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Volume 18, Number 8, February 18, 2004
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The invasion of Iraq was not driven by the Weapons of Mass Destruction you imagine.
Iraq is the new battleground for the global war on terrorism.
Anti Terrorism Is the misunderstood Strategic War Goal
Tired of hearing about "Weapons of Mass Destruction" (WMD)? That Monty Pythonish phrase tumbles from the mouths of TV pundits so casually they could well be saying, "pass the jam, please"? If they only knew just how much this material represents a clear and present danger.
In the deep-thinking security-intelligence arena, among the real spooks, conversation in the context of the Iraq WMD debate is only done for sheepish chuckles. The secondary proliferation of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction is a realized disastrous breach of security having potentially catastrophic consequences.
When you think of WMD, don't just visualize mushrooms clouds. Imagine in a faraway place an event like an unexploded artillery round with a deadly nerve agent load inadvertently activated in a kids' soccer field. The kids are competing for the ball ferociously as watchers move close to the lines to see the play. The referees and coaches are on top of the play, doing their jobs. Parents cheer. The back-up players are off their bench and edging closer to the action. Suddenly everyone in a 50-meter area is collapsing without apparent reason, and in a few minutes, dead. A horrible, writhing, painful death. After the catastrophe, the grounds are toxic and uninhabitable. People nearby would develop long-term illness and disabilities resembling perhaps the infamous 'Gulf-War syndrome' or worse. This is what your politicians and military communicators are talking about, not global or nation killers. Unlike a bullet, a weapon of mass destruction is a thing that murders numerous people, en-masse, in a 'single shot'.
One bottle of this stuff, out of control, is a global crisis.
Can you see why your government would need to initiate or participate in even drastic action if it learned that a few jugs of that stuff along with its 'recipe' were out of control? Well, that is why some 40 countries agreed to invade Iraq.
A tactical nuclear, chemical, or biological attack against North America from the sovereign state of Iraq was no more likely than would be such an attack from Mars. Nobody suggested that possibility. Israel, on the other hand, was clearly at risk every day Saddam was at the helm in Baghdad. That situation was worsening by the minute as Saddam's regime came unglued. (Some analysts forecasted an attack on Israel--happening by now if Saddam had not been ousted--in a desperate move by Saddam to coalesce support and earn favour in the Arab world.)
Ill-informed media punditry has somehow stretched the meaning of WMD to something massive, which will never be found in Iraq, but in fact, a thing as small as a beer can full of VX oil could kill everyone in a large office tower or a major hockey arena. The real strategic concern about Iraq had more to do with controlling these types of matèriels.
'Imminent attack' was a valid concern in 2002-2003, not from the nation-state of Iraq, but more likely from a non-state which entity buys its weapons' ingredients through Baghdad.
In 2002, Iraq surely did possess modest stores of tactical WMD although to what extent may never be known because Syria and al Qaeda-affiliated entities now own plenty of what once belonged to Iraq that didn't get trashed by the U.S. and the U.N.
The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq failed to contain the secondary proliferation threat. It may have pre-empted the longer term threat but owing to a catastrophic failure in containment-security much of Iraq's in-country war toxins went missing. Surreptitious plans had already been made by Baghdad for what if any undelivered materials may have existed.
Syria could have been Iraq's pre-delivery in-transit storage location or hiding place. It would have gladly secured and kept for itself whatever transiting materials might have existed post war.
Among other of Iraq's neighbours, it's hard to imagine Iran being a participant in high-stakes weapons trade with Iraq, but anything is possible when the mutual hate-for-Israel card is played. Iran is a likely conduit for al-Qaeda-related buyers on the move.
Iraq would not have been ready to take delivery of chemical payload matèriel and the wherewithal in warhead technology for its extended-range missile programme until the missiles entered full production. They were in the incipient stages of something major, but slowed down by many events by the time the invasion of Iraq had begun. Close observation of Iraqi missile attacks at the outset of war, are telling. The comments from our sources close to the arms dealing world are also instructive. So too is history.
The Pre-War Intelligence Chatter
Syria has been on a buying and manufacturing spree for some years, building its missile capability and chemical weapon arsenal on the premise that it must maintain a strong deterrent to Israel's nuclear inventory -- more or less a mutually assured destruction scenario considering the nasty ingredients.
Syria's belief in self-protection against Israel's nuclear weaponry sounds reasonable when heard from the perspective of a Syrian strategist. Building fall-out shelters is hardly the answer, but offering a substantial retaliation is a proven, viable deterrent.
Syria keeps secret its missile-deliverable chemical weapons as much as does Israel make a secret of its nuclear weapons. Everyone knows and everyone denies.
