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SKYBIRD:
Dale Brown’s Ops Report
Copyright © 2003, TDPI

SITUATION REPORT: Are we failing in Iraq?

My youngest brother Jim is back in the Middle East, stationed in Baghdad for another six to twelve months. His previous assignment was as an adviser to the Saudi Arabian National Guard on armored tactics, a one year unaccompanied assignment in Riyadh.

I was not there for his farewell, but I was told that it was one of the most crushingly sad and heartbreaking events imaginable. It was especially hard on my brother’s eight year-old son, who hadn’t seen his father in six months and likely wasn’t going to see him again for at least another six months, maybe longer, after being with him only three weeks between assignments. Yet this scenario is not atypical: I have heard of family separations for even longer periods of time, some even involving Reserve and National Guard troops—supposedly “weekend warriors.”

AirBattleForce.com Skybird: Dale Brown’s Cameo Shot Like many fellow Americans, I have a personal interest in seeing our soldiers come home safely. I cringe and reach for a phone or get online every time I hear about casualties in Iraq. Although my brother is an information officer, he frequently goes on patrols and attends many meetings with Iraqi local government and religious leaders, where he is often surrounded by strangers with guns. He drives to and from these meetings on roads and highways that have been booby-trapped in the past, and he has stopped counting the times his vehicles have been shot at. The “tink tink tink” sounds he hears outside his Humvee are not rocks or bugs.

He just keeps the windows rolled up in the 110 degree-plus heat, drives a little faster, and keeps his head on a swivel looking for danger as he heads back to base. Guys like Jim don’t talk about it much, but the thought of the “magic BB,” the one with your name on it, must be racing through his mind at times like that.

And when he gets in, he points out the new pockmarks in his vehicle to the guys in the motor pool, gets some chow, cleans his weapons to relax, then gets on my satellite phone I let him have while he’s in-country and talks to his wife and kids and tells them how much he loves them, again and again.

Do I want our troops home soonest? You’re damned right I do.

I was not a solid supporter of this operation in Iraq. As I have said before: if there is any such thing as true “containment” in this world, I believe we had Saddam Hussein fairly well contained. We were overflying two-thirds of his nation on a daily basis with armed warplanes, and before the war started we were overflying his ENTIRE country with sophisticated spy planes. We were buying almost ONE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS worth of Iraqi oil PER DAY. The Kurds in the north enjoyed virtual freedom from Saddam’s tyranny.

Why did we need to upset this situation? I believe that the operation to topple Saddam drew resources away from our hunt for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Patrolling the No Fly Zones over Iraq cost several hundred million dollars a month, but it was chump change compared to the cost of this Iraqi operation. Most importantly, my brother was not in Iraq. He was not totally out of danger—his unit was one of the units in Riyadh targeted by terrorists recently, but he was (arguably) much safer then than now.

What changed?

It was more than just the September 11, 2001 attacks—it was a fundamental shift in the way our political leaders viewed our position in the world. For years, it seemed as if the inmates were running the asylum. We had numerous warnings—the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, the World Trade Center bombing, the foiled assassination attempt of President Bush in Saudi Arabia, the bombings at our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, Saddam offering gifts to the families of suicide bombers in Israel, the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, and the almost daily attacks against Coalition aircraft patrolling the No-Fly Zones.

In the 1990s, we did nothing about any of these attacks except conduct investigations, perform long-range cruise missile raids—and, yes, call for United Nations peacekeepers and monitors. To previous administrations, getting involved in the confusing and convoluted political, sociological, religious, and cultural swamps of Africa and the Middle East was a completely no-win situation. Prior to 9/11, we believe America was invincible and isolated from any real danger; any success terrorists might have was either luck or so limited in scope or duration as to barely register a blip on the nation’s warning screens.

So while America was mesmerized by a growing economy, a balanced budget, and the latest scandal to come out of the White House, the terrorists grew stronger and stronger. We watched and did little while the Intifada exploded, Saddam grew more and more bold, and more and more money from our Arab “allies” poured into Muslim madrasas and into “charitable” organizations’ bank accounts, later to be funneled to terror cells operating right here in the United States.

President Bush took a bold step after 9/11—he vowed to hunt down and kill America’s enemies right in their own backyards, as well as do all the other typically American things such as freezing bank accounts and setting up wiretaps of suspected terrorist organizations. It was considered a bold step because, although America had obviously been attacked and Americans had been killed, we didn’t actually have a firm suspect. Al-Qaeda was some shadowy nationless group that only those in the intelligence community was really aware; Osama bin Laden looked as real as an actor portraying a bad guy, straight out of Central Casting. There was no army, no nation, no bases, no air forces—nothing that we could generally program coordinates of into a smart bomb or cruise missile and attack from standoff range.

The bold steps announced by the President also did something that shocked America: they were called “pre-emptive” moves. But wait—Americans don’t PRE-EMPTIVELY attack anyone, do we? Americans don’t like sneak attacks when the bad guys haven’t attacked first. Look at any episode of “Gunsmoke” or “Miami Vice”—the good guys don’t open fire or kill the bad guys until the bad guys have taken a shot first. Anything else offends our sensibilities like nothing else. Only bad guys do sneak attacks; therefore, we must be bad guys if we act pre-emptively.

Of course, the Iraq War was not a “pre-emptive” move. Saddam Hussein’s military had been shooting at our planes for years. He supported terror attacks in Israel. He kicked out United Nations weapons inspectors and did everything he could to hide an illegal WMD development program. We built up a military force and threatened action for ONE YEAR before actually moving against Saddam.

