Flash Gordon Left Me The Keys

The TEST OF ALL MOTHERS

Friday, May 30, 2003

 
Where Are The WMD? Whoops! Yikes!!


Barry Lando is a former CBS producer of 60 Minutes, and has also contributed to CBS News, Time magazine and Time-Life.


What happened to Saddam's "weapons of mass destruction" and his supposed links with Al Qaeda? It's certain that the people on top of the George W. Bush administration already know the answer. It's the rest of us who've been left in the dark, because the administration didn't get the answers it wanted. Paul Wolfowitz and other officials have been pressed in recent congressional hearings and interviews for evidence of WMD, and they are hinting that they may never be found.

This point is not just of historical interest. With Bush officials now making ominous charges against Iran, the question of the reliability of American intelligence is critical.

For months, from the President on down, the U.S. government warned of Saddam's huge arsenal; disparaged those who questioned their intelligence estimates, scoffed at efforts of U.N. weapons inspectors, refused to give them more time. Now, for a month and a half the United States has had the run of Iraq and, so far, nothing has been found -- other than a couple of mobile labs, with no evidence those labs ever produced any weapons -- chemical or biological.

Some U.S. officials still maintain that one day they'll unearth Saddam's WMD, but it's a long, tough slog. The inspectors are still complaining that they are getting neither the resources nor the intelligence they need to do the job. Which leads us to suspect the Bush administration is no longer really serious about looking.

Which is probably true -- and this is the point: While U.S. forces have been chasing around the country checking out thousands of suspected sites, at the same time, military intelligence officials have been following a much simpler tack: interrogating thousands of former officials of Saddam's regime, civilians and military.

So, a few simple questions:

What have they learned from those interrogations? If Saddam had WMD, he certainly had to be planning to use them in some situations. Those plans had to involve tens of thousands of Iraqi military. He had to have trained and equipped his troops -- or at least his elite units -- to employ them, right?

What have the military -- from small unit commanders to top ranking generals -- told their American interrogators about Saddam's plans for WMD? What kind of instruction did they get? For what kinds of weapons? Under what circumstances were they to be used?

Coalition troops found chemical and biological protective gear with some of the Iraqi units. What was that gear for? Offensive or defensive purposes?

If Saddam hid his WMD or moved them to Syria, that also would have involved hundreds if not thousands of men. Where are they? Or were they all liquidated?

The hypothesis floating around -- that Saddam destroyed his WMD before the coalition attacked -- makes little sense. If Saddam was willing to destroy them, why not simply give them up and ward off the invasion? But say he had destroyed them; he didn't do it one moonless night just by himself and his sons.

What have the top civilian members of Saddam's government said about all this? We are told some might be concerned about war crimes charges if they admitted to participating in a WMD program. But why? What hypothetical war crimes did they commit?

No, it's certain that most of Saddam's military and civilian officials told their U.S. interrogators just about anything the United States wanted to know -- about WMD and about supposed links with Al Qaeda. It just wasn't what the people on high wanted to hear.

In fact, G. W. Bush administration watchers have noted some remarkable contortions of late. Take Kenneth Adleman, a member of the government's Defense Policy Board. He told The Washington Post on April 10 that, with fear of Saddam almost gone, the United States should have the information on Iraq's WMD "in the next five days."

Five weeks later, on May 17, Adelman told the Post he'd had second thoughts. It was possible that Saddam's whole program of WMD was a gigantic hoax. Not a hoax perpetrated by the Bush administration, mind you, but by Saddam himself. Saddam may, said Adelman, have launched "a massive disinformation campaign to make the world think he was violating international norms, and he may not have been."

Bottom line: There is no doubt by now that the Bush administration has a 99 percent complete picture of what Saddam was up to with his WMD. And that they no longer posed a threat, if they ever did -- which is why U.S. forces are no longer seriously searching Iraq.

By the same logic, the Bushies also have learned that Saddam had no links with Al Qaeda. If any Iraqi official had backed up that claim, you can bet it would have been trumpeted by the White House and Pentagon within hours.

Instead of divulging what they've really found, the Bush administration has chosen another way to admit they were dead wrong, by ordering a complete review of the intelligence process leading to the U.S. invasion. An excellent idea in principle, though no one really expects that the investigators will ever officially reveal the prime reason for the flawed intelligence estimates -- because of pressure from the neo cons on high. They are the same folks who are now glowering at Iran.



