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Dale Brown’s Ops Report
April 2003
Copyright © 2003, TDPI


Pessimists, Optimists, Skeptics, Apologists, and Doomsayers: Pick a side

As we approached the commencement of hostilities against Iraq, I was struck by the pendulum of emotions and opinions—among many commentators, as well as my own—on what shape and form the war would take. I heard everything from a “cake-walk” to thousands of deaths by weapons of mass destruction to perhaps no war at all. Right up to the start of the war, government officials were still saying, “If this war should start…” as if the order to commence hostilities might never be issued.

I will admit that I was unsure about whether we needed to fight Iraq. If there is such a thing as “containment,” I believed we could achieve it against Iraq. There is no doubt in my mind that Saddam is an enemy to the United States and an instigator of hostilities in the Middle East—and that he instigates anti-American and anti-Israeli sentiment simply to bolster his own regime--but I do not feel that sending a quarter of a million troops to take down his regime was a priority for the United States. Skybird: Dale Brown’s Cameo Shot

Yet I understand an underlying necessity in an invasion of Iraq as well: the need to establish a foothold in the Persian Gulf, separate from any other nation, government, or regime. We found we cannot rely on our so-called “allies” in the region. My brother Jim is in Saudi Arabia right now, training the Saudi National Guard in armored warfare tactics, but for all we know Osama bin Laden could be hiding out right down the street from him.

Even more frightening, the danger of sending thousands of sailors and billions of dollars of military hardware through the Straits of Hormuz and into the Persian Gulf is getting greater and greater all the time. One nuclear-tipped anti-ship missile fired from one of dozens of locations in the Persian Gulf can kill three to four times the number that died in New York City, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

In essence, we are eradicating a sovereign nation’s government and seeking to replace it with one more favorable to our way of thinking, one that will not threaten us or our allies, and one in which we can send military forces in on our terms and influence events for thousands of miles in all directions. We would have Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia virtually surrounded; we’d be able to “reach out and touch” every Arab state in the Middle East. By controlling Iraqi oil, we’d be cutting OPEC off at the knees and influencing the very existence of some of the richest nations on Earth.

What an opportunity! What power! It’s a sure bet that most Arab government’s attitude towards the United States would change.

But if there is such a thing as an “American thing to do,” is this it? Are we turning into the bully of the world all of a sudden?

I think about the course we have undertaken, and I think about my son’s future in the wake of this strategic course of action. I look back at the courses of action taken by other Presidents, and I compare it to the one we have undertaken now. Which do I prefer? Which do I think will be better for my son, and his son, and his grandsons?

It has become clear to me now: I very much prefer taking the initiative rather than letting wackos, despots, fundamentalists, dictators, and moral weaklings make the decisions. Leaders like Saddam Hussein and the regimes they have created need to be eradicated. And only the United States has the power to do it.

When an American President steps up, accepts the responsibility for such a challenge, and puts his personal honor and the honor and future of the greatest nation on earth on the line to accomplish that goal, every American needs to decide: are you with him, or against him?

You can be neutral and not take a stand, but then you accept whatever world is created by the ones that do. It’s the same when you make the decision about whether or not to vote on Election Day: if you do or say nothing, or don’t cast your vote, then someone else’s voice becomes louder, and their vote counts more.

It’s OK to be against the President and against his decision to go to war. I don’t blame Michael Moore, Susan Sarandon, or any of the other Hollywood A-listers for using the podium given to them to express their views. Being against war is not un-American. I disagree with them, and I will exercise my freedom of choice and choose not to see a movie starring Susan Sarandon or produced by Michael Moore. But I will defend to the death their right to speak out.

I don’t even care if you’re against our soldiers. I wore a military uniform on a college campus at precisely the worse possible time—right at the end of the Vietnam War. I rode a Greyhound bus from State College, Pennsylvania to Sacramento, California, in a U.S. Air Force uniform, to report to my first duty assignment, and at every stop in that ten-day trek I had to watch my belongings, my wallet, and my person for attacks. Even worse, I wore U.S. Army Airborne jump wings, earned while I was in Air Force ROTC—that made me a snarling snake-eating brainless baby-killer.

I think the only thing that saved me was that most folks thought I was in the Coast Guard.

But this saying that “you’re against the war but support our troops” is incongruous and I don’t buy it. If you want our troops to come home and don’t want them to fight, say so. We have a volunteer military. Everyone in uniform is there because they want to be there. If you don’t want them to fight because you think the Commander-in-Chief is a cowboy or you think America shouldn’t be the hard-ass of planet Earth, just say so.

