Along the Tracks

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

On Iraq, I hate to say I told you so, but ...

I know, I know, it sounds like bragging, but the truth is (as long as I'm posting stuff from my newspaper columns) I published this on July 24. I'd like to take a big helping of credit for it, but the fact of the matter is, all the information was public except for the bit about special forces movements - and that was probably easy to find out for any good reporter worth a pen and pad. Like I'm always, ALWAYS, saying: The big media elites have an agenda, and if the facts don't fit the agenda, they belittle them or ignore them. They don't want the GOP boost a war with Iraq will inevitably bring, so they've spent the past two months building up an opposition rather than telling you what is actually going on.

That is the one thing I am proud of: I give you the facts, which is, after all, my job.

Anyway, from the July 24, 2002 Leader Enterprise, my outline of the march to war with Iraq. You can check it against what has happened and see for yourself:

This observer is becoming convinced that, against conventional wisdom, the U.S. and her allies will attack Iraq in late September or October. The evidence I’ve found:
•Britain has scheduled a major call-up of reserves for the end of August and September.
•Major airfield revamping in Jordan will be completed by the end of August.
•Jordan has agreed to allow the U.S. to set up “defensive positions” in its territory, most likely for Patriot missile interceptors.
•The uncle of Jordan’s king recently met with Iraqi dissidents.
•The new U.S. command center in Qatar, Persian Gulf, is near completion.
•All the equipment for an entire armored division is now in storage in Qatar.
•A quiet buildup of American troops continues in Kuwait.
•Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz completed a successful mission to Turkey last week, gaining full support for action against Iraq from Turkish bases.
•The French government is now quietly on board for toppling Saddam Hussein.
•Due to rapidly increased production, our JDAM guided bomb supply will reach the levels necessary for an Iraqi campaign by mid-August.
•Russia has agreed to stabilize any oil disruptions which may occur in the coming war.
•Democrat Sen. Joe Biden, a supporter of action against Iraq, is speeding up his hearings on the subject; testimony from outside witnesses should be complete by mid-August.
•Some American special forces are being reassigned to odd locations this fall, and being told to keep their schedules clear for the next year.
These hints come from a variety of reputable sources in the press (and some personal sources). Taken together, they indicate action may be much closer than the January-March 2003 scenario most pundits are suggesting.
Here’s how I think things will play out:
•In mid- to late-August, British Prime Minister Tony Blair will lay out the evidence against Iraq concerning production of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism in general, and connections to al Qaeda in particular.
•At about the same time, administration officials will appear before Sen. Biden’s committee to lay out the case against Iraq in more detail, and give an overview of administration plans for a post-war Iraq.
•Bush will again call for Hussein to allow the immediate resumption of weapons inspections based on previous UN resolutions. Though not an ultimatum, the high-profile speech - possibly before the United Nations itself - will make the point clear.
•The White House will order a call-up of reserves in late August or early September. Troops will begin moving into Turkey and the buildup in Kuwait will be completed. The Jordanian “defensive positions,” placed primarily to protect Israel from a Scud attack, will be manned and ready.
•Shortly after the Sept. 11 anniversary, Predident Bush will address a joint session of congress, lay out the case against Iraq himself, and call for a declaration of war. Congress will debate for a week then overwhelmingly pass the declaration, with an ultimatum calling for Iraq to allow unconditional inspections within 24 hours.
•Shortly after the ultimatum deadline passes, special forces and bombers will hit Iraqi air defenses, communications, missile batteries, and weapons storage facilities. Several teams, coupled with Iraqi dissident fighters, will be on the scene just prior to the attack, hunting down Saddam himself.
•Special forces coupled with air power will operate for about a month, taking out as many weapons storage areas and Scud missile sites as possible. Iraqi Republican Guard troops will be subjected to extreme pressure, since they would be the most likely to obey any order to use chemical or biological weapons.
•During the air/special forces campaign, some troops will move from Kuwait into Shi’a areas of south Iraq and from Turkey into Kurdish areas in the north, both for closer staging and to protect those civilian populations.
•After a month of pounding Iraqi forces, about 200,000 troops will sweep in from the north, south and west (Jordan, which will allow a smaller force to stage from its territory) to mop any units still loyal to Saddam. Most of Iraq will be quickly pacified. However, some Republican Guard troops will remain holed up inside cities, and these will need to be uprooted with ground troops. This will be the most dangerous part of the war for American and allied soldiers, and it is possible they will face chemical attacks. Regardless, this “urban warfare” will take the rest of the year to complete, with substantial allied casualties.
•The lack of an Afghan-like “warlord” structure will force occupation of Iraq, maybe for two years or more, with at least 100,000 troops required.
•A general framework for transition to a democratic government in Iraq will be in place early next year. Bush will tout it in the next State of the Union address.

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