 
Be Careful What You Wish For: Bush, Tax Cuts And The Economy
On May 23, Congress passed a compromise $350 billion tax cut bill and sent it on to President Bush. While it was not all he asked for -- Bush originally wanted $726 billion in tax cuts and the complete elimination of the dividend tax -- it was nevertheless hailed by Republican operatives and most observers as a big victory for the president and his party.

But was it? As the old saying has it, be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it. This could be one of those cases, as analysis of recent polling data indicates.

It's clear that passage of the tax cut bill, unambiguously touted by the GOP as a "jobs and growth" bill, means that the Bush administration decisively has assumed responsibility for the performance of the economy. If it comes roaring back, great. But if it doesn't, they will be seriously vulnerable.

Consider these results from the NBC/The Wall Street Journal poll cited below. First, Bush's approval rating has now dropped to 62 percent, down 9 points from a 71 percent rating in the same poll five weeks ago. That's a decline of almost 2 points per week. No doubt that rate of decline will slow, but it suggests that the spike in presidential approval from the Iraq war will be a temporary one, and will not insulate Bush from political damage due to poor performance in other areas (such as the economy). Indeed, in this poll Bush already has given back all of his approval gains from the time of his ultimatum to Saddam Hussein through the successful conclusion of the Iraq war.

And the public continues to be gloomy about the rate of economic progress. Just 18 percent say that the economy has gotten better in the last year, compared to 44 percent who say it has gotten worse and 36 percent who say it has remained the same. To make matters worse for the administration, the importance of the economy to the public continues to grow. In the NBC/The Wall Street Journal poll, 57 percent now say it should be one of the two top priorities for Congress and the president in the next year, compared to 36 percent who pick fighting terrorism as one of the top priorities. And just 5 percent think passing tax cuts should be one of the top priorities.

That suggests the public doesn't share the administration's faith in the ability of tax cuts to turn things around. The poll provides plenty of other evidence indicating that's true. The public's view of the 2001 tax cuts is that they either hurt the economy (15 percent), or had no real effect (53 percent). Just 25 percent say that they helped. And when asked whether the best way to increase economic growth and create jobs is to cut taxes, only 29 percent agree, while 64 percent say that there are better ways to improve the economy. The public is also less likely today than at the beginning of the year to believe that specific Bush tax cut proposals, such as eliminating taxes on dividends, would be effective in stimulating economic growth. It appears that Bush's frenetic activities on behalf of his tax cut agenda are having little effect on the public.

Indeed, negative views of Bush's approach on the economy are far more common than the positive views he has been trying to sell. Over two-thirds agree that his approach relies too heavily on tax cuts and not enough on direct job creation, 66 percent say that his approach benefits the wealthy more than average people, and 61 percent think that it will increase the federal deficit, compared to 49 percent who think it will increase economic growth and generate jobs. And by 55 percent to 36 percent, the public says that it prefers having the federal government provide money to help employers pay for health coverage to cutting federal taxes for individuals and businesses.

Given these negative views about his economic approach, perhaps it should come as no surprise that this "hugely popular" president, as the press insists on referring to him, has a re-elect number of just 47 percent in this poll (those saying they would "probably vote for President Bush" in 2004). That number's also down -- in this case, 5 points in the past five weeks.

Will the legacy of the Iraq war rescue Bush from a bad economy, if it continues? Maybe. But note that Americans overwhelmingly say that removing Saddam from power has not decreased the threat of terrorism in the United States (just 19 percent say it has, compared to 28 percent who say it has increased and 51 percent who say it has stayed the same). And just as significant, Americans already are starting to sour over the long-term investments that occupying Iraq will entail. Five weeks ago, 51 percent said they supported the United States spending up to $60 billion over the next three years to rebuild Iraq. Today, just 37 percent support such an investment, while 57 percent say they are opposed.

The Democracy Corps poll confirms some of these emerging vulnerabilities, including a similarly weak re-elect number. The poll also measures public views on which political party would do a better job on different issues. In this poll, the Democrats are preferred over the Republicans by 10 points on the budget and deficits. That's up from a 1-point Democratic disadvantage at the end of 2002.

