. On the website GlobalSecurity.org, military analyst Patrick Garrett says, "In the war games [U.S. troops] have been having 30 to 70% casualty rates, and they're going to be dealing with a force that's immeasurably stronger. I don't think they're trained for this kind of conflict."
If it comes down to this, let's hope Bush was wrong about that backlog of chemical weapons.