Target Saddam Hussein
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MARGARET WARNER: For more on the opening salvo of Operation Iraqi Freedom and last night’s strike at the Iraqi leadership, we turn to retired colonel john warden, former air force deputy director for strategy, doctrine, and war fighting during the 1991 Gulf War. Retired army Col. W. Patrick Lang was a former Special Forces officer and defense attaché in the Middle East, and chief Middle East analyst for the defense intelligence agency during the ’91 conflict; retired Air Force Col. Sam Gardiner, who teaches military operations and planning and is a longtime consultant to the Defense Department; and Adeed Dawisha, born in Iraq, now an American citizen, a professor of political science at Miami University of Ohio. He’s written widely on the politics of the Middle East. Welcome, gentlemen.
This last 24 hours is nothing like what we were led to believe, the shock and awe bombing campaign we were led to believe we’d see. Put it together for us, Col. Warden, what are we seeing here? What’s the strategy?
COL. JOHN WARDEN: There are two general ways to go to war. You can do things serially sort of one thing at a time or you can do everything in a very compressed very parallel fashion which simply puts your enemy in an impossible position. We clearly have started this serially. That’s normally dangerous. However, in this case it looks like that there has been an estimate that these relatively small things may generate or may precipitate a general collapse, which then may allow the success without there having to be the large-scale attacks that would really be the lower-risk operations to conduct.
MARGARET WARNER: What would you add to that?
COL. W. PATRICK LANG: Well, the conclusion that seems to have been reached here that makes what Col. Warden says make a lot of sense is the fact that we obviously have information from inside the Iraqi military structure which indicates that the whole thing is starting to crumble, come apart at the seams. In that case, if you keep pushing on this wall that’s rotten at the feet it will very slowly, slowly start to tip. Maybe it will go down all at once with the kind of results that Mr. Rumsfeld is hoping for. If they have that evidence this is not a bad way to do it.
MARGARET WARNER: But how long do you pursue this strategy before you unleash, we also heard Sec. Rumsfeld saying this is going to be of a force and nature that has never been seen. He’s obviously trying to send a message to the Iraqi leadership.
COL. SAMUEL GARDINER: I think that’s a threat.
MARGARET WARNER: Yeah.
COL. SAMUEL GARDINER: I agree with them. I think what we saw today may be the beginning of the end. That I think that that attack last night was unexpected. We did, you know, it was an opportunity. The results of it look like it’s pretty good. We may have gotten him. We may have gotten some of the leadership. There are indications that it is falling apart. The ground operation has been accelerated. We own the port. We’re going to have Basra probably by the morning. Things are going much quicker than I think anybody had expected.
MARGARET WARNER: Prof. Dawisha, let’s talk about the opening attack which was the one last night on the place that at least intelligence sources are telling reporters it was believed Saddam Hussein and maybe even his sons were sleeping or staying. First of all, what did you make of the tape we saw of Saddam Hussein speaking? We just ran it again. Did it look like him to you?
ADEED DAWISHA: It did actually look very much like him to me. More importantly I think it sounded like him to me. He speaks with a very definite accent that is very much a Tikriti accent. He has an intonation in his voice that is very visible. I must admit I thought it was him. But maybe, who knows? If he has all these doubles, they probably can imitate his speech as well as his face. I thought it was Saddam Hussein.
MARGARET WARNER: And what… so if he survived even if he survived, what do you think the impact of a strike like that apparently the structure was all but demolished, would have on him, his inner circle, his sons, the whole leadership structure?
ADEED DAWISHA: Oh, I think the impact would be enormous. Consider the fact that he now thinks we have enough human intelligence in Iraq that we are able to pinpoint houses or bunkers or places where he or his sons or the top leadership may be staying at. The fact that we actually were able to pinpoint one of those and destroy them, you can imagine how he might feel tonight as he’s sleeping somewhere elsewhere – where he does not know whether we have intelligence that he’s sleeping over there. The whole point about this is to create a sense of confusion, a sense of fear that would in a sense impair their judgment. I think doing something like that will certainly expedite this kind of eventuality.