Similarly, the Democrats are now preferred by 6 points on the economy; last summer, they were down by 9 points. And on education, they now have a healthy 14-point lead, as Republicans increasingly become associated with budget cuts in the education area. That's a big change from the beginning of Bush's "compassionate conservative" administration, when the Republicans were frequently ahead on this issue.

But perhaps the most interesting danger sign for the Bush administration is declining support among youth. A staple of (usually data-less) political commentary these days is how enthralled young people are with Bush and his administration (for a particularly over-the-top example of this, see David Brooks's article, "The Collapse of the Dream Palaces," in the April 28 issue of The Weekly Standard, featuring "Joey Tabula-Rasa" -- an entirely made-up youth!)

Well, if youth really are enthralled with Bush, they have a funny way of showing it. According to the latest Ipsos-Public Affairs poll, 18- to 29-year olds now feel, by 52 percent to 44 percent, that the country is off on the wrong track, rather than going in the right direction. That's a swing of 22 points from their 54 percent to 40 percent optimistic view of a month ago.

And, since the end of the Iraq war, Bush's approval rating among youth has declined from 59 percent to just 52 percent, with 47 percent disapproval. And check out these current approval ratings among youth on the economy (41 percent approval, 57 percent disapproval) and on domestic issues like health care, education and the environment (42 percent approval, 57 percent disapproval).

They don't sound so enthralled to Public Opinion Watch. Maybe that's why Bush's hard re-elect number (those who definitely would vote to re-elect Bush) among youth is now only 29 percent. That's a drop of 8 points from one month ago. And, in the generic congressional vote, youth now give Democrats a stunning 18-point lead (52 percent to 34 percent), up 8 points from a month ago.

As youth go, so goes the nation?

We'll see.


 
Think Tank
 
More Money on The Horizon...Tank success in Iraq war could mean more funding for Lima plant

The success of the Abrams tank in the Iraq war may pay off in more money and work for its Ohio factory.

"The M1 Abrams was essentially the sledgehammer of the U.S. Army in this war," said Pat Garrett, associate analyst with GlobalSecurity.org, a defense policy group in Virginia.

It also was a mainstay on television news, and people across the country watched the 70-ton tanks rumble across the desert and through the streets of Baghdad.

During a visit to the Lima Army Tank Plant last month, Bush called the Abrams tank "the most effective armored vehicle in the history of warfare."

The House recently passed a defense spending bill that rewards weapons, vehicles and other systems used in Iraq by recommending that they receive more money for the next fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1.

The plant would receive $424 million to upgrade 129 of the Army's newest tank, the M1A2 SEP. That's an increase from the 29 tank upgrades originally requested, said Rep. Mike Oxley, a Republican whose district includes the plant.

The funding authorized in the House bill still must be approved by the Senate. Bills to appropriate money will have to be passed later this year.

Rep. Mike Turner, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, which wrote the bill, said lawmakers wanted to make sure there were enough updated tanks to meet the nation's needs until a next-generation armored vehicle is ready to take its place.

"The performance of the Abrams tank in Operation Iraqi Freedom convinced the committee to authorize the increase in funding," said Turner, a Republican from Dayton.

The Lima tank plant, the world's only maker of the Abrams M1A1 and M1A2, is a government-owned facility that is operated by General Dynamics. It once employed 3,800 workers when tanks were rolling off the assembly lines by the thousands. Now, the plant employs about 600 workers who haven't produced a new tank since 1996.

Located about 70 miles southwest of Toledo, Lima was built around manufacturing in the middle of northwest Ohio's farm fields. The city, which has suffered from layoffs and a changing economy in the last two decades, would benefit from additional funding at the plant that would preserve jobs.

The plant had been operating with a $750 million contract with the U.S. Defense Department that lasts until July 2004. But on May 16, it won an additional $26 million contract to upgrade 14 more tanks by December 2004.

"Their phenomenal success both in Desert Storm and more recently in Iraqi Freedom has certainly been a lifesaver," said Peter Keating, a spokesman for General Dynamics.

