Hawks Led Bush to Expect Quick Victory, Sources Say

Saturday, 29 March 2003 19:41 by: Anonymous

Editor's Note:  Under normal circumstances, I woud not touch this article with a ten foot cruise missile, because what we have here is nothing more or less than anonymous administration sources attempting to cover Bush's posterior.  He didn't know, he didn't understand, the bloodbath is not his fault, and yadda yadda yadda.  It is to be hoped that truthout readers can see this for what it is a tidy game of CYA on Bush's behalf and appreciate the sum and substance of the article itself.  Things are not going well, as the second article below demonstrates clearly.  American troops are beginning to gun down civilians because they feel threatened, a syndrome that bloomed wildly during Vietnam.  - wrp

By Warren P. Strobel
The Star Telegram

Saturday 29 March 2003

WASHINGTON - President Bush's aides did not forcefully present him with dissenting views from the CIA and the State and Defense departments, which warned that U.S.-led forces could face stiff resistance in Iraq, according to three senior administration officials.

Bush embraced the predictions of some top administration hawks, beginning with Vice President Dick Cheney. Officials said Cheney forecast in the run-up to the war that Saddam Hussein's government was brittle and that Iraqis would joyously greet coalition troops as liberators, the officials said.

The dissenting views "were not fully or energetically communicated to the president," said one top official, who like the others requested anonymity. "As a result, almost every assumption the plan's based on looks to be wrong."

Instead, Bush embraced the views of Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other hawks, who have long advocated using force to overthrow Saddam, the official said.

In varying degrees, those views assumed that many Iraqi forces, including part of the elite Republican Guard, would surrender or at least not fight, that Iraqi civilians would revolt and assist U.S. and British forces, and that the entire conflict might be over in a matter of weeks.

Top political and military leaders insist that the war to oust Saddam and neutralize his weapons of mass destruction is on course. Army and Marine units are within 50 miles of Baghdad, troops pour into Iraq, and increasing swaths of Iraqi territory have been taken from the government's control.

But debate over the war's course roiled Washington on Friday. Confronted with questions, administration officials insisted that they had never promised an easy conflict and accused the news media of making snap judgments 10 days into the war.

Rumsfeld said it was "premature" to ask whether the administration miscalculated the Iraqis' desire to rise up against Saddam.
But some senior U.S. officials now acknowledge that they may have underestimated the threat from Iraqi paramilitary units, which have engaged in guerrilla warfare against U.S. and British forces and threatened or executed Iraqis trying to surrender.

While the administration did not underestimate Iraqi resistance, "I think we probably did underestimate the willingness of this regime to commit war crimes," said Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.

Another senior official said planners expected tough fighting from the irregulars, or Fedayeen, and Republican Guard units, but only "in the red box outside of Baghdad."

The surprise has been that the units have been spread throughout the south, preventing anti-Saddam revolts among the populace and regular army units, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"One could say maybe we should have thought of that," he said.

The president has been careful never to describe the war as easy or cost-free. Not Cheney.

In a televised interview three days before Bush announced the strikes on Iraq, Cheney said, "I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators."

Cheney, appearing on NBC's Meet the Press, said his assessment was based in part on meetings with Iraqi exiles, many of whom have long predicted a quick collapse of Saddam's rule after an invasion.

U.S. intelligence agencies insist that they warned policy-makers and war planners about the risks of Iraqi unconventional warfare.

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Iraqi Resistance and Resupply Delays Slow Marine Advance
By John Kifner

Friday 29 March 2003

WITH THE FIRST MARINE DIVISION, in Iraq, March 28 The agricultural flatland of Central Iraq, where earthen dams and irrigated fields form ready berms and revetments and where rows of long buildings line the highways, is providing fertile territory for ambushes that are hampering the advance toward Baghdad, Marine officers say.

"There is an organized pattern of resistance," Brig. Gen. John Kelly, assistant commander of the First Marine Division, said today of the mounting attacks by Iraqi irregulars. "They are sent out to do this with the express purpose of slowing us down.
"Their determination is somewhat of a surprise to us all."

