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[casi] NYT: Rumsfeld approved 50 strikes, each expected to kill 30 civilians

Citing interviews with war commander Lt. Gen. Mike Moseley,  the New York Times
reports "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."

Following is a comment from today's Boston Globe by James Carroll, followed by
the original NYT article.

Drew Hamre
Golden Valley, MN USA

Was the war necessary?

By James Carroll, 7/22/2003

WHY DOES the apparent suicide of David Kelly strike such a chord? The British
weapons expert found himself in the middle of the controversy over the
Bush-Blair hyping of the Saddam Hussein threat. Unsourced BBC reports, an
aggressive parliamentary interrogation, the stresses of weapons inspection, a
government's credibility in jeopardy, a rat's nest of deceptions - all of this
together could weigh too much on one man.

Though the private demons of any suicide remain mysterious forever, it seems
that being snagged into this dispute sparked an anguish in Dr. Kelly that he
could not bear. ''He told his wife he was taking a walk,'' an AP report said.
''A local farmer said Kelly smiled as he passed.'' Some hours later, early
Friday, he was found near a woods, his left wrist slashed.

Kelly gives a name and a face to the fact that the dispute over intelligence
manipulated to justify a ''preventive war'' is a matter of life and death. This
is not a mere question of politics anymore, another argument between liberals
and conservatives. When told of Kelly's death, Prime Minister Tony Blair called
it ''an absolutely terrible tragedy.'' But the burden that broke this man was,
at bottom, weight of the absolutely terrible question, Was the British-American
war against Iraq necessary?

Every person killed in that war - certainly including the young American
soldiers still dying by the day - represents ''an absolutely terrible tragedy.''
On the News Hour with Jim Lehrer, a daily honor roll is kept, with photographs
of dead Americans shown in silence. It has become a poignant and depressing
ritual, but in that silence, one also asks: And what of the Iraqi dead?

The coalition air war commander, Lieutenant General T. Michael Moseley, revealed
this weekend that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had to personally sign
off on any airstrike ''thought likely to result in deaths of more than 30
civilians,'' as The New York Times reported. ''More than 50 such strikes were
proposed, and all of them were approved.'' Moseley also revealed that the much
celebrated stealth attack on Hussein's bunker early in the war was a double
miss. Not only was there no Hussein; there was no bunker. Sorry about that.

One sees the traditional just war ethic at work: A necessary war can involve the
''collateral damage'' of civilian deaths - tragic, but acceptable. But was the
war necessary? That question defines the stakes in the dispute over the ways
George Bush and Tony Blair misrepresented the prospect of Saddam Hussein with
nuclear, biological, and chemical arms. When allied warplanes knowingly and
repeatedly attacked targets that would kill significant numbers of civilians,
only the urgent effort to prevent Hussein's mass-destructive and imminent
aggression could have justified such carnage. But now the proffered rationale of
necessity is being shown to have been false. The ''preventive war,'' as it turns
out, prevented nothing.

At a press conference in Japan the day after David Kelly's body was found, Tony
Blair was asked, ''Have you got blood on your hands, prime minister?'' Alas,
there is an ocean of blood on the hands of Tony Blair and George Bush. Whether
shown to be ''lying'' or not, they shunted aside the ambiguities and
uncertainties that characterized the prewar intelligence assessments of
Hussein's threat. And though, as I argued last week, there is a long tradition
of leaders manipulating intelligence estimates for their own preset purposes,
the act of war is in a special category. When disputed intelligence is the basis
of war, then the leader's reading of that intelligence had better be proven
true. Otherwise the just war argument from necessity fails.

No wonder the dispute won't die. The questions matter too much. No wonder polls
are shifting away from Bush. Citizens of the United States do not like to think
of themselves as wanton killers. No wonder American soldiers in Iraq are openly
expressing doubts. A democracy's first requirement of military discipline is the
army's belief in the moral necessity of its mission. No wonder, even, pressures
of the dispute may have driven one man to kill himself. The issue is mortal: Was
George Bush's new style ''preventive'' war just another war of aggression, after

Tony Blair was asked if he would resign, and at least one prominent Democrat
hurled the word impeachment at the president. But the political consequences of
this controversy begin to take second place to the moral, and even legal. The
traditional ethic declares that a war of aggression is inherently unjust and
that every civilian death caused by such a war is murder. More than 50 air
raids, each with more than 30 Iraqi civilian fatalities, each expressly approved
by Rumsfeld. Absolutely terrible tragedies, every one. And also - more evident
by the day - every one a war crime.

James Carroll's column appears regularly in the Globe.

This story ran on page A13 of the Boston Globe on 7/22/2003.

July 20, 2003
U.S. Attacked Iraqi Defenses Starting in 2002

LAS VEGAS, 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

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 assets.

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 known.

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:

¶New 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 missiles.

¶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

"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."

During 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 weapons.

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 aloft.

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.

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