"If it's (the money) finally appropriated, that's certainly good news," Keating said. "We had expected by December (2004) that the last Army tank would have been taken off the line and that would have been it for tanks."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has recommended a lighter, more technologically advanced military, and the Pentagon has started developing a new "Objective Force" vehicle that could eventually replace the tank.

Still, military analysts say the success of the tanks in Iraq could guarantee that they'll stick around for a while yet.

"You have to have a heavy armor component," Garrett said, explaining that the tank's durability is the reason very few were destroyed during the war compared with other vehicles.

"It was used to counter the Iraqi military and to essentially dismantle them," Garrett said. "You really could not have waged this war as quickly as you did without the M1 tank."

If Congress agrees to fund the House bill, the additional money could keep the Lima plant in the tank business for at least another two to three years, said Tim Johnson, a spokesman from Oxley's office.

The House and Senate defense bills authorize $400.5 billion in military spending, with most of it going toward technology, weaponry and personnel costs.

Along with updated Abrams tanks, the House bill increased funding for Tomahawk cruise missiles, Bradley fighting vehicles and Patriot anti-missile interceptors.


 
CIA opens report on Iraq trailers
The CIA took the unusual step Wednesday of making public an intelligence report concluding that two equipment-packed trailers seized in Iraq were intended to make biological agents, the only solid evidence to date supporting the Bush administration's allegations about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

The administration and the CIA have come under fire for failing to find proof of chemical and biological weapons. The administration cited such weapons in justifying the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Responding to what a U.S. intelligence official called "public interest" in the issue, the CIA posted on its Web site Wednesday a nine-page illustrated "white paper" with its assessment of the two trailers.

Though fermenting tanks inside the trailers could have non-military uses, such as the manufacture of pesticide or hydrogen for weather balloons, the CIA report concluded that biological weapons production "is the only consistent, logical purpose for these vehicles."

No trace of biological agent has been found in the tanks or other hardware mounted on two military-style heavy equipment transporters in U.S. possession in Iraq. Some of the equipment had been looted and some of what was left was rusted and showing signs of having been hastily abandoned. One of the tanks had a manufacturing date of 2003, suggesting it was in use only a matter of weeks by the time the war started.

Iraq expert Anthony Cordesman with the Center for Strategic and International Studies said the CIA report "looks convincing." He said the mobile labs were probably built as backup sources of biological agent for military emergencies.

But the continuing failure to find weapons weeks after the end of the war is causing lawmakers from both parties to raise questions about the quality of U.S. intelligence. The doubts arise as the Bush administration claims the right to take pre-emptive military action based on intelligence, before crises emerge. And release of the report comes as the administration is advancing new charges about weapons programs in North Korea and Iran.

"The administration has got a serious credibility problem," said John Pike of GlobalSecurity.org, a Washington-area think tank. Pike called the CIA report credible but added, "This long after the war, for them to come up with two rusting trailers, it's pretty thin."

The White House considers the hunt for proof of Iraqi weapons a high priority: A 1,400-member Pentagon team is deploying to Iraq to take over the search.

At the same time, though, administration officials have begun to publicly downplay the issue. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was quoted in the magazine Vanity Fair on Wednesday as saying the decision to cite weapons of mass destruction as the reason to invade Iraq was made for "bureaucratic reasons ... because it was the one reason everyone could agree on."

Wednesday's CIA report, available on the agency's Web site, www.cia.gov, compares one of the captured trailers with an illustration used by Secretary of State Colin Powell in his presentation to the United Nations in February. "The design, equipment and layout of the trailer found in late April is strikingly similar to descriptions provided by (an Iraqi) chemical engineer that managed one of the mobile plants," the report states.

A second U.S. intelligence official, one of several who briefed reporters anonymously in a conference call Wednesday, said the CIA considered the information collected from the Iraqi engineer the "centerpiece" of Powell's presentation. When Kurdish authorities gave U.S. forces a trailer seized at a checkpoint in April, "the feeling we had was a mixture of excitement and skepticism," the official said.

The Iraqi engineer told the CIA in 1999 and 2000 that Iraq had established seven biological weapons production plants on as many as 20 trailers to evade detection by U.N. inspectors or Western intelligence. The two trailers seized by U.S. forces in April and May were built more recently.

Workers at the Baghdad factory that made the equipment in the captured trailers said they were told by Iraqi officials that they were for making hydrogen. The workers told U.S. interrogators that they knew from experience not to ask questions.