COL. W. PATRICK LANG: Prof. Dawisha is certainly more qualified to judge his accent than I am, but there was a certain clown- like aspect to the performance there last night which I found to be reflective of the fact that he was in a good deal of shock based on his performance there.
MARGARET WARNER: He certainly wasn’t the sort of cocky, defiant Saddam Hussein we saw earlier in the week.
COL. W. PATRICK LANG: That’s right. There are many examples in military history which I’m sure my colleagues could cite as well of commanders who have experienced near death at the beginning of an engagement and were so unhinged that they couldn’t perform at all from then on.
MARGARET WARNER: Now tell us – you’ve spent a lot of time in Baghdad during the Iran-Iraq war. Saddam Hussein was in power then. He takes extraordinary steps to maintain his personal security, doesn’t he?
COL. W. PATRICK LANG: Yes. He certainly does. You know, he has in mind to imitate such wonderful people as Josef Stalin and thought of himself particularly that way during the Iran-Iraq war. I spent the afternoon this afternoon on an international broadcast debating of a couple of Iraqi officials. They actually brought this up as a couple times that you’ll never get him, he’s our leader, he’s the symbol of our nation. He’s so well protected. There are all these circles of security around him.
MARGARET WARNER: Does he have doubles?
COL. W. PATRICK LANG: Oh, he has a number of doubles. I think that’s been pretty well established. He’s very careful. He has a number of identical vehicles — all of which are fitted out with the same kind of radios and the same signature. It’s difficult to pinpoint somebody like this but if we got lucky and I understand the analysis which led this attack came from my old outfit – the Defense Intelligence Agency – you know, if we got lucky and really hurt him like this, it will affect the outcome of the war.
MARGARET WARNER: Professor, back to you, of course we also heard Sec. Rumsfeld calling on the senior Iraqi leadership and the senior military leader to essentially abandon him. How likely do you think that is?
ADEED DAWISHA: Oh, I think it’s very likely. I go back to what has been said before. This whole notion by these Baathists that Saddam is loved and protected is absolute nonsense. Saddam is absolutely detested by everybody in Iraq except for maybe no more than eight or nine thousand men in his special Republican Guard who in a sense were participating or participants in the kind of atrocities that he has inflicted on the Iraqi people and therefore realize that their fate is intimately connected to his. So they’ll fight the Americans because if they don’t die at the hand of the Americans, they’ll die at the hand of the Iraqi people. Everybody else in Iraq detests Saddam. And my point has always been that one of the major problems that the Americans will have in Baghdad is not to defeat Saddam and his cronies but to actually protect him and his family — ironically enough from the wrath and the rage of the Iraqi people.
MARGARET WARNER: Col. Gardiner, is there any historical precedent for kind of wholesale, I guess we’re talking about mutiny except it’s on land. That’s from all of you what you’re saying, the U.S. administration is trying to encourage here. Has that ever happened?
COL. SAMUEL GARDINER: Well, Mussolini in Italy. You know, it was from the time there was a defense going on until he was hung by a light post was a very short time, so that that can happen very quickly. It’s very interesting. I remember a study done on Korea asking the question, when would that come apart? The answer was we won’t know because they won’t know. He won’t know that it’s happening. I mean, things like that happen so quickly that it will be beyond his knowing.
MARGARET WARNER: Col Warden, if it doesn’t happen within the inner circle and the only way to, quote, get Saddam is the sort of intelligence put together with air strikes, how likely do you think that is? I mean, just in terms of the efficacy of air strikes like that?
COL. JOHN WARDEN: Well, I think that really they’re probably pretty effective. One of the things we have to keep in mind is that getting an individual, specifically, can be a very, very difficult thing. I mean right here in Washington D.C. , it took two weeks to get a couple of guys wandering around. So this is a tough problem. However, this is sort of the beauty of what you can do from the air especially when you increase the scope of this thing, that you simply make it impossible for the guy to do anything even though that he may have survived. So even if he does survive, if things don’t fall apart the way I think we all are anticipating that they may fairly quickly, then we simply drive the state of paralysis and for certain it comes apart. If it doesn’t there’s no resistance in any of that.
