November 13, 1998
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: While diplomats in the U.N. and elsewhere launched last-minute efforts to stave off U.S. military action against Iraq, the U.S. buildup in the Gulf continued.
Already in place -- the aircraft carrier Eisenhower and 14 other ships and submarines with an arsenal of more than 250 cruise missiles -- also in the region -- more than 200 air force planes and about 23,500 military personnel. En route, more firepower: another carrier, the Enterprise; another 139 aircraft, including 6 b-1 bombers; 12 f-117 stealth fighters; and 12 b-52s; more Patriot missiles; and another 4,900 army soldiers as well as a Marine battalion.
For more on what may be ahead, we now go to General Merrill McPeak, who was Air Force chief of staff during the Gulf War; James Woolsey, director of Central Intelligence during President Clinton's first term; Rear Admiral Eugene Carroll, retired, deputy director of the Center for Defense Information; and John Pike, a military analyst for the Federation of American Scientists.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Thank you all for being with us. General McPeak, does it look to you like the U.S. is set on a course to begin bombing soon?
GENERAL MERRILL McPEAK, (Ret.), Former Air Force Chief of Staff: Yes, Elizabeth. It's hard for me to figure out how Saddam Hussein can crawl down off of this limb he's got himself out on. So I expect to see some action, probably starting as early as this weekend.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So you think it could begin that early, even though some of these forces aren't scheduled to arrive until say the 23rd or the 25th?
GENERAL MERRILL McPEAK: Well, essentially, the land-based air may be the last forces in. All the support is in place on the ground. On the Air Force side I'm talking about security police, medical support, that sort of thing is there already, and so all that's left is to fly the aircraft in. They will go in - most of them - non-stop, so their flying time away - twelve, thirteen hours from our East Coast bases - and they can be reconfigured and ready to go literally within minutes after they hit the ground. So, yes, there's plenty of time to get started on this, this weekend, if the President gives the go-ahead.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Adm. Carroll, do you agree with that?
REAR ADMIRAL EUGENE CARROLL, (Ret.), Center for Defense Information: If I'm the pilot of that F-16 who flew non-stop from the United States, I'm going to want a little time on the ground to regroup myself before I go out. I think that the first wave will probably be delayed for some period of time, perhaps as many as ten, twelve days. The commander in chief is leaving the United States and I suspect he wants to be the commander in chief on scene when this event takes place.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: John Pike, this weekend, more, more time?
JOHN PIKE, Federation of American Scientists: Well, I think that if you look at the deployment plans, the Enterprise carrier battle group doesn't arrive until around the 25th. The final deployment of the land-based aircraft also doesn't close until around the 25th. So I'd say that basically we're looking at the weekend after Thanksgiving unless Saddam Hussein does something provocative to try to get us to do something before that. But I think we've got about another 10 days.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Woolsey.
JAMES WOOLSEY, Former CIA Director: Well, whether it's within the next few days or I think John's right, more likely a week or so off, I think the important thing is that air power be used decisively. We need to get out of this business of shooting a few Cruise missiles at an empty building, or a small radar site or two in order to demonstrate resolve. We're past demonstrating resolve. We need to use air power in the Gulf in order to really affect the balance of power in Iraq or we need to stand down. But we need to stop talking loudly and carrying a flimsy stick.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: General McPeak, what do you think about that? What is the likely scenario that you see, the first targets, for example?
GENERAL MERRILL McPEAK: Well, Elizabeth, you may recall we're enforcing a no-fly zone in both the southern part of Iraq and in the North, leaving roughly a swath maybe 200 miles wide through the center of the country that is unpoliced. It's in this area that the Iraqis have rejuvenated their air defenses, and the first order of business will be to attack these revitalized air defense forces - the radar sites, the missile sites, and so forth. And they can be taken down any time. The Tomahawks, as you indicated in your setup piece, are already there. Some of the bomber aircraft coming in - the B-52's - can shoot air launch Cruise missiles; they'll be flying in armed, I assume. And I would remind you that at the beginning of Desert Storm we launched B-52's out of Barksdale. They flew all the way, participated in the first wave of attack with air launch Cruise missiles and turned around and went back to Louisiana. So that's why I say perhaps as early as this weekend. Of course, the other panelists are correct, it can stretch out to any length of time, whenever the President says go, but the earliest scenario would show attacks taking place this weekend.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And Admiral Carroll, what else can you tell about the potential targets from the manpower and the material being sent in?
