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Military Analysis by Dr. David McIntyre - 2003-04-09

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

And giving us some perspective now on what has transpired today is our military analyst, Dr. David McIntyre, a retired U.S. Army colonel.

Dr. McIntyre, the images coming out of Baghdad are compelling, but what actually happened today?

Why don't we go to our map of the city and we'll take a quick review of what actually happened on the ground. We saw over the last couple of days the United States marines drove up the side of the river on the eastern side. They seized a military airfield, and they moved to the west to link up with the Army units. Today we saw them moving around the east of the city in an attempt to encircle and cut off anybody who might be trying to flee or especially anybody who might want to come in.

On the other side, on the western side, we've seen over the last several days, units of the 101st Airborne Division that came in on the far flank, and then went to that airport that you will recall, the large international airport, and then moved off to make sure they owned Karbala as well.

In the center we had those heavy tank units from the 3rd Infantry Division. They also began moving around the city, to link up with the marines, moved in the south. And yesterday, the last thing we saw was the movement into the city.

Today most of the fighting was around some bridges here in the center. One of the big differences that's interesting to understand is that over on the eastern side of the city, this part over here, these really tend to be more Shiite concentrations, people who have really felt oppressed by Saddam, and the very poor side of the town.

Over on the other side of the city, remember, the wealthy part that we encountered yesterday, where the bombing was where Saddam was at a restaurant, these are the people that would be not as enthusiastic to see the U.S. forces coming into town.

If we could go to the next map, one of the things we might want to look at, that I think we'll find interesting, is in the future days, Iraq itself is somewhat divided up. Now, these are not pure boundaries, but it is generally true that in the center you see the Sunnis who have been roughly allied with Saddam. And in the south are the Shiites. And in the north are Shiite Kurds, with a few Shiites located around to the east of Baghdad. Now, those are not exact. People are distributed all over the country. But what you're going to see is that the result of the U.S. presence, the people's attitude is going to be reflected really by their ethnic background and whether they're the part of the 70 percent that felt oppressed or the 30 percent that has been part of Saddam's controlling mechanism.

In many ways, we're looking at artificial boundaries for Iraq. How difficult is it going to be to bring these three distinctive groups together in one uniform government?

I suspect we're going to find that it's very difficult, not just because they have differences between them, but because we have 24 years of oppression. And what we are going to have to do is establish the legitimacy. There has been a great deal of talk in the last day about what role will the U.N. play, and will we be able to make the follow-on government legitimate. That's important. But the real key is internal legitimacy.

How are we going to have trials if all of the judges have been contaminated by Saddam's regime for the last 24 years? How are we going to restore order if the police have been part of Saddam's police? So, how do you take a country that has been a part of a totalitarian regime and, in a rapid fashion, bring it to the point that it can rule itself? I don't know. This is going to be very difficult.

Now, the good news is we have a team of people ready to move in and begin working with local Iraqis on this issue. But it's going to be very difficult.

So, winning the war is just the first step in a long process. Let's go back and look at the war. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld today said there are still some very difficult days ahead. Where is the fighting continuing? And what do we have to look towards in the next few days?

We are going to have pockets of people who have been part of the regime who are now very much at a disadvantage as the country is turned over to the Iraqi people. And in fact, some of them are going to find their lives threatened. That traditionally happens when totalitarian regimes collapse. And so, just as in the last days of the Second World War we found pockets of Hitler's SS that resisted to the last, and even after some of the German people, some of them, were actually welcoming the Americans, most of them standing aside, some fought bitterly to the death. We will see that in Iraq. And that's why we have some bitter fighting days ahead of us.

Let's take a moment right now and look at the comparisons between this war and the first Persian Gulf War in 1991. Vice President Dick Cheney, who was Secretary of Defense at that time, spoke about that at the Pentagon today, especially about the use of air power. Here is what he had to say:

In Desert Storm, only 20 percent of our air-to-ground fighters could guide a laser-guided bomb to target. Today all of our air-to-ground fighters have that capability.

In Desert Storm, it usually took up to two days for target planners to get a photo of a target, confirm its coordinates, plan the mission, and deliver it to the bomber crew. Now we have near real-time imaging of targets, with photos and coordinates transmitted by e-mail to aircraft that are already in flight.

In Desert Storm, battalion, brigade and division commanders had to rely on maps and grease pencils and radio reports to track the movements of our forces. Today our commanders have a real-time display of our own forces on their computer screens.

In Desert Storm, we did not yet have the B-2. But that aircraft is now critical to our operations.

And the B-2 Bomber has played a large role. You heard the Vice President's comments. Do you see it the same way?

Oh, that's exactly right. This is going to be a very fascinating period for military historians and for those people who develop military doctrine as we look at the changes in this war. Now, to those just looking at tanks and airplanes flying by, they won't see a difference. But the way they have been used has been entirely different. We have not used the marines this way in the past.

The Air Force has been mostly focused on going what they call downtown, down to look at strategic targets, not so much in close-air support. Now they can precisely pick out individual tanks.

The Army has been very large and had to coordinate very tightly and move sort of as a city moving forward. Here they moved as independent units, protected only by the radio communications. Forces like the 101st Airborne units, in the past they have gone forward and the tanks have followed. This time the tanks went forward and the Airborne units cleaned up the past [path?]. A lot of changes in this war, largely driven by the information revolution. It's going to be interesting to see how it sorts out.

Many people here at home are beginning to think that the war is over, is it?

No. This is a very dangerous phase. As a young officer in Ranger school, one of the things I was first taught is that many people get killed going home. When they think the fighting is over and they relax, that's when you run into trouble. We've got problems with leaders. We are going to have problems with small criminal bands. We're going to have people that hold out to the very last. We are going to discover a lot of very bad things.

This is going to be like the last days of the Third Reich, where we uncovered torture chambers. There are going to be angry people there who want revenge on the people that amputated limbs and gouged out eyes. There is going to be a lot of disorder in the next few days, and we are going to have to work our way through it.

We have about 30 seconds left. You mentioned the looting. You mentioned the lawlessness. Whose job is it going to be to keep the peace among the civilians?

Well, the military will keep the peace to some extent. But it's going to be a difficult challenge. Remember, one of the characteristics of this war is we used far less force on the ground than in the past. That means there are not as many soldiers and military policemen on the ground now to maintain that order.

Ultimately, it is going to be the job of the Iraqi people to say enough is enough, it's time to rebuild our society. The trick is getting to that point as rapidly as possible.

Dr. David McIntyre, always fascinating to hear from you. Thank you so much for your perspective.

Good to be with you.