COL. SAMUEL GARDINER: And the interesting thing about the development today is by limiting the strikes on Baghdad it’s clear that he is the objective. In ways….
MARGARET WARNER: In other words, you mean they’re hitting leadership targets, the lights are still on. The water is still working.
COL. SAMUEL GARDINER: The lights are still on, the water is still working, all the stuff we had worried about before. So it’s clear to the people around him that he’s the one the Americans are after.
COL. JOHN WARDEN: However,… and the however on this one is that I was a little bit surprised to see that Mr. Hussein could come up on the television. I think I would have been inclined to take that out because in today’s world, television is such a powerful medium and if you’re not up on the television, you may not be alive and therefore I may feel a lot better about going and doing something else.
MARGARET WARNER: Pat Lang, even there are reports on Iraqi radio, so the Iraqis are still controlling both state radio and state TV.
COL. W. PATRICK LANG: When I was on their international television program, they were complaining bitterly about supposed American air attacks on Iraqi television specifically designed to take this down. I was going to say that these two Iraqi officials I was talking to, they insisted that everyone was going to fight for Iraq and that the United States had no right to deprive them of their national identity and leader. And I told them, I said, you know, we’ve made it very, very clear that it isn’t the people of Iraq we’re interested in. We’re interested in eliminating this evil government. We’re not going to hurt Iraq in any way that we can avoid – and a number of iterations of this. Every time we would bring this up, their speeches that they gave became less and less shrill as though they were less convinced of it all the time. They were sitting there.
MARGARET WARNER: Let me bring the professor back in here. I know, Professor, you’re not a military person, but how do you interpret or what do you draw from Saddam Hussein’s response today? He came on TV but militarily there were some fairly ineffective, a couple of missile attacks sort of into Kuwait. There was a lot of anti-aircraft fire, of course, in Baghdad.
ADEED DAWISHA: You know, I’m convinced that Saddam and his people knew that the moment the war effort would begin their days will be numbered. You know, the thing that’s really interesting to me in the response of the Iraqis was the panicky statement that Uday, his son, put on Iraqi radio literally minutes after the attack, which screamed and shouted, “God save us from the evil doers and evil doings of the aggressors. God save our great leader from the aggressors” and so on. You can even almost feel the panic in a statement like that. I think that they knew very well. That’s why they spent so much time trying to come up with all kind of diplomatic maneuverings to prolong this as much as they could maybe into the summer. But they knew that the moment that the war effort began, their days will be numbered. I’m sure it will be.
MARGARET WARNER: Col. Gardiner, when we started these discussions a couple of nights ago we all talked about was Saddam’s strategy basically not to resist much but to draw the fight to Baghdad and ultimately have sort of urban assault or require the U.S. forces to get into urban conflict. How does what’s happened the last 48 hours or 24 hours, what does it suggest that the U.S. is trying to do to avoid that — I mean, other than trying to prompt a total collapse?
COL. SAMUEL GARDINER: I still that that has to unfold. I mean, I don’t think anybody expected the defense to take place at the Kuwaiti border. I think what we’re seeing is sort of what’s expected. The next line and the one that will be important is about halfway to Baghdad, which is where we suspect he has chemical weapons. And that could happen in the next couple days. If we see or we don’t see those, I mean, then we will really know to what extent the defense is going to be.
COL. W. PATRICK LANG: But you can see that the whole thing hangs on a kind of massive self-delusion.
COL. SAMUEL GARDINER: Surely.
COL. W. PATRICK LANG: That they do have the capability to resist us. If that starts to crack, you know, it will go.
COL. SAMUEL GARDINER: That’s why it was so important that the ground campaign went.
MARGARET WARNER: And we have to go. Thank you all four very much.