Saturday 15 March 2003
A former military aide to General Norman Schwarzkopf has warned that a US-led war against Iraq could turn into a disaster that echoes the bloody debacle of Somalia rather than the relatively painless 1991 Gulf war.
Retired Colonel Mike Turner, who also served as military planner with the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, believes the Bush administration is ignoring potential risks some that could cost the US dearly.
"There's a saying in military circles: We always fight the last war. It means that too much focus on past enemy behaviour can easily lead to misjudging an enemy capability in the future," he said.
"So I asked myself today which war will this be: Desert Storm or Somalia? In 1991, we had four iron-clad prerequisites for war with Iraq: a clear political end state, overwhelming force to achieve a quick and decisive victory, a viable Arab coalition to avoid empowering Arab extremists, and absolutely no Israeli involvement to avoid a global holy war.
"In Somalia, we ignored the most critical of these lessons. Mission creep turned our original objective of humanitarian aid into simply 'Get Aidid,' the Somali factional leader we were battling. We committed US troops to a high-risk military operation in an urban area with extraordinarily dangerous variables in play on the battlefield, and with insufficient firepower."
Colonel Turner said the US had made the mistake of fixing its sights early on ridding the world of Saddam Hussein. This plan had met stiff opposition from the uniformed staff within the Pentagon, but the administration had chosen this focus regardlessly.
Colonel Turner outlined a worst-case scenario: "Within hours of our attack, Saddam launches Scuds on Israel. Israel's government launches a full-scale attack on Iraq, creating a holy war. Saddam, threatened with his own survival, uses chemical and biological weapons and human shields. He torches his own oil fields, thousands of his own people are killed. Photos of US soldiers amid landscapes of Iraqi civilian bodies blanket the world press which aligns unanimously against the US."
He then envisaged the US left to administer a post-Saddam Iraq with minimal international co-operation and open to terror attacks from al- Qa'ida. North Korea could take advantage and start exporting nuclear weapons.
"These are not remote possibilities, but in my view reasonable, possibly even likely outcomes," he concluded.
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