 
The A-10 airplane's gun has seven barrels.
According to the New York Times op-ed piece that reports about the Air Force's attempt to retire the A-10s, the ringmaster of the campaign is Gen. Dave Deptula, who, as Slate readers may recall, was one of the intellectual leaders behind the "shock and awe" doctrine, which envisions a style of warfare—attack a regime's key "nodal points" from the air and it will crumble from the stress—that is diametrically opposed to the A-10's mission, which is to provide close-air support to soldiers fighting on the ground.


 
Bombing by Numbers
The Iraqi air war wasn't as modern as it looked
With no fanfare, the U.S. Air Force recently released the official statistics on what it did during Gulf War II—how many planes of what sort flew how many sorties and dropped how many bombs of which types on what kinds of targets. The numbers confirm much and dispel much else of what we've assumed or been told about this "high-tech war."
many of the weapons used were quite old—some of them nearly antique—and most of their missions were not in the least bit exotic.

These numbers have significance not just for war-wonks. Read closely, they contain lessons about the true nature of warfare and about what kinds of weapons we should—and should not—be buying.The myth of shock and awe. The original Air Force war plan, at least as suggested by (The Flaw in Shock and Awe
Rumsfeld's theory of warfare isn't working, at least so far.
By Fred Kaplan
Posted Wednesday, March 26, 2003, at 4:31 PM PT


Officials from President Bush on down are scrambling to say they never claimed the war would be won quickly. But this was precisely the message from officers involved in planning the war. It was, in fact, the premise underlying the whole war plan.
On March 19, the day the airstrikes got under way, U.S. Air Force Col. Gary L. Crowder, chief of strategy, concepts, and doctrine for the Air Combat Command, told reporters that the war would be an "effects-based" campaign. "The effects that we are trying to create," he explained, will be "to make it so apparent and so overwhelming at the very outset of potential military operations that the adversary quickly realizes that there is no real alternative here other than to fight and die or to give up." Once the Iraqis realize this, Crowder added, "[T]here will be a greater likelihood that they might choose not to fight for the regime." (Italics added.)

Three days later, Army Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, vice director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, explained further, "We are running an effects-based campaign that is partially kinetic, partially non-kinetic, partially information operations." The success of effects-based bombing is "not just whether there is a hole in the room of a building but whether or not the function that the element did before ceases to be effective. … In an effects-based campaign, we can achieve much shock and awe by hitting just critical points." This echoed Crowder, who had said that hitting a few key nodes would "collapse the system from the inside."

Soon after came the (remarkably accurate) bombing of Saddam Hussein's presidential palace and several governmental ministries, all in downtown Baghdad. If the concept of "effects-based" bombing had worked, Saddam would have folded. He may fold still, whether due to the airstrikes, ground battles, or some other spur for mutiny. The war is just 1 week old. Yet it's clear that, for now, the bombing had done little more than make "a hole in the room of a building"—or, actually, level whole buildings. The "function" that the buildings performed, as McChrystal put it, has not ceased to be effective. Saddam remains in control of his military forces, which are mounting organized resistance and, in some cases, counteroffensives.

And so we return to lessons learned from past wars: It's one thing to knock down buildings, another to change minds. The targets of "effects-based" bombing are the minds of Saddam Hussein and the people around him—the goal was to surprise, shock, and disorient them into a state of chaos, paralysis, or surrender. We tried to mess with Saddam's mind in Operation Desert Storm, the first war against Iraq, in 1991. Hundreds of smart bombs and cruise missiles were aimed at "leadership" and "command-control" targets. Yet the U.S. Air Force's official history of that war concluded that this aspect of the campaign didn't work. Despite "the lethality and precision of the attacks," the study concluded, Saddam's command-control "system turned out to be more redundant and more able to reconstitute itself than first thought. Fiber-optic networks and computerized switching systems proved particularly tough to put out of action."

Ever since Desert Storm, a small but increasingly influential group of Air Force officers has been refining the concept. In the past few years, smart bombs and cruise missiles have become vastly more accurate, due to the use of Global Positioning Satellites to guide the weapons to their targets. Due to satellites, advanced drones, and fast computers, commanders can pick out targets and order weapons to hit those targets—including mobile ones—far more swiftly than before.