Our soldiers will not be offended. They will not fail to follow orders because Susan Sarandon doesn’t think they should.

What sticks in my craw are the protesters in cities like San Francisco or Chicago. You want a permit to protest in front of City Hall or the federal building—fine. But if you start breaking apart police barricades, disrupting traffic, and force the police and fire departments to mobilize to undo the damage and destruction you cause, you are not Americans—you are ANARCHISTS, and you deserve to go straight to jail. Marching down Lakeshore Boulevard in Chicago during rush hour when your permit says to gather in front of the federal building for two hours is not “civil disobedience”—it’s breaking the law.

We see two sides here. One side says “Let It Be:” let wackos like Saddam Hussein do what they want because he’s the leader of a sovereign nation; and the other side says, “Blast the sucker.” Which side do you choose? Which side would I choose?

Frankly, I was still undecided even after the fighting started. Even more surprising was the actual start of hostilities. Everyone was expecting “shock and awe,” but in reality the fighting started with a surgical strike that actually attempted—and may indeed have succeeded—in destroying the top Iraqi government and military leadership in the opening shots of the war. Could we really have killed Saddam Hussein on the first day of the war?

Hey, wait a minute! Americans don’t target political leaders! Isn’t there a Presidential directive against that?

In February 1976, Gerald Ford signed Executive Order 11905, which forbade any government employee from engaging in or conspiring to commit political assassination. It was tightened even further by the Carter administration with Executive Order 12036.

But following the deaths of U.S. Marines in Beirut in 1982, President Ronald Reagan created multi-department task forces to deal with and respond to terrorist threats. The task forces were expanded in 1984 following abductions of CIA and military officers to hunt down terrorists around the world. There is no doubt that political leaders have been targets of U.S. military action since: look at Muhammar Quaddafi, Manuel Noriega, and Saddam Hussein in several instances.

The bottom line: Executive Orders can and have been superceded by other Presidents, and it doesn’t have to be announced to Congress, the press, or the people. EO 11905 probably went away a long time ago.

Now that Operation Iraqi Freedom is underway, what do I think?

I have to couch my opinions with several caveats:

Obviously, the objectives of Iraqi Freedom are vastly different than Operation Desert Storm. Iraqi Freedom seeks the destruction of Saddam’s regime, the reduction of Iraq’s ability to threaten its neighbors, and the discovery and destruction of its weapons of mass destruction. Desert Storm’s simple goal was the removal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait. So the mission is different, and therefore the methodology must be different.

I am not a ground warfare expert. I know strategic bombing stuff; even so, what I know is what I see and read in the press or on the Internet, filtered and massaged by years of experience and even more years of research.

Also, by the time you read this (I’m writing this on Tuesday 25 March), the war could have shifted dramatically and all my observations could be instantly irrelevant.

But here goes:

To me, the ground war is lacking the one thing that could ensure its success: the air war. We seem to be concentrating aerial firepower in the northern cities of Mosul, Kirkuk, Tikrit, and increasingly Baghdad. In the meantime, we have three ground divisions moving up from Kuwait preparing to engage three to four Iraqi divisions, and the air war is virtually non-existent.

I don’t understand why our ground forces are engaging enemy ground forces at all. Why aren’t we pounding those Iraqi divisions into the sand long before our forces arrive? True, air power can’t take on the Feyadeen Saddam or Al-Quds irregular forces, or any Iraqi troops wearing American military uniforms or disguising themselves as civilians.

But I watched as a U.S. Marine company was pinned down by a handful of Iraqi infantry for several hours until the Marines brought in tanks to wipe out the Iraqis. Why wasn’t the line of march softened up first by bombers? Why weren’t Air Force A-10s or F-16s brought in to support the Marines? Even helicopters weren’t brought in, and it was a perfectly clear daylight battle. What’s going on?

Why are the British forces struggling to secure the Faw Peninsula, Um Qasr, and Basrah while the American forces are racing Patton-like to Baghdad? It seems to me that we should have concentrated all that firepower on taking and securing those key southern areas and port cities.

For some reason, “Shock And Awe” seems to have been scaled back, possibly to avoid civilian casualties or the appearance that we are seeking to hurt the Iraqi people. This is consistent with a campaign that seeks to remove one regime and replace it with another, hopefully putting the new regime in charge of something more than just piles of rubble.

We used air power very, very successfully in Afghanistan. For the first time in strategic air history, heavy bombers like the B-1, B-2, and B-52s launched from bases thousands of miles away without having pre-planned targets—the sorties were designed to get targeting information from ground forces and then attack. In addition, unmanned aerial vehicles were spotting targets for other air forces long before friendly forces entered the area.