But we told the world Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. We were made to believe that the threat against our forces and interests in the region was imminent and severe. Do they have WMDs or not?

We may yet find such weapons. The latest reports show that Iraq has FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND TONS of weapons in storage. Disposal could take an estimated EIGHTEEN YEARS! It is not inconceivable that WMDs could be found in these massive dumps. Last month we found thirty-five Iraqi warplanes BURIED IN THE DESERT—we had been walking and driving over them for weeks.

But unless the Bush administration secretly knows where the WMDs are and is keeping the information quiet until election time—unlikely but weirdly plausible--we probably will not find WMDs, at least not in the quantities and lethality that would have logically prompted the mobilization of over one hundred and fifty thousand troops. The President and his top advisers are being charged with collusion, deception, and even outright falsification and lying in order to convince Congress and the American people that we needed to go to war.

I wish President Bush had told us the truth:

I believe the objective all along was to put boots on the ground in Iraq to establish and maintain an overlord position over the entire Middle East and Central Asia. Forget all the rhetoric about weapons of mass destruction, protecting the Iraqi people, or any other touchy-feely excuse. We went in to take up a strong position in the heart of an extremely volatile region of the world that is critical to American national interests.

We are now within effective striking range of the entire region—every unfriendly regime is now within our unfettered grasp. Our allies have very strong support. We don’t need Saudi Arabia’s or Turkey’s permission to fly strike missions any more. We also have our fingers on the taps of one of the largest oil reserves in the world.

It would have been politically difficult to tell the American people, let alone the world, that we want to invade another country just to establish hegemony over a large portion of the globe. Even invoking 9/11 may not have been enough for some people. Instead, the President made the decision to base his actions on the threat of weapons of mass destruction being used against our allies and perhaps even against us. It is apparent that the evidence to support this was skimpy at best and non-existent or even fabricated at worst.

But we took what information we had, combined it with a lot of rhetoric, a good deal of popular support for the President following the 9/11 tragedy, and good old fashioned leadership, and rumbled into action. I believe the weapons of mass destruction excuse was a simple ploy to provide an “exit strategy” to Iraq: if we needed to get out of that country in a hurry, we could just simply say, “We went in to Iraq to hunt for weapons of mass destruction. We didn’t find any; so, we’re leaving.” Quick, clean, simple, logical, and completely deniable and supportable at the same time.

There are two unfortunate realities in this conflict:

First, any victory will be measured against the Coalition victory in the first Gulf War, and it will come up short every time. The 1991 victory over Saddam’s military forces was so lopsided, swift, and decisive that any comparison will fail—but comparisons will be made nonetheless. The problem is that there are two completely different conflicts here, with two completely different missions: kick out the Iraqi army from Kuwait, versus toppling Saddam’s regime and taking over Iraq. Yet comparisons will still be made, and G.W. will fail.

Second, every loss will be magnified a hundredfold if the American people believe they were flimflammed into supporting the war, no matter how forthright the real reason for going to war. The “weapons of mass destruction” argument for going to war may make a good exit stratagem, but if we don’t find any WMDs, Americans will feel duped—and every death will be seen as wasteful, unnecessary, and especially brutal, bordering on criminal, and every dollar we spend there will be seen as money flushed down the toilet.

It’s a bold move. September 11th may have provided the President with the springboard to make this move. No one wants to think that any president would take advantage of a national tragedy to further his political agenda. Now, folks are becoming suspicious, cautious, and distrustful. The media feeds on this uneasiness, and rival political factions feed the media’s appetite for more and more sensational headlines.

But if security and furthering our national interests is the real goal, then such bold moves are completely justified. The President is taking an enormous political and personal risk. If he stays the course and wins, he’ll be a hero; if he strays from his objective or bows under the political pressure and withdraws or shifts his focus, he’ll be vilified. This becomes the true test of leadership.

Yes, I want my brother home—but I believe in the necessity for him to be there. I’m proud of his willingness to be part of it; I’m proud of his family for supporting him. But as much as I would like him home, I want more than anything for him to do his duty. Success, failure, victory, defeat, life, death—all those things are not entirely up to him when he steps out onto the battlefield, just as they are not all decided by us in our everyday lives. All he can do is to do the job given him to the best of his ability, and we have to support him as best we can while he does it.

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Air Battle Force (MAY 2003)

Maverick Pilot Patrick McLanahan Takes aerial warfare into unknown territory in a heart racing new adventure.

Still smarting from recent losses, the brilliant but unpredictable former USAF Major General is accepted back into the fold and assigned a simple task: devise and build the air combat unit of the future. McLanahan's answer: the Air Battle Force - a rapid-response team of elite commandos protected by state-of-the-art body armour and supported by an armada of anmanned planes.

His idea is soon put to the test when the oil rich Republic of Turkmenistan becomes a battleground between Taliban insurgents, former Soviet overlords, Iranian opportunists and American oil companies and politicians. But can a handful of commandos half a world away, aided by an unproven force of robot warplanes, fight and win a war in which semingly everyone - even 'friendly' forces at home - want them to fail?

'Whe a former pilot turns his hand to thrillers you can take their authenticity for granted. His writing is exceptional and the dialogue, plots and characters are first-class... far too good to be missed.'
--Sunday Mirror

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--WASHINGTON POST

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--CLIVE CUSSLER

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