By 1997, these officers started talking about "transformational" war strategies. In June 2001, Maj. Gen. Dave Deptula wrote a briefing paper called "Turning Vision Into Reality: Air Force Transformation." In it, he outlined what he called a "New Operational Concept (Effects-Based Planning)." The "ability to deliver desired effects with minimal risk and collateral damage ensures decisive dominance [and] denies the enemy sanctuary." More critically, these "leaps in capability" could "produce the effects of mass without having to mass as we have in the past—enabling real transformation." (Gen. Deptula is no mere theorist. He supervised Donald Rumsfeld's Quadrennial Defense Review in 2001, which endorsed "transformation warfare," and he is now director of plans and programs at Air Force Combat Command.) A similar report, called the "Transformation Study Report," written the previous April, noted the need to attack "critical nodes" to "limit or foreclose enemy options."

A few high-level Pentagon civilians were enthusiastic about this concept, most notably Andrew Marshall, director of net assessment and, more significant, a bureaucratically shrewd analyst who has held his job since 1974, when then-Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger created it for him. Marshall presented the "transformation" idea to Rumsfeld, who was also impressed. When the concept seemed to work in Afghanistan, the defense secretary was sold.

As the military geared up for Gulf War II, Rumsfeld took the ideas to heart. The old-school generals recommended a massive invasion force, but Rumsfeld directed them to take it down. As one senior official told a Wall Street Journal reporter last December, "Effects-based operations give you the ability to do the running start with a smaller force."

Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of U.S. Central Command, told reporters on March 22, "This will be a campaign unlike any other in history—a campaign characterized by shock, by surprise, by flexibility …"

But what if the enemies are not shocked or surprised—or if they are at first, but then quickly recover and launch their own campaign of shock and surprise? "Effects-based" theorists talk of the modern U.S. military's "asymmetric" advantages: We have air power, precision weapons, and speedy data links while the enemy does not. However, the past few days of battle have shown that the Iraqis have their own "asymmetric" ploys: guerrilla militias, intimate knowledge of the terrain, and the willingness to use their own civilians as cover.

The late John Boyd, an Air Force colonel who devised some of the theories that inspired "transformation" doctrines, wrote that successful warfare involves surprise, deception, and the creation of confusion and disorder. In a legendary six-hour briefing called "Patterns of Conflict," Boyd said that the key was to get "inside an adversary's O-O-D-A loop." This loop entailed "observing" the enemy's actions, "orienting" one's own forces to the changing situation, "deciding" on a countermove, and then "acting" on it. The side that completes these cycles more quickly, he said, will win the war.

This is what the allied ground forces did in the final days of Desert Storm. Toward the end of that conflict, U.S. Central Command's deputy director of operations, Marine Brig. Gen. Richard Neal (the Marines were particularly influenced by Boyd's thinking), told reporters in Riyadh that the Iraqi army was in deep trouble because "we're inside his decision-making cycle … we're kind of out-thinking him … we can see what he's been doing, we can kind of anticipate what his next move is going to do, and we can adapt our tactics accordingly."

Boyd's ideas are still in circulation. The April 2001 "Transformation Study Report" described a campaign that "operates inside the adversary's decision cycles, [and] combine[s] precision and speed (controlling the tempo)."

The question in the coming days and weeks is not whether U.S. forces have the power to outgun the Iraqi army (that goes without saying), but whether they also have the flexibility to outmaneuver the guerrillas who are harassing the flanks and the rear. The issue isn't whether we win (again, that goes without saying) but what victory costs and how long it takes. Rumsfeld chose to deploy something less than the crushingly overwhelming ground force recommended by the old-school generals. The wisdom of the new-school transformers is now being put through the severest sort of test.)called for massive airstrikes on key "nodes" of the Iraqi "leadership," which would disrupt Saddam Hussein's ability to command his military, thereby toppling his regime. Shortly before the war started, U.S. officials seemed to confirm this notion, saying 3,000 smart bombs and cruise missiles would fall on Baghdad the first night.

It turns out, however, that of the 18,898 targets hit from the air in this war, just 1,799—fewer than 10 percent—were related to the regime's leadership or the military's command structure.