What no one can deny is Syria's right to defend itself. It then must also be understood that Syria must arm itself commensurate with the perceived threat, at least within its means. Chemicals are by far cheaper than a nuclear programme. (In a forthcoming sidebar, we worry about jingoistic language aimed at Syria. A better alternative would be to bolster Syria's stability and encourage its prosperity. Albeit, our argument has some foibles.)
Behind the Chatter
The U.S. will most likely find some well-hidden stores of chemical tactical warhead stock and perhaps the incipient stages of a strategic arsenal, formerly comprising part of Iraq's concealed advanced-missile development programme, but not much more than that.
The world's awareness to Iraq's WMD will come as a surprise in the form of a terrorist attack using tabin, sarin, blistering agents or the like by some 'wing-nut' group of physycopaths, like Abu Musab Zarkawi's Ansar al-Islam, with a bent for bloody murder.
Pre-war intelligence suggested that Iraq's motive was to eventually arm its developmental longer-ranged (illegal under the U.N. resolutions pertaining to Iraq) missiles with a potent warhead.
It's a bizarre thing and somewhat hard to explain. Missiles among the leaders of the Middle East have the same mystique of the North Americans' 'auto-envy'. The race for the best missiles is like the American pre-occupation with bigger, better recreational vehicles. In the Middle East, one is judged by their missiles. Like the Americans with their cars, they can't afford them, but they buy them anyway.
The payload capability of Iraq's new-generation, short-to-medium ranged missile was light by modern standards. It had to have some bite to be worthwhile. Surely the Saddam Hussein regime could not be so stupid as to sink a fortune under duress into an illicit missile programme that lacked any effective punch. Therefore any snippet of intelligence information like data on dual-use mobile chem.-labs would have to be construed as an element connected to the missile programme.
Iraq's neighbour--and quasi-ally to some segments of the Iraqi regime--had done just that on a substantially larger scale. Syria bet its strategic security on an inexpensive missile/chemical package. It's the contemporary thinking in cheap strategic weapons throughout the Middle East. Throughout the entire world. In the alternative, if one has the money, a nuclear weapons programme is seen as the superior option no matter how the official line at the U.N. General Assembly might read. Look to Israel to see how that works.
Meanwhile, the United States and Britain were operating from nearby bases within range of these missiles. Now why do you think that Iraq was developing a somewhat extended-range missile with exactly the correct range to allow them the capability of exploding chemical rounds upon British and American watchdog air bases? (Both British and American forces in the Persian Gulf region were potentially sitting ducks for quite some time while politicians and diplomats attempted to short circuit the Iraqi programme by imposing a renewed weapons inspection regime. It was a cat and mouse game in the long run. Saddam may have won, but he lost everything in the win. Meanwhile if there is a lesson in that, it would be, don't play games with sociopaths, you'll never figure out the rules.)
Pre-War Iraq was a Bog of Slithery People Trading in Murder
It's hard to estimate just how many unsavoury deals for goods and favours traded between high levels in both Baghdad and Damascus in the six months of United Nations diplomatic machinations prior to "Operation Iraqi Freedom" nor in the years between 1998 and late 2004. Iraq had "opted-out" of the U.N. inspection regime and exploited like fiends the United Nation's "Oil for Food" programme.
The corrupt "Oil for Food" regime was exploited vigorously by Germany, France, Russia and many evil-players including Saddam Hussein within Iraq who collectively deprived ordinary Iraqi citizens in favour of lining their own collective and individual purses. There most certainly was technology help from the nations which have a long record of assisting Iraq in its weapons aspirations and nuclear technology goals. Cash and oil went everywhere.
Iraq was like a free-for all arms bazaar where anyone from anywhere could buy anything for cash and with "arrangements made" never pass through unfriendly customs upon leaving the country. It was a slippery bog filled with every kind of 'snake' and 'lizard'.
Armed traffic on the main route to Syria from Baghdad was as busy by night or day as any interstate or motorway even past the days when Baghdad fell. And don't forget the "secret" oil pipelines flowing black gold to Syria. What exactly was the currency of trade? Most of it was probably straight barter or cash through Syria involving some third party players it liased with, say TWR sources.
U.S. intelligence analysis about various clandestine meetings had to be difficult at best. The security intelligence grape vine was awash in snippets and theories but in the aftermath of the taking of Iraq, it seems that Saddam's government was in more of a mess than anyone fully realized and the environment for radical factions of his government making sinister alliances was riper than we thought.
