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The next few days

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Armstrong Williams

March 26, 2003

The next few days

The "shock and awe" has passed. Now comes the war of attrition.

Currently, allied tanks are massing on the perimeter of Baghdad. To date, the war has been dominated by psychological operations designed to scare the Iraqi forces into submission while our leaders pursue back-door negotiations to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

The shock and awe stunned the Iraqi leadership, but did not neuter it. And the early political goals of this campaign will necessarily recede in significance, as does our goal of winning the war in a manner that does not alienate the Iraqi people we're attempting to liberate.

Saddam has pulled his troops back to defend Baghdad, where his 1st Hammurabi division, al Nida Armored division and the 2nd Al Medina division have dug in. Urban warfare is chaos. Civilians will be massacred.

In the coming days, our soldiers and tanks will face a horrendous ground battle. U.S. prisoners may very well be strung out along the perimeter as human shields. Behind them all of the resources of the Iraqi government - likely, that means weapons of mass destruction.

Into this trap our soldiers now prepare to roll. Don't kid yourself. The bloodshed and carnage will be immense. Eventually, we will overwhelm the Republican Guard but, of course, that was never the question. The goal of this war was to remove a tyrannical dictator and to liberate the Iraqi people. The latter consideration has, to some degree, inhibited our forces. With mounting international condemnation for this war, we have had to scale back the level of force we employ.

As for eroding support for Saddam, it seems we missed a prime opportunity by not taking over the Iraqi airwaves. We let Iraqi leaders prattle away on air in hopes of gaining some valuable intelligence, but surely that time has passed. We need to cut off Saddam's propaganda and use the airwaves to create confusion amongst his soldiers.

We cannot be constrained by our fears of alienating the Iraqi people or of world opinion. If we have failed to convince the world that we are a just nation, then that is a shame and a burden that we will have to carry. Now is the time to focus on the battle for Baghdad. Urban warfare is a messy proposition. If we allow ourselves to be stymied by world opinion, many of our infantrymen and women will die.

We must remind ourselves why we are going to war and then move forward with absolute force. It is time to recall the brutality of Saddam's regime. This is a man who has gassed his own people. This is a man who, if you recall his speeches, wishes to be remembered for toppling America. Saddam is manufacturing biological and chemical weapons and is trying desperately to build a nuclear bomb. He nourishes hate and fanaticism hoping that terrorism of the Sept. 11 variety will continue to replicate throughout the world.

It is time to focus on these core issues because a good deal of carnage lies ahead.

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Clark: Quick victory 'not going to happen'

Central Command: Coalition 'certain of the outcome'

Wednesday, March 26, 2003 Posted: 10:38 AM EST (1538 GMT)

Retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark

(CNN) -- The scenario of a quick coalition victory in Iraq is "not going to happen," according to retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark, a CNN analyst and former NATO supreme allied commander.

"The simple fact is that the liberation didn't quite occur. They didn't uprise," Clark said Tuesday night.

Clark said that more than a quarter of coalition troops are "tied up in a messy fight in Basra."

British troops have gathered outside Basra after Iraqi paramilitary forces retreated into the southern Iraqi city.

An apparent local uprising began Tuesday, and the troops are prepared to assist civilians to attack the military regime once the scope and scale of the rebellion is determined, according to British military officials.

Clark said another significant portion of coalition troops are fighting in Nasiriya, where Marines seized a hospital on the third consecutive day of fighting. "We've got logistics problems," Clark said.

A U.S. official told CNN on Wednesday that the U.S. military may have underestimated the strength of the Saddam Fedayeen and other paramilitary groups operating in southern Iraq.

U.S. Central Command spokesman Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks said in a briefing Wednesday in Qatar that the resistance from Iraqis "doesn't change our timeline."

"We've never said that this would be an easy operation," Brooks said, adding that the coalition remained "certain of the outcome."

