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Developments in Iraq with Dr. David McIntyre - 2003-04-09


VOA-TV’s David Borgida talks with Dr. David McIntyre of the ANSER Institute of Homeland Security, and a defense analyst, about the war in Iraq.

MR. BORGIDA
Now joining us, our military analyst, Dr. David McIntyre, a retired U.S. Army colonel. Colonel, it does appear that the street-to-street, house-to-house fighting is going to continue at least for the immediate future.

DR. MCINTYRE
Yes. We had hoped to stay out of this. The hope was that if you could catch the Republican Guard outside of Baghdad, hammer them hard enough and decapitate Saddam that you might have the regime essentially surrender. Unfortunately, it appears that's not going to be the case. Now this makes it very tough.

It is dangerous for the soldiers. You can see that the casualties are going up in the day-to-day fighting. But it's much more dangerous for the civilians, which is really the thing we were concerned about. It's not just saving soldiers’ lives. The Americans are very aware of the fact that these pictures are being broadcast around the world. And in some of these areas in particular, Saddam's forces have no love for the people who live there. They are ethnically different. And so to draw the Americans in and cause civilian casualties really gives them a double benefit.

MR. BORGIDA
It is one of those sad commentaries on the fog of war, too, that these words that the military often uses, collateral damage, so sadly applies to the civilians who are living inside Iraq.

DR. MCINTYRE
Right.

MR. BORGIDA
Let's pick up on that word you used, the decapitation issue, the attack on Saddam and the building where he and his sons were apparently meeting. It may well be some time before we ever find out what happened there. How important is it to find Saddam and deal with that?

DR. MCINTYRE
We may never find out what happened there. If you look at that hole, you put four 2,000-pound bombs in the same hole. I mean, there may be nothing -- there may not be teeth left. We may never know. But remember, we did not know, from 1945 until about 1992, that Adolf Hitler was dead. We didn't know that for sure, because the Russians had captured his remains and filed it all away in their archives. And until the Cold War was over, we didn't know that. It just didn't matter, however, because he lost control of his forces, people quit responding to him. The Americans and the allies occupied the territory. And people realized that the game was up. So, is it important to get rid of Saddam? It would be an enormously positive move if we could demonstrate that. But it isn't essential. What's essential is that we control the streets.

MR. BORGIDA
Well, let's talk about those streets. Let's look at our map of downtown and the environs of Baghdad for a moment and let us know what's going on.

DR. MCINTYRE
We had several things that happened in this last day or two. Just to orient us, out in the corner of that little loop of line is where the major civilian airfield is -- that was the 3rd Infantry Division, And over the last day, the marines down in the southeast corner seized a military airfield. We also have had American troops headed downtown into I think it is Sajud Palace and into the Republican Guard headquarters themselves, with troops on the ground there, and a number of U.S. troops crossing, seizing these bridges so that you can move laterally, and then troops still out around the airfield.

Now, two significant things that happened outside of town were the location of two things that we're still looking for specific reports on. And one of them was a finding of chemical training materials out to the south and east. And another one was out past the airfield, where there were a number of barrels found that people are reporting caused soldiers symptoms of chemicals. Both of these are being tested.

Downtown we had a number of strikes -- you heard those mentioned -- on the Information Ministry. And remember that the Information Ministry has several offices located right next to those hotels where some of the reporters were living. That's part of the reason that the strikes were so close.

And then out in this neighborhood, of course we had this air event, Mansour, where the aircraft put several bombs right on top of, we hope, where Saddam is living. There is still an attempt to seal off the city, to keep people from coming into it. And essentially, the U.S. has free rein of air over the city at this time.

MR. BORGIDA
Colonel, it's into three weeks now, this operation. You've studied warfare and tactics and so on. And you and I have talked about this off camera. What are the things that this coalition can say it has done well, in the next minute or so we have left, and what are the things that it has not done so well?

DR. MCINTYRE
It has been very adaptive, very adaptable. Nothing that I see these soldiers doing, nothing, is by the book. The number of soldiers we sent, the way they were organized, the way they are fighting, I can assure you, after 30 years as an armor officer, we never trained on using a tank in a city in a parking lot, and that's what we see them doing all the time. Ten years ago, in the first Gulf War, it took about 48 hours to get a target nominated, into the system, and put a bomb on that target. This target yesterday with Saddam was done in about 45 minutes. So, there is some tremendous adaptation.

Now, they have taken some risks. If I were going to say things not particularly well, I'm not sure that it's that they didn't do it well but the risks didn't work out. They took a risk in the northern part of the country, hoping that the most powerful division we own, the 4th Infantry Division, would be able to come in through Turkey. Turkey wouldn't allow that. We lost that risk.

MR. BORGIDA
On the ground, as we wind up, I just want to be sure to characterize this correctly, the level of resistance that forces are going to be encountering in downtown, in Baghdad, how would you assess that at this point?

DR. MCINTYRE
There are going to be sporadic gunfights. So, this is not a standup fight, where there is an enemy that you go after and you know exactly where he is located and he knows where you are located. This is more a matter of you may move for an hour or two and see nothing, and then you may have four or five machineguns fired at you from a civilian location, and return fire with that location. You've got to judge, should you use the main gun of the cannon, should you use the large machinegun, the small machinegun, just rifle fire? A very hard judgment for a soldier to make. We want to kill the enemy; we don't want to kill the civilians. This is tough fighting.

MR. BORGIDA
One judgment I have to make is that it's time for us to close for the moment. Dr. David McIntyre, thanks so much for your comments. We appreciate it.

DR. MCINTYRE
Good to be here with you.

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