The greatest mistake of the intelligence community was to try and make sense of something that didn't. It was chaotic at best. Many of Saddam's players were negotiating safe havens or personal greed dealings. It was so hard to make heads or tails of the conflicted intelligence that was emanating from the unseen chaos of a despotic regime in near collapse. There were some certainties. The most sought after commodity in the fray was U.S. cash dollars and military arms. There seemed to be plenty of both. Some dealers were seeking medicines and equipments as well as the usual commodities like smokes and food luxuries for the black market.
In the late 1990s, Iraq was again a powder keg , the most dangerous place to the planet. A desperate Saddam Hussein was losing grip of his so-called loyalists each of whom was empire building and quarreling over "Oil for Food" spoils
The once powerful "Butcher of Baghdad" likely knew little of what was really going on within his country. Only one of his two sons was to be relied on, the other was off building his own vicious empire and likely plotting the next coup.
Unrestrained civil war was not far off on the horizon. In the event, three or four factions would come to the fight, each perhaps as unwitting surrogates backed by someone else. Who? Who apart from the U.S. had substantial trade or security interests in the region? Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Germany, France, Iran and Russia?
U.S. Was Ready for War with Iraq for many Years
Remember that in the decade between Gulf War I and II , British and American forces were still in-theatre defending the Shiites and the Kurds in the respective Southern and Northern "No-Fly Zones" where Saddam's troops had already committed horrible atrocities to the inhabiting populations. Intelligence ran a lot deeper than some mutterings about "Weapons of Mass Destruction".
The best rationale for the U.S. invasion of Iraq is a strategic initiative needed to defend Americans from a leader who hated them and had the wherewithal to kill Americans via surrogates.
High alarm over the strategic implications of a war challenge on American soil when Al Qaeda attacked New York and Washington forced a new focus in strategic thinking.
What next? Considering that Saddam had a deep hatred for America; a deeper hatred for the Bush family; plenty of resources and plausible denial of any connection to any terrorist act that might result from his silent sponsorship, Iraq came first after Afghanistan.
Move Battlefield off Homeland to Another Shore
The U.S. strategy is quite impressive in its simplicity. The Bush administration would move the battlefields of this war that commenced in New York to another shore immediately; for the long term.
How could Mr. Bush explain to the world he wanted to move the battlefield to someone else's backyard? No way.
This war that had been waged against America for many years without much U.S. response-- (See The Wednesday Report TWR7v18.html .) would be confined as much as possible, offshore. Move the conflict from the streets of New York and shift it to manageable battlefields in Iraq.
Why Not Afghanistan as the War Theatre?
The Soviet experience is telling. The topography of Afghanistan favours guerilla operations. It favours the incumbent combatant. Losses were far too high for the Soviets to bear. They bailed for that reason. It wouldn't work for the U.S. either. It only takes a glance at a few history pages to see how and to understand why the U.S. has been unable to completely dominate the myriad of caves, mountain entrenchments and hidden-valley-Al-Quaeda-camps in Afghanistan. Moreover it shouldn't be hard to understand why the U.S. cannot capture Usama Bin Laden for the same reason. You could drop nuclear bombs all over the region and never put a scratch on this honorary terrorist gang leader.
In the recent history of Afghanistan the American experience has been no different than that of the Soviets. Huge forces with massive firepower and even ten-thousand-pounder-earthquake-bombs have done little more than rattle the teeth out of a few mountain goats in these humanly impassable mountains of solid granite. The fighters aligned with Usama Bin Laden were home in these hills. If the U.S. is to succeed, they had to be drawn out to fight on American terms. A Jihad somewhere else where the Americans could control its battle environment or where at least the playing field in terms of strategic geography was equalized. American military and technological superiority would raise the force multiplier substantially in favour of the U.S. forces.
Al Qaeda, now an enemy, was well known to the United States. They both had once a common interest in defeating the Soviet Union. Al Qaeda was born as the anti-Soviet resistance to the occupation of Afghanistan. The U.S. helped in those days wherever it could. The CIA learned plenty about Afghanistan and about Bin Laden's forces.
Many young Saudis, Pakistanis, Afghanis and above all Muslims, had planned a life-long career in the Al Qaeda, training and fighting Soviet troops for ten or more years. The ten-year long occupation and the abrupt Soviet departure left the Al Qaeda without a defining mission, without a militant future. It left Usama Bin Laden without a cause to feed his glory-quest and massive ego. Not very long after the Soviets left Afghanistan, the Al Qaeda's leadership pined for another cause; another Jihad to keep its fidgety troops occupied and to maintain its own existence. It drifted here and there making trouble for America and for Russia as well as numerous other nations to a lesser degree.