REAR ADMIRAL EUGENE CARROLL: Well, I agree entirely with General McPeak that the first order of business is the air defense system. I think that that will be a robust and heavy first wave of Cruise missiles and aircraft, and then we want to be ready to start after the military elements support Saddam Hussein. His guards - ammunition depots - airfields, themselves, and very early on in the targeting we should be going after the suspected sites where they are working with chemical or nuclear elements that are prohibited by the present agreement.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: How's the intelligence, John Pike, on those sites?
JOHN PIKE: Well, I think that we have a very good understanding of the industrial facilities that Saddam Hussein could potentially use to reconstitute his chemical or biological weapons programs. Most of those have been monitored by UNSCOM over the last seven years. And it's precisely the fact that we can't monitor them now that's provoked this crisis. And I think that when they're talking about significantly degrading his ability to reconstitute, it's those dual use chemical weapons facilities. Obviously, the material that UNSCOM hasn't been able to find I don't think we're going to be able to target from the air.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you think the intelligence is that good?
JAMES WOOLSEY: Well, I think the large industrial facilities, as John said, are certainly worth hitting, but the problem is that a number of the things Saddam is doing, such as hiding the wherewithal, for example, to make bacteriological weapons, takes very little equipment and can be moved around very easily in trucks. Small facility or manufactured anthrax is about as complicated as a micro-brewery attached to a restaurant - indeed has some similarities to that. So, while one really can't think one's going to be able to target a large number of these weapons of mass destruction, you have really have to use air power in order to damage Saddam's regime's ability to control the country by going after the special security organizations, special Republican Guard, the Republican Guard, the Mocabarat and so forth.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. I want to be sure that we get into that, but has UNSCOM - have the U.N. weapons inspectors made available their intelligence about what they think exists where to the U.S. military?
JAMES WOOLSEY: I don't know the answer to that. The UNSCOM was a major beneficiary of intelligence from the United States and other countries who knew a good deal about Iraq. But it's reporting with respect to what it knows about targets and relations with the U.S. Government in the last years - I don't know.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you know anything about that?
JOHN PIKE: Well, obviously UNSCOM has been providing a lot of this information that has been provided by Iraq to participating governments, and the United States Government is one of them. UNSCOM has published a great deal of material about what they've discovered and so most of the targets that you're mainly concerned about are very well known and don't require any sort of intelligence collection.
|A phone call away|
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Admiral Carroll, how long might this go on?
REAR ADMIRAL EUGENE CARROLL: That is entirely in the hands of the commander in chief and the political situation. When we strike, we will initially have apparently some measure of support from the Muslim community, but the longer we continue, the more that will be weakened. I would think something between one and two weeks of rather strenuous air attacks, Cruise missile attacks, and then there will be a stand-down to pursue political resolutions.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Gen. McPeak, do you have anything to add to that?
GENERAL MERRILL McPEAK: I agree with Admiral Carroll, that's a very logical scenario. Thinking outside the box a little bit, once we get the air defenses suppressed, we really ought to work on our schedule, on our calendar, on our timetable. Taking the initiative away from Saddam Hussein ought to be the name of this game, and that would argue that we might want to prolong this bombing a modest, more reduced bombing campaign but over a longer period of time, perhaps take out the weapons sites, two or three a week, that kind of thing, so that we retain the initiative, and Saddam Hussein has our phone number. He can give us a phone call whenever he wants that to quit. But if we were to have the standard schoolbook solution - which is a very violent, brief campaign - when it stops, the initiative passes back to Saddam Hussein.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: All right. General, let's get into the questions that Mr. Woolsey has been raising about objectives. With what objective should all this be done, in your view?
GENERAL MERRILL MC PEAK: I'm not sure I can give the best answer there. It seems to me, though, that the world community has an interest in ensuring that there is a cost associated with this kind of behavior. Saddam Hussein agreed to have these sites inspected so that we would all know that he is not developing a capability to deliver - to produce and deliver munitions of mass destruction. Now, he's stalled, and obstructed this process, so the real question is: Should we impose a cost to this kind of behavior? And a coercive campaign of that sort, an air campaign, aimed at taking away from him, targets that he presumably holds some value for, is -- you know, that's one objective, is just to make sure there is a certain condign punishment.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And Mr. Woolsey, you want more than that.