Indeed, the rosy predictions by the Pentagon's top policy planners of an immediate collapse of the Iraqi Army and an uprising of the Shiite majority and other elements disaffected with Saddam Hussein's regime appear to be evaporating. The strategy was based on a powerful, swift rush to Baghdad to topple or kill Mr. Hussein.

"What we were really hoping was to just go through and everyone would wave flags and all that," General Kelly said.

Instead, he and other Marine combat commanders describe a stiffening resistance that has sprung up in their rear, harassing the long supply lines, and ahead, trying to blunt their advance.

"Initially, in the South Rumaila oil fields, we faced regular army soldiers with low morale who gave up pretty easily," said Col. Joe Dunford, commander of the Fifth Regimental Combat Team, which has led the Marines' drive. "Since we have been up here, we have seen a much more irregular threat. They are much more determined determined but not very well trained."

The attacks are being organized, the officer said, inside the major towns along the way that they had planned to bypass like Diwaniyah, where a soccer stadium believed to be an assembly point was recently destroyed from the air.

The Iraqi attacks there included the use of civilians as human shields and hospitals as weapons caches and firebases. Gunmen in civilian clothes moved around on the jitney buses that ferry people from town to town. Soldiers who appeared to be surrendering suddenly opened fire, and there appeared to be at least one attempt at a suicide car bombing.

General Kelly described several incidents in which marines fired on the jitney buses carrying what proved to be gunmen, but he added that there was also one encounter in which a bus carried civilians.

"We already had reports they were moving these guys around in civilian vehicles and buses," he said. As a result, the marine gunner "did exactly what he should have done," the general said. "He fired them up and killed them all. But when we got to the bus, there were some civilians on the bus that were dead."

The general said that in a hospital in Nasiriyah, the chief Iraqi doctor told them that he had been treating two wounded American soldiers apparently from the wayward convoy that fell into Iraqi hands on Sunday but that gunmen had taken them away before the marines arrived. He said the hospital, which was flying the flag of the Red Crescent, had an arms cache, chemical warfare suits and had been used to shelter fighters.

Typical of the current fighting, Colonel Dunford said, was a move 19 miles up the road toward an airfield on Thursday. His troops came under fire half a dozen times, including once with what the military calls crew-served weapons, meaning heavier armaments than the usual AK-47 assault rifles. At the airfield they were met by a company-sized unit of the regular Iraqi army and had to call in artillery, tanks and Cobra helicopter gunships.

"It was a very, very short engagement," Colonel Dunford said dryly.

Neither he nor other Marine officers appeared particularly disturbed by the delays, asserting that their superior firepower, equipment and training would carry the day. "The evidence is the ground we've covered," Colonel Dunford said, speaking of the American-led coalition's rapid advance.

Nevertheless, top commanders throughout the division were summoned to a meeting at the Combat Operations Center headquarters this morning where, an officer said, revised plans and new tactics were discussed.

It appears that, for the moment at least, the Marines are pretty much standing in place, waiting for the Army's Third Infantry Division and other units in the Army's V Corps, which have encountered heavier resistance, to advance so that the forces can move in tandem.

Another concern is the supply lines carrying what Maj. Dave Nathanson, a logistics officer with the Marines' Seventh Regimental Combat Team, called "the big four chow, water, ammunition and fuel." That supply line stretches back past the Kuwaiti border, stalled by congestion as well as ambushes. Sergeants have told marines in a number of units to cut back to only one daily combat ration, the infamous M.R.E., for Meal, Ready to Eat.

There was also unease that the joyful reception that the Americans had been led to expect was not materializing. Recalling how the Shiites and Kurds were encouraged to revolt after the first gulf war, then abandoned to Mr. Hussein's brutal retribution, General Kelly said, "I'd be very, very hesitant to throw my saddle on this horse until I see this horse is going to win."

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Last modified on Monday, 21 April 2008 13:37