Monday, August 23, 2004

Omission or oversight?

August 23 2004
'Omission or oversight?'
PV Vivekanand

Tommy Franks, the retired American four-star general who commanded the war against Iraq, seems to have deliberately steering clear in his forthcoming book from a very sinister aspect of the American strategy in the campaign to topple Saddam Hussein — the US had "bought" the loyalty of many of the top commanders of Saddam's Republican Guards in order to win the war.
Instead, Franks' book, American Soldiers, cites an intelligence "coup" as the key that opened the door of Baghdad to the invading US forces; that Saddam was given misinformation on American military plans and thus he was not ready for the ground thrust from the south (he was expecting an assault from the north); hence his forces were not in place to engage the invaders in what could have turned out to be a ferocious battle.
The book says that prior to the war an American intelligence agent codenamed April Fool was approached by an Iraqi diplomat, and that, with Frank's knowledge, the American agent — April Fool — sold the Iraqi false "top secret" invasion plot.
According to Franks, "the story line we sold them went as follows: the coalition was planning to build up only a portion of its ground force in Kuwait, while preparing a major airborne assault into northern Iraq>'
As a result, Franks argues, Saddam focused on the north and left the south vulnerable.
Had Saddam been ready in the south and engaged the American invaders in battle there, the American forces would have taken heavy casualties, judging from Saddam's military defences and fortifications around Baghdad. There was no shortage of heavy guns and ammunitions, rockets and explosives that were shown in the television footage as the US military advanced unchallenged into the heart of Baghdad.
However, Franks very conveniently fails to mention in the book that American intelligence agents were in Baghdad ahead of the war (some of them posed themselves as pro-peace, anti-war "human shields") and contacted senior Republican Guards officers, according to sources closely familiar with the events of the war (Manorama reported it on April 13, 2003).
In the first days of the war that was launched on March 20, US warplanes bombed Republican Guard bases outside Baghdad for three consecutive nights in what was aimed to a massive show of force that would convince any military officer of the superior firepower of the US.
Subsequently, the undercover agents approached the Guards officers and influenced them into accepting that Iraq's defeat was inevitable in view of the massive firepower of the world's sole superpower, and then bribed them with cash, safe passage out of Iraq for them and their families and guaranteed resettlement elsewhere under new identities.
In early April, a few days before the fall of Baghdad, the officers and their families were airlifted out of the Iraqi capital in the darkness of the night. While some senior officers left behind instructions to their soldiers to abandon their posts, others left no instructions, and thus total confusion prevailed among the ranks. That explained the half-hearted defence of Baghdad put up by Saddam's soldiers for a few hours before they melted away into the civilian population between April 7 and April 9, 2003. Baghdad fell on Aug.9.
Why did Frank, who would have definitely known about the betrayal of the Iraqi generals, omit this particularly important piece of information from his book?
The reason is clear: For a career military officer like Franks, it is almost a disgrace to admit that his military victory was the result of enemy officers' betrayal of their country rather than the success of his own military strategy.
To reveal that the fall of Baghdad was achieved with only a handful of American casualties because Iraqi generals were bribed and taken away from the scene would be a big blow to the American commanders, including President George W Bush himself.