Armed Conflict Begins
On September 9, 2001 , Usama Bin Laden, titular head of the Al Qaeda terrorist network, had caused the assassination of 43-year-old Afghan freedom fighter, Ahmad Shah Masoud. This man was an effective nemesis to Usama Bin Laden's existence in Afghanistan. Masoud was leader of the feared Afghanistan Northern Alliance forces. With Masoud out of the way, Bin Laden felt he could act with greater immunity in Afghanistan. It is believed that the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan had pleaded for Bin Laden to remove this threat to their entire existence in exchange for enhanced sanctuary in Afghanistan.
On September 11, 2001 the war against the United States by global terrorist organizations came to U.S. home territory with a vengeance. Not since 1993 had there been such an attack on U.S. soil. The many years of spending the Cold War peace dividend were over.
By Sunday, September 16, 2001 it was clear the consequences were ghastly. America was in shock. The devastation of the non-military twin-tower World Trade Center target and the loss of some 3000 civilian lives and thousands more injuries and illnesses shocked the globe while good will poured in from everywhere, particularly Great Britain which itself suffered losses in the attack of greater than 500 civilian lives.
Amidst public speculation that either or both of Saddam Hussein and Usama Bin Laden were partly responsible, the U.S. President passionately vowed the act would not stand unavenged. The world urged restraint.
In short order the U.S. demanded Taliban leaders controlling ninety percent of Afghanistan cease their protection of Al Qaeda and hand over the Al Qaeda leadership with Usama Bin Laden who by this time had boasted of masterminding the attack.
The Taliban filibustered for the remainder of September and into November . Despite the skillful shuttle diplomacy brought by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, the Taliban leadership ignored U.S. ultimatums while the U.S. prepared for war and the world urged restraint.
On October 8th, 2001 (local time Afghanistan) U.S. bombers began delivering punishing attacks on Taliban Air Force Bases, fighter aircraft, air defence systems as well as other military assets and infrastructure including radar and communications facilities. The light from exploding ordnance during the night time raids which continued from that day could be seen for hundreds of miles by the Northern Alliance fighters in the mountains of Northern Afghanistan. Ironically, at the same time, other U.S. heavy aircraft, cleaned of weapons, were with regularity delivering thousands of tons of food supplies to the people of the Afghanistan rural regions who were already desperately enduring food shortages and in a state of near-crisis.
Encouraged by the U.S. military, ignited by a declaration of war from U.S. President George Bush, and given impressive air support by the U.S. Air Force, the extraordinarily brave and resourceful Afghanistan Northern Alliance --banded-together since 1994 by long-time Afghani freedom fighter Ahmad Shah Masoud-- gave the Al Qaeda-backed Afghan Taliban government a firm ouster and took back their country for the first time in more than two decades.
The beginning of the end for the Taliban came on November 9 when Uzbek warlord Gen Rashid Dostum with Northern Alliance fighters attacked and took back Mazar-i-Sharif from Taliban, Saudi and Pakistani (some of whom were allowed to flee by air back to Pakistan) fighters.
By early December every major city, including the capital Kabul fell to the Taliban's opposition with the help of U.S. Special Forces, Marines and Air Force.
On November 13, 2001 the Northern Alliance, with a few CIA and U.S. Special Forces mentors triumphantly walked amidst jubilant citizens into Kabul and soon opened the city to American, Canadian and United Nations Forces who quickly brought the city to order. A temporary government took form under the leadership of the globally popular Hamid Karzai, an exiled opposition politician who had skillfully negotiated the peaceful surrender of the key city of Kandahar, south of Kabul.
In the days and weeks that followed the same features of the Afghanistan landscape that frustrated Soviet troops also confounded American, British and Canadian forces. In raid after raid, Usama Bin Laden's Taliban and Al Qaeda leadership and many fighters escaped capture and continued to taunt Kabul and Washington.
Paralleling Tactical War in Afghanistan with Strategic War in Iraq
"Any nation that supports, hides, feeds, arms or acquiesces to terrorist activities..." etc.
It takes 'Mad Hatter'-mentality to argue that Iraq did not qualify under that criteria.
Surely the world would understand the need to unseat Saddam Hussein and bring democracy to Iraq. Perhaps the Bush administration underestimated or just didn't know about the importance to France, Germany and Russia of the long-lived and lucrative U.N. 'Oil-for-Food" programme. These nations had their hands deeply in the cookie jar but they could still jab with their elbows and did so at the U.N. Security Counsel.