Clark said that Turkey's "failure to permit the 4th Infantry Division to go through was a significant problem, not an insignificant problem."

Turkey has allowed coalition forces to use its airspace but denied access to ground troops that were to move through the country into northern Iraq.

U.S. Central Command announced that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's command and control capabilities had been destroyed, along with the national television station, a key telecom vault and a group of buildings housing Baghdad Satellite Communications.

But just hours after the command report, local broadcast of the TV station resumed Wednesday.

Clark predicted before transmission resumed that it may take several attempts to knock the station off the air completely.

"It's probably redundant, so there's probably another set of mobile antennas that they will erect," Clark said. "They'll probably try to get a weakened signal back out, at least once or twice."

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David Limbaugh

March 26, 2003

Squaring expectations with reality

Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 307 points. Sure, the recent uptick had to level off at some point, but this dramatic drop, I think, is based on largely unwarranted concerns over the war.

In the first few days of the war we constantly heard of how immaculately our forces were performing. In a brilliant display of executive decisiveness and flexibility, President Bush, based on extraordinary intelligence data, authorized a strike against the bunker in which they believe Saddam Hussein and his two sons were sleeping at dawn Thursday.

Incredibly, despite all the hype leading up to it, the attack achieved the element of surprise. No one, including the Iraqis, thought we would launch our first strike at the onset of daylight.

From there, the good news just kept getting better. Further intelligence led us to believe that we either killed or severely injured Saddam and his sons, thereby critically damaging, if not s*****ng, the head of the Iraqi regime in the very first strike of the war. We were assured Iraqi troops were surrendering so fast that allied forces didn't have time to process them all. Ex-military TV commentators were delighted with the simultaneous military attack against remaining terrorists in Afghanistan. They were gushing over the Pentagon's decision to begin the ground war right off the bat. They were blown away by the deftness with which our troops were negotiating the difficult desert terrain in their unprecedented lightning advance toward Baghdad. They were crowing about our military's foresight in dispatching Navy Seals and other special forces to secure the oil fields to prevent a repeat of Saddam's Gulf War I scorched-earth torching of oil fields. Things couldn't have appeared much brighter for allied forces in those first few days.

Then, reality set in. Events unfolded that sobered us into the realization that this wasn't the video game some had apparently allowed themselves to believe it was and that instead of rolling over, many Iraqis were fighting back -- and fiercely, within their comparatively limited capabilities.

This resistance shouldn't have been regarded as a setback. No one should have anticipated an effortless war in the first place. Neither the administration nor the Pentagon had such expectations. Perhaps it was because of the way Iraq's ground forces were so solidly decimated 12 years ago. But after all, Saddam and his henchmen doubtlessly learned lessons from that war, including that his forces are no match for American troops in the open field. Only by adopting terrorist tactics like the terrorists they are -- hiding among civilians and often in civilian clothing, and violating rules of war by staging false surrenders -- would they have a chance to slow us down.

Perhaps the first wave of reality hit when "shock and awe" wasn't quite as spectacular as some had imagined it would be. The fireworks were dramatic, and the precision of the strikes was awe-inspiring, but life in Baghdad appeared to return to normal way too quickly. Iraqi command and control, though damaged and maybe headless, remained defiant. Much of the bombing thereafter, both in Baghdad and throughout Iraq, occurred out of the view of our excellent media camera coverage.

Next, we learned of the Muslim airborne ranger's grenade attack on his own American unit, the televised torment and humiliation of our soldiers who were captured by deceit, and friendly fire (patriot missile) casualties. These incidents, coupled with our embedded media now reporting on "surprise pockets of resistance" and some combat casualties seemed to cast a pall over our flawless progress of the first few days.

But there should be no such pall. Those with unrealistic expectations just need to come back down to earth. The administration and the military are doing a phenomenal job, and we should all be proud. But we should also give them a break, recognizing that while they're nearly supermen, they're not individually indestructible or bulletproof.

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