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Iraq War Plans: Report from Qatar

March 26, 2003 at 12:00 AM EDT


TOM BEARDEN: Today central command in Doha is suffering through the same kind of sandstorm that coalition forces in Iraq were enduring yesterday. Despite the horrendous conditions here and there, central command continues to insist that operation Iraqi freedom is on schedule. Brigadier Gen. Vince Brooks, deputy director of command operations, led off with video clips designed to show off the accuracy of U.S. weapons systems. An air strike destroyed a military vehicle hiding under a bridge, without damaging the bridge. A headquarters building was obliterated, and before-and- after photos showed how selected buildings in an Iraqi intelligence headquarters were destroyed, a location Gen. Brooks said was just a block from a mosque, a school, and a prison. But reporters were more interested in finding out if one of those smart weapons had gone astray today and struck a market in Baghdad.

BRIG. GEN. VINCENT BROOKS: I’ve heard this report that you’re saying. It’s in the media right now. We don’t have a report that corroborates that, and so I can’t confirm it. What I can tell is, as I’ve shown you on a regular basis, we have a very, very deliberate process for targeting. It’s unlike any other targeting process in the world. It takes into account all science, it takes into account all capability, and we do everything physically and scientifically possible to be precise in our targeting and also to minimize secondary affects, whether it’s on people or structures.

KEVIN DUNN: General, the pictures from this morning’s bombing in Baghdad have already gone around the world, you’ve already seen them yourself. You must be able to give us some reaction to them and some knowledge, at least preliminary, of what happened, which bombs were dropped, and why it went wrong.

BRIG. GEN. VINCENT BROOKS: I honestly cannot. We don’t know that those were ours. We can’t say that we had anything to do with that at this point. Once we have more information, we will be on the record about anything that happens in that way.

REPORTER: If it wasn’t a coalition strike on the market, then what was it in Baghdad?

BRIG. GEN. VINCENT BROOKS: I just… I can’t say. I don’t know. And when we find out, we’ll try to determine. What I can tell you about our process, though, is if we have any concern that we may have had an error, and it’s a fair question about what happens when we have a mistake, and mistakes can occur. When we have something like that, we will go back and examine flight paths, weapons release, what the circumstances were, and try to determine whether or not we had an impact on something like that. Right now, we simply don’t know.

REPORTER: A few days ago, Gen. Franks stood here and said this was a platform for truth, not propaganda. To that end, when will you show us pictures of what happens when precision bombs don’t go where they’re supposed to, when they fail to hit their designated targets, or if they fail to go off at all. And will you also provide us with a running order for the effectiveness of these weapons, that is the numbers that succeed, the numbers that miss, and the ones that don’t go off. And if you don’t, doesn’t that expose you to the charge that this is more propaganda than truth?

BRIG. GEN. VINCENT BROOKS: Well, I can certainly assure you, having been up here each one of the days and each one of the briefings, that this is a platform for truth. We’ve got a wide open discussion with you on a daily basis. We have embedded media so that the truth does come out. And we believe we’re being very consistent with that.

PAUL HUNTER: So are you saying that you don’t have a single example on the video of a bomb hitting a wrong target or missing its target? And if you do have any, when will they be shown?

BRIG. GEN. VINCENT BROOKS: Again, what I’m showing you is our approach to precision and the effects that we’re achieving. Our effects do not achieve the level of perfection. That’s never happened in the history of warfare, and I’m certainly not going to try to tell you that that’s happened now. What I’ve show you here thus far is successful attacks. I don’t have images of unsuccessful attacks. And at some point in time perhaps we’ll show those in the future, but we’ll see in the coming days –

TOM BEARDEN: On the seventh day of war, some journalists have expressed growing dissatisfaction about the amount and the quality of the information being dispensed.

TOM FENTON: We’ve been getting terrific snapshots from our embedded correspondents, but we were told we would then get the big picture here from this podium, and instead we’ve been getting snapshot videos, big generalities, we’re on a timeline that doesn’t surprise me. Can you give us a little more of the big picture without telling us more than the Iraqis already know? For example, how many trucks are there towards Baghdad? Are there two? Are there multiple?

BRIG. GEN. VINCENT BROOKS: It’s a fair question. I will tell you this: First we have to preserve the security of operation. That’s our first priority. We’re going to do that. Operations are ongoing. We have forces that are ready throughout all of Iraq at this point. So if you were someone in the regime wondering where it’s going to come from, the answer is it’s going to come from everywhere. I won’t put specific terms on what unit. It’s just not prudent for us to do that.

TOM BEARDEN: Gen. Brooks insisted again, as CENTCOM briefers have done at every briefing since the war began, that their battle plan is working and that they have not experienced any real surprises on their march to Baghdad.