Iraq was already unfinished business for America and Britain since way back when Saddam broke the 1991 ceasefire terms. Technically the condition was returned to an ignored state of war and American prestige in the region took a huge dive. The U.S. had promised the Shiites it would join them to overthrow the Hussein government. They should prepare the uprising. They did. They proceeded. The U.S. failed to keep its promise. The uprising was put down in a huge slaughter as the world watched with apparent indifference.
Surely the U.N. would accept the need to correct this wrong?
America and Britain had been given the U.N.-assigned role as Airborne cops to prevent further massacres. By 2003 the respective military commands were getting mighty peeved as they were still dodging what by then had become increasingly aggressive Iraqi anti-aircraft missile attacks. Cops do not like to be fired upon. They were supposedly conducting peacekeeping or enforcement missions for the United Nations in the U.N.-protected zones of the South and North of Iraq. Something was about to break. Why the world left the Brits and the Americans in place, forgotten, to protect the lives of the Shiites and the Kurds probably has something to do with the fact that Europe and North America were off on a figurative junket enjoying the enormous peace dividend of billions of dollars that no longer had to be spent on Cold War materiel post-1990. That perhaps might also explain why the U.S. failed to act in its own defence for some 8 years while Americans were murdered all over the globe by Al Qaeda. Washington was too busy spending its so-called peace dividend which it achieved by shutting down military bases, halving force levels, killing development projects, paying out more than half its Navy; decimating the CIA, the DIA the NIA and more.
Arguably the United States government had abandoned its self-defence focus once so strong in the Cold War to other interests despite urgent warnings of the intelligence community in the early to mid-1990s.
What did the U.S. do in response to those warnings?
It choked into silence the entire intel. community by sending it packing. Some of the best operatives the U.S. ever had are today and for the last ten years running 7-11 Stores, restaurants, private investigator agencies or working elsewhere in the private security sector.
In the Clinton 'peace-dividend' era the security intelligence services as well as the military were decimated, not just in size and capability but in mandate as well. The man, Clinton, widely assumed to be a Viet Nam draft-dodger, must have purely hated the military. He out more than half. Meanwhile the threat in all that time never changed.
That the Washington believed Iraq had significant NBC (Nuclear Biological and Chemical) Warfare capabilities from the outset of 1998, there is little doubt. All elements of the American invasion force in 2003 wore NBC protection gear and tens of thousands of personnel were inoculated against a potpourri of toxins. Wearing NBC gear is no frivolous precaution where daily temperatures rise above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. They had to be serious.
At theatre headquarters in Qatar, HQ personnel at more than one point early in the conflict actually feared they were coming under nuclear attack.
ABC News and CNN correspondents covering the conflict spent much of the early days diving for cover in their gas masks as Iraqi short(and perhaps medium)-ranged missiles crashed all around the Iraqi-Kuwait border. They soon shook it off and headed out full steam covering their assigned units into Baghdad in one of the quickest, cleanest military invasions in all history.
The self-appointed anti-terrorist lead-crusader, America is now installed in Iraq many thousands of miles from its home, drawing Al Quaeda-affiliated physycopaths and their followers to the fight like flies to a horse's rump. They come from all over the globe, even from Afghanistan. Probably led by Abu Musab al-Zarkawi, the most bloody-minded, murdering son-of-a-bitch one could ever imagine, but certainly under the watchful eyes and even remote-control of al Qaeda's Majlis Al Shura, al Qaeda is fully active in Iraq and acting against the 'coalition' in Iraq from Jordan, Iran and Syria.
A 'black programme' combining American's elitist of soldiers teamed with CIA actors are confronting and in some cases apprehending terrorists near the Iraq's borders, in other countries; raiding them in their safe houses, foiling their ambushes, confiscating their arms caches, imprisoning and interrogating many, in all arresting Al Qaeda and allied operatives in hordes.
Wincing at the low level of thinking in the U.S. media-promoted debate on Iraq, it is hard to imagine there are Americans bright enough to mastermind such ingenuity. If you listen only to the long-toothed elected officials on the electioneering war path, you would need to assume that most Americans are just plain stupid. That can't be true.
The U.S. is a nation whose peoples collectively went apoplectic a week ago over the possible destruction of moral fiber caused by Janet Jackson's right-side boob. What a ruckus. Paradoxically, the United States is the world's largest source of pornography. If CBS only knew what occurs in the jailor's interview rooms in Iraq using modern 'phsy-ops' and interrogation tactics.
Let's not take the American big-media-driven debate on 'weapons of mass destruction' seriously, considering from whence it comes. Consider instead we all sleep well, fat, happy and safe in North America, on account of a few men and women who lead this fight; who weep first and alone for every soul lost on faraway shores.
Micheal J. O'Brien
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Revised:May 17, 2004.
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