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[casi] US Admits Starting War Against Iraq In 2002

July 20, 2003
U.S. Attacked Iraqi Defenses Starting in 2002
New York Times
        July 19  American air war commanders carried out a comprehensive plan
        to disrupt Iraq's military command and control system before the Iraq
        war, according to an internal briefing on the conflict by the senior
        allied air war commander.

Known as Southern Focus, the plan called
        for attacks on the network of fiber-optic cable that Saddam Hussein's
        government used to transmit military communications, as well as
        airstrikes on key command centers, radars and other important military

  The strikes, which were conducted from mid-2002 into the
        first few months of 2003, were justified publicly at the time as a
        reaction to Iraqi violations of a no-flight zone that the United States
        and Britain established in southern Iraq. But Lt. Gen. T. Michael
        Moseley, the chief allied war commander, said the attacks also laid the
        foundations for the military campaign against the Baghdad

Indeed, one reason it was possible for the allies to
        begin the ground campaign to topple Mr. Hussein without preceding it
        with an extensive array of airstrikes was that 606 bombs had been
        dropped on 391 carefully selected targets under the plan, General
        Moseley said.

"It provided a set of opportunities and options for
        General Franks," General Moseley said in an interview, referring to Gen.
        Tommy R. Franks, then head of the United States Central Command. While
        there were indications at the time that the United States was trying to
        weaken Iraqi air defenses in anticipation of a possible war, the scope
        and detailed planning that lay behind the effort were not generally

The disclosure of the plan is part of an assessment prepared
        by General Moseley on the lessons of the war with Iraq. General Moseley
        and a senior aide presented their assessments at an internal briefing
        for American and allied military officers at Nellis Air Force Base in
        Nevada on Thursday.

Among the disclosures provided in the internal
        briefings and in a later interview the General Moseley:

        information has shown that there was not a bunker in the Dora Farms area
        near Baghdad, where American intelligence initially believed Mr. Hussein
        was meeting with his aides. The site was attacked by F-117 stealth
        fighters and cruise missiles as the Bush administration sought to kill
        Mr. Hussein at the very onset of the war. Still, Iraqi leaders were
        believed to be in the Dora Farm area, General Moseley said.

Air war
        commanders were required to obtain the approval of Defense Secretary
        Donald L. Rumsfeld if any planned airstrike was thought likely to result
        in deaths of more than 30 civilians. More than 50 such strikes were
        proposed, and all of them were approved.

During the war, about 1,800
        allied aircraft conducted about 20,000 strikes. Of those, 15,800 were
        directed against Iraqi ground forces while some 1,400 struck the Iraqi
        Air Force, air bases or air defenses. About 1,800 airstrikes were
        directed against the Iraqi government and 800 at suspected hiding places
        and installations for illicit weapons, including surface-to-surface

Allied commanders say precision-guided weapons made up a
        greater percentage of the strikes than in any previous conflict. But the
        military experienced great difficulty in obtaining reliable battle
        damage assessment about attacks against Iraqi ground forces. There were
        also differences between Army and Air Force commanders about the best
        procedures for carrying out the strikes. As a result, airstrikes against
        Iraqi forces that fought the Army were not as effective as commanders
        would have liked.

The air campaign began as a response to the Iraqis,
        who deployed additional surface-to-air missiles and antiaircraft
        artillery south of Baghdad beginning in the late 1990's. Their maneuvers
        thickened the defense of the Iraqi capital. The air defense systems had
        the range to hit allied planes that were patrolling some portions of the
        southern no-flight zone.

 Gen. Charles Wald, General Moseley's
        predecessor as the top American air commander in the Middle East,
        proposed a major attack to disable the beefed-up Iraqi defenses in early
        2001. But the newly inaugurated Bush administration was not looking for
        a confrontation with Iraq at that time, and General Wald's
        recommendation was not approved.

After General Moseley assumed
        command toward the end of 2001, however, the American strategy began to
        change. General Moseley and General Franks believed that the American
        military needed a plan to weaken the Iraqi air defenses, initially
        because of the threat to the allied patrols and later to facilitate an

The first step was to use spy satellites, U-2 planes and
        reconnaissance drones to identify potential targets.

One major target
        was the network of fiber-optic cable that transmitted military
        communications between Baghdad and Basra and Baghdad and Nasiriya. The
        cables themselves were buried underground and impossible to locate. So
        the air war commanders focused on the "cable repeater stations," which
        relayed the signals. From June 2002 until the beginning of the Iraq war,
        the allies flew 21,736 sorties over southern Iraq and attacked 349
        targets, including the cable stations.

"We were able to figure out
        that we were getting ahead of this guy and we were breaking them up
        faster than he could fix them," General Moseley said of the fiber-optic
        cables. "So then we were able to push it up a little bit and effectively
        break up the fiber-optic backbone from Baghdad to the south."

        that period before the war, American officials said the strikes were
        necessary because the Iraqis were shooting more often at allied air
        patrols. In total, the Iraqis fired on allied aircraft 651 times during
        the operation. But General Moseley said it was possible that the Iraqi
        attacks increased because allied planes had stepped up their patrols
        over Iraq. "We became a little more aggressive based on them shooting
        more at us, which allowed us to respond more," he said. "Then the
        question is whether they were shooting at us because we were up there
        more. So there is a chicken and egg thing here."

The air campaign
        also provided an opportunity for American war commanders to try new
        military technologies and tactics.

One experiment involved arming
        Predator reconnaissance drones with Stinger antiaircraft missiles so
        they could engage in dogfights with Iraqi planes. A few months before
        the war, an Iraqi MIG-25 jet fighter fired two missiles at a Predator in
        one engagement and managed to shoot it down.

The remotely controlled
        Predator also fired two missiles before it was destroyed. It also
        transmitted video of the engagement. American officers were impressed
        that the Iraqi pilot was able to attack such a small target and did not
        turn away after he was fired upon.

As full-scale war approached, the
        air war commanders had five goals. They wanted to neutralize the ability
        of the Iraqi government to command its forces; to establish control of
        the airspace over Iraq; to provide air support for Special Operations
        forces, as well as for the Army and Marine forces that would advance
        toward Baghdad; and to neutralize Iraq's force of surface-to-surface
        missiles and suspected caches of biological and chemical

Once the war began, air war commanders adopted an aggressive
        posture to keep up the pace of the attack. Unarmed refueling tankers and
        radar planes flew into Iraqi airspace early on, and combat search and
        rescue teams set up bases inside the country. For the first three weeks
        of the air war, there were never fewer than 200 aircraft

According to the internal briefing, 73 personnel were rescued
        who would have died if they had not been extracted.

Problems in
        obtaining reliable bomb damage assessment, the fast pace of the Army
        advance and differences between the Army and the air war commanders
        about the best way to provide air support limited the effectiveness of
        the strikes carried out on behalf of the Army's V Corps, according to
        internal assessments.

Improving bomb damage assessment, coming to a
        common understanding with Army commanders about the best procedures for
        providing air support and increasing the capacity to provide digital
        information to aircraft on targets would improve the performance of air
        power in future conflicts, air war commanders say.

The American air
        campaign had a vulnerability that the Iraqis failed to exploit: a
        four-mile-long line of fuel trucks outside one Persian Gulf base. They
        were in a region in which Al Qaeda was believed to operate but they were
        never attacked.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

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