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Atkinson on the scuds

Q: What were the difficulties facing the military in finding the mobile SCUD launchers?

Atkinson: Well, Schwarzkopf and his planners knew that there were some 30 fixed sites that the Iraqis had prepared to shoot SCUDS. The difficulty was that the Iraqis never once used those fixed sites, these launching pads. Instead they used mobile trucks that hauled the SCUDS around, could set up in a matter of minutes, fire in a matter of minutes, take off again. We're talking about an area of western Iraq, which was the size basically of Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts put together, a pretty substantial chunk of territory. Trying to find those trucks out in a piece of territory that that's big at night, when you're prohibited basically from putting troops on the ground and you're relying on pilots flying at 500 knots overhead, simply proved to be impossible.

Q: Describe for me, what Schwarzkopf is saying in public statements about the SCUDS and what the reactions from the Israelis and the Pentagon are.

Atkinson: Well, there was an attempt to portray the Patriot missile defense system as being infallible. Schwarzkopf at one point said, we all know how effective the Patriot has been against SCUDs. It's been 100 percent effective. There have been 33 SCUDs fired, and 33 SCUDs destroyed. This was known within the Israeli Embassy and in Tel Aviv as the Patriot bullshit. The Israelis who had a number of Patriot missile batteries based in Israel, and had been studying very carefully the performance of the Patriot against the SCUD knew quite well that the Patriot wasn't everything that it was cracked up to be. That there were serious questions about the extent to which the SCUDs were in fact, being intercepted and destroyed. There were a number of conversations, many of them heated, back and forth between the Israelis and the Americans. The Israelis changed the procedure by which the Patriots were operated, and made them manual instead of automatic. It was a source of great friction almost throughout the course of the war, and a belief on the part of the Israelis that the Americans didn't fully understand the extent to which the Patriot's shortcomings were jeopardizing Israeli citizens.

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