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---------- Forwarded message ---------- ________________________________________________________________________ 10,000 would have died in U.S. attack, Pentagon says Almost entirely absent from the media this weekend is any discussion of how many Iraqis would have been killed by a U.S. aggression on Iraq. The Pentagon informed the President that in a "medium-case scenario," 10,000 Iraqis would have been killed by what was planned. The full story below. Ali Abunimah firstname.lastname@example.org ************* Clinton Advisers Split on Halting Attack By Bradley Graham Washington Post Staff Writer Monday, November 16, 1998; Page A1 President Clinton's decision on Saturday to abort planned airstrikes against Iraq came over the recommendations of some of his top national security advisers, who pressed to go ahead with the attack despite initial reports of an Iraqi offer to surrender to U.S. and United Nations demands, administration officials said yesterday. During a hurried debate Saturday morning, with less than an hour remaining before the first wave of an assault the Pentagon had estimated could result in 10,000 Iraqi dead, Clinton was told that uniquely favorable conditions favored U.S. military action. As time ran out, Clinton's decision hinged on whether to seize the moment, and perhaps be blamed for willfully ignoring a peace overture, or trust sketchy reports that Iraq was on the verge of giving in, officials said. Administration sources said that Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, favored an attack. The president's national security adviser, Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger, recommended suspending the strike, sources said. Vice President Gore also participated in the deliberations but sources would not confirm which position he took. U.S. officials said the argument to proceed with airstrikes was bolstered by signs that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would be taken by surprise, that international support for a firm response to Iraq seemed unusually strong and united, and that American forces, while still arriving in the Persian Gulf, were primed for attack. As the initial reports of Iraq's capitulation arrived via television news bulletins, Clinton and his team spent about half-an-hour deliberating over telephone lines before the president finally decided sometime after 8 a.m. to halt the attack, which had been scheduled to start at 9 a.m. Washington time, officials said. Clinton had been warned by the Pentagon that the attack plan would result in by far the most deadly military undertaking of his presidency, possibly killing 10,000 Iraqis. "That was the medium case scenario," one administration official said. A consensus had emerged by the middle of last week among the administration's top officials that the attack should be launched Saturday, although Clinton did not give the final go-ahead until Friday, according to several officials familiar with the planning. "There was a general consensus by then that all the warnings that we needed had been given," said a senior defense official. "Also, by going at that time, the level of surprise was still sufficient that we felt comfortable that we could achieve the intended results of the strike." While Saddam Hussein had begun to disperse some of his military forces in anticipation of an attack, U.S. officials had not seen the extent of movement that they had expected if the Iraqi leader thought airstrikes were imminent. Although the eleventh-hour timing of Iraq's retreat, offered in a letter to the United Nations, suggested Saddam Hussein may have been tipped off to the coming attack, U.S. officials said the Iraqi leader had given little sign earlier of realizing how near it was. "I think he thought that he had some days left," said the defense official. "Because there were still things there that we thought he would have tried to protect had he known we were coming." Also driving the case for striking sooner rather than later, officials said, were developments on the diplomatic front. The U.N. Security Council had been unanimous in its condemnation of Iraq's break with U.N. weapons inspections. Russia and France, which had expressed sympathy in the past for Iraq's chafing at eight years of U.N.-imposed economic sanctions, had made clear their frustration with the latest Iraqi defiance. So had the neighboring Persian Gulf states, which were joined by Egypt and Syria in a strong statement last week laying the blame squarely on Iraq for whatever military action might occur. "Things weren't ever going to line up much better for a military strike than they were," said one administration official who had favored proceeding with it on Saturday. Most of the extra military forces that Clinton had ordered to the gulf last week to double the U.S. firepower there had yet to arrive, but administration officials had been saying for days that the United States had sufficient aircraft and ships in the region to carry out a strike. Pentagon planners had prepared two strike plans, described by one high-ranking officer as "large" and "larger" in terms of the damage they would do. The smaller plan, which relied heavily on cruise missiles, was tailored to the U.S. force of about 180 aircraft and 23 ships that had been in the gulf before the crisis broke two weeks ago. The other plan was for the expanded force, which included B 52 and B-1 bombers, F-117 stealth fighter jets and a second aircraft carrier. The final plan that emerged, officials said yesterday, was a combination of the two. Although administration officials had considered striking hard for a day or so, then pausing to gauge Iraq's reaction before proceeding with further strikes, officials said this "strike-pause-strike" option was rejected early in the planning process in favor of what would have been a continuous series of raids over at least several days. Nonetheless, Clinton would have retained the ability to call off the attack any time after it began. In fact, one of the points made by those urging Clinton on Saturday to proceed with the attack was that he could allow the first day of strikes to occur while studying Iraq's last-minute offer, then end the military operation if the offer or subsequent ones proved acceptable. "The argument being made to go ahead was: how could we be sure Saddam's latest promise was not like the many previous ones that he's broken?" said one official. "Plans for the strike had been moving along at a good clip. It made sense at that point to hit him, then have him capitulate if that's what was going to happen." Albright argued that the initial offer from the Iraqis was "too little too late" and that Saddam Hussein had allowed the situation to go "one minute past midnight," an administration official said. But the prospect that many Iraqis might be killed as a result of a U.S. bombardment in the face of Iraq's apparent willingness to concede weighed heavily in favor of suspending the attack, officials said. They said Clinton was particularly concerned that carrying out attacks under the circumstances might have turned foreign opinion against the United States and undermined the support that Washington has carefully built up against Iraq. Clinton did not cancel the attack altogether on Saturday, but merely reset the countdown, delaying the first wave of strikes for about 24 hours, officials said yesterday. The delay allowed the United States and U.N. Security Council time to consider the Iraqi move. It also gave the Pentagon the time it needed for the complex task of rescheduling the closely synchronized series of missile strikes, aircraft bombing runs, electronic warfare measures, refueling flights and other actions involved in a major air attack operation. In the pre-dawn hours of Sunday, after Iraq had made clear it would resume cooperation with U.N. weapons inspections unconditionally, Clinton canceled the attack again, and administration officials began considering how to reverse the U.S. military buildup. -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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