But there seems to be very little evidence of a “softening-up” campaign in southern Iraq. Ground forces are using artillery for long-range bombardment, not heavy air or even very much tactical air power. Why?

Obviously, I don’t have the “big picture” spread out on my desk. But I was waiting to see “Shock And Awe”--not necessarily in Baghdad, where all the cameras were pointed, but in front of the Coalition divisions marching up from Kuwait. I wanted to see the entire horizon blasted into the sky, and I wanted to see our troops marching across nothing but charred sand and wreckage.

Instead, I see our troops bogged down by numerically and technologically inferior forces. I see our troops attacked from the rear. I see our forces engaged in artillery battles with Iraqi forces—in some cases, mortar battles across less than three miles of open desert. Artillery? Mortars? Are we in the twenty-first century, or the nineteenth century? Where are the A-10s? Where are the F-16s with laser-guided and GPS-guided weapons? Where are the cluster bombs, the fuel-air explosives, the 30-millimeter depleted uranium tank-buster shells? Where is the much-touted MOAB, the 21,000-pound Mother Of All Bombs?

I know that one M1A1 tank can cut down a three-story building in about three minutes. Instead, I watched four tanks surround a building and take a few pot-shots at it. What’s going on?

I want to see the Iraqis get pounded—and I think most Americans want that too. We’re relying on American technology and resources to win this battle quickly. Most Americans just want to see it over and done with. Yes, we may see some casualties, both American and civilian. But I feel that the best way to keep the casualty count low is to fight hard, fight tough, and fight relentlessly. We want to see Desert Storm Two—forty days of intense ‘round-the-clock bombardment, followed by a three-day ground war.

Obviously the end game will be different, and ground forces will need to take on a much more significant role than they did in 1991. But until the tanks start rolling into Baghdad, we should be using the force that gave us victory in Desert Storm, Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan—air power.

If I was super-cynical, and at the risk of angering a lot of loyal readers, I might speculate that perhaps the U.S. Central Command leadership wants our ground forces to drive the southern war. Perhaps this is necessary to free air assets to bomb targets in the north—or could it be that the ground forces want to get involved in a shooting war this time, rather than be virtually excluded from every conflict fought by the U.S. since Vietnam?

I can see the angry letters on their way—led by my brother, a major in the U.S. Army. But that’s the way I see it. The ground forces have made remarkable advances in just a few days—but I wonder how far they’d advance if we pounded their ingress routes beforehand?

A few other comments:

Why are we wasting ordnance on Saddam’s presidential palace, while Iraqi TV and radio stations continued to operate? I know the palaces are symbols of his power, but to me it’s a waste of six JDAMs. Let’s go after militarily important targets first.

We seem to be very, very sensitive to the prospect of civilian casualties. Again, this may be in response to the mission objectives, which is to replace Saddam’s regime with a friendly regime, so we need to win the hearts and minds of the people. But let’s not lose track of the military objectives first. There are relatively few Iraqi refugees fleeing Baghdad for the Jordanian border right now—is that because we’ve been too restrained on pummeling targets in Baghdad, or because we haven’t shut down the power generators, radio and TV, or telephone lines? If so, we need to rethink that strategy.

(As I write this, I’ve just seen that Iraqi TV, the main propaganda outlet, has been knocked off the air. Other TV stations, radio stations, and telephone services are still operating).

If hostiles run into a building with civilians inside, that’s too bad. If Iraqi soldiers use hospital to store weapons, ammunition, biochem protective gear, and even tanks—too bad. If the Iraqis park any more MiGs in cemeteries—too bad. Civilian locations can become enemy havens in an instant—we should treat them as enemy locations and deal with them accordingly.

Bottom line: I want to see more “Shock And Awe.” I know ground forces can create plenty of it, but I want to see it happen before our ground forces encounter the enemy. Send in the bombers! There are no Iraqi air forces to oppose us; send in the anti-radar shooters, the radar planes, the dumb bombs, and the MOABs.

The ground forces should be saving themselves for the ultimate battle, one in which air power won’t be very effective: the battle of Baghdad. Let the bombers and fighters in and soften up the ingress routes for you.

I hope all our forces stay safe, and I hope all my fellow citizens stay informed and aware.

See you in May! Updates and special newsletters will be sent if events warrant.

GBA, Dale Brown

Robert Gottlieb
Trident Media Group
(212) 262-4810

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