JAMES WOOLSEY: Well, I think no one's really talking about using ground forces in the area. And American air power can do a lot. But it can't do everything that's necessary. I think this has to be embedded in an overall approach to weakening Saddam's regime. We should declare a government in exile. We should bring charges against him in international tribunals. We should set up not only a no-fly zone over the entire country, but no-drive zones for armored vehicles in the North and South. Protect the Kurds in the North and the Shia in the South if they choose to fight again from the air. There are a number of things that we can do that can make it much more difficult for him to exercise his power, his very dictatorial power over the whole country. And we haven't been doing that for seven and a half years. It's time to start.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Adm. Carroll, what do you think about that and also address the question of whether bombing might just not increase support for Saddam Hussein, given the history of bombing in World War II and Vietnam and elsewhere.
REAR ADMIRAL EUGENE CARROLL: That is a very definite risk. The history of bombardment - attacks upon nations has shown that the citizens - society comes together in resistance to the aggressors. But the big problem is that today Secretary of State Albright said emphatically that our objective had moved from containment of Saddam Hussein to taking him down. Now, taking down Saddam Hussein with no idea about what will follow in his place - likely chaos, anarchy - she said we will guarantee the territorial integrity of Iraq. And therein I see the great danger. It would be irony compounded to have to send ground troops in to defend the territorial integrity of Iraq if we succeed in unseating Saddam Hussein.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you have any response to that?
JAMES WOOLSEY: I think it's most unlikely that the only country in the region that has historically been a sworn enemy of Iraq and fought a long war with it, Iran, would try to conquer Iraq in these circumstances. I don't think we really need to talk about sending ground forces in to protect Iraq. The first thing to do is to see if we can make some kind of - take some kind of steps in order to weaken Saddam's - and his whole regime's control over that country, because they are the source of a lot of our problems and the world's problems with that part of the world. When he conquered Kuwait and was at the Saudi border in 1990, he was about a hundred miles away from controlling about half the world's oil supply. And he could be there again if we don't do something to see that he doesn't continue to rule the way he has.
|Where civilians live.|
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: John Pike, briefly on objectives, but then what about casualties? A lot of these sites are in Baghdad. A lot of people could get killed, right?
JOHN PIKE: Well, that's going to be particularly important to the extent that we're targeting his security apparatus, such as Jim previously mentioned, the special security organization. I think that it's going to be critical for us to go after those targets. They're the ones that have been acquiring this technology. They're the ones that have been concealing it from the United Nations. And they're the ones that basically shield Saddam Hussein from the Iraqi population. The problem is we know where those buildings are and we also know that they're in neighborhoods where civilians live. Fortunately, we're going to be using stealth bomber, I think, stealth fighter --
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: You've got some here.
JOHN PIKE: Stealth fighter, certainly. These are capable on a clear day without clouds of delivering --
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Show us which one is which --
JOHN PIKE: Well, basically the stealth fighter can deliver laser-guided bombs on a clear day with considerable precision. The stealth bomber hasn't been used in combat before. This is a radar system, has satellite guided bombs that can be delivered 24 hours a day. We're not talking about a World War II style campaign where you're simply burning down whole neighborhoods. You're talking about going after individual organizations and individual buildings, and that question is: are we just going to punch a couple of holes in the roofs, or are we going to physically destroy the organizations that are the basis of Saddam's power, and would be the basis of his ability to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction?
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: General, comment on that and any - I'd like to hear what you have to say also about the potential casualties.
GENERAL MERRILL MC PEAK: Well, we did a pretty good job in Desert Storm of protecting civilians from unnecessary collateral damage. We still killed a few, and even one is too many. But if you're going to be sorry for somebody, Elizabeth, I think you ought to start with those Iraqi young men in uniform who are manning the air defense system. They're sitting on the exact center of a bull's eye as we speak. And hundreds of them are likely to be killed in this process - people we have really no argument with. So there will be a lot of people die, many of them innocent, even though they're wearing uniforms.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: All right. Well, thank you all very much for being with us.