War means killing the enemy's soldiers. The vast majority of targets struck—15,592 of them, or 82 percent of the total—were Iraqi troops, tanks, and other weapons concentrated on the battlefield. In other words, the U.S. Air Force spent most of its resources doing what its officers least like—not bombing "high-value assets" in the capital, or achieving "air supremacy" by shooting down enemy warplanes (there apparently were none, or at least none that took off), but rather supporting the U.S. Army troops and Marines as they slugged it out on the ground. This mission is called "close-air support," and the Air Force, which is run mainly by fighter pilots, has never been wild about it; it's an implicit acknowledgement that the real contest is going on way down there with the grunts, not above the clouds with the flyboys.

The Warthog rules. Just as close-air support dominated the Air Force task orders, so the A-10 Warthog—the only Air Force plane ever built for the dedicated mission of close-air support—dominated the skies. The A-10 is a relatively large, slow beast of an airplane, with a titanium-shielded cockpit, so it can fly in low and fire its armor-piercing 30mm shells from twin-barrel gun mounts. [Correction, May 28, 2003: The A-10 gun has seven barrels.]

Of the 1,801 airplanes sent to the region (not including helicopters), 60 were A-10s, more than any other single type of combat plane (except for the Navy's F/A-18). While the report does not say how many "tank kills" can be credited to those A-10s, it does say that they fired 311,597 rounds of 30mm ammunition.

Just as the Air Force brass has never liked close-air support, it has always loathed the A-10 and tried to kill it from the moment it was born. The last one was built in 1986. And although they performed superbly in both gulf wars, the brass is now trying to retire the Warthogs that remain.

Is stealth necessary? The Air Force would rather spend tens of billions of dollars on a new generation of stealth aircraft, made of radar-absorbing material that can fly virtually invisible to enemy anti-air defenses. But the report indicates that, while a little Stealth can go a long way, we probably don't need any more than a little.

The Iraqis fired their anti-aircraft artillery 1,224 times and launched 1,660 surface-to-air missiles. As a result, they put out of action six helicopters and a single A-10 (the only attack plane that flies at altitudes measured in hundreds or even dozens of feet, not tens of thousands).

The Air Force planners knew this from the beginning. Of the current stealth planes in the arsenal, they sent just 12 F/A-117s and only four B-2s.

By comparison, they sent 28 B-52s—bombers originally designed to carry nuclear weapons, all converted in the past decade to hold conventional bombs—most of them older than the pilots flying them.

The fact is, in this era of precision-guided munitions or "smart bombs," the airplane matters much less than the weapons and electronics inside. You could take a 747, snap on a bomb bay, fly it at 10,000 feet—and it would do just fine.

How smart were the smart bombs? During the war, most analysts assumed the majority of bombs were smart bombs and the majority of smart bombs were the new, cheap Joint Defense Attack Munitions or JDAMs. The old smart bombs, the ones used in Desert Storm, were laser-guided. In other words, a crew member would shine a laser on the target; the bomb would follow the beam. However, the beam could be deflected by dust, smoke, rain, even humidity. And the laser-guided bombs were expensive—around $100,000 apiece. JDAMs are guided by Global Positioning Satellites. The pilot punches the target's coordinates into the bomb's GPS receiver andthe bomb homes in on the spot; environmental conditions aren't a factor. And they're cheap—a JDAM kit can be strapped onto an old-fashioned "dumb bomb" for $18,000.

However, it turns out that of the 19,948 smart munitions fired during Gulf War II, 8,716—two-fifths—were the '90s-era laser-guided bombs. Substantially fewer, 6,642, were JDAMs. The other 4,590 smart weapons were GPS-guided but much more expensive models than the JDAM.

More surprising, another 9,251 bombs—or one-third of all the bombs dropped during this war—were unguided, unmodified dumb bombs. It would be good to know where these dumb bombs—and the less-reliable laser-guided bombs—were dropped: on the battlefield, in cities? In other words, was "collateral damage" a greater problem than our vision of a JDAM-dominating war suggested?

In this regard, Operation Iraqi Freedom was still far different from Operation Desert Storm, when just 9 percent of the bombs were smart and none of those were guided by GPS. Still, the picture has not advanced quite as far as we had been led to assume.

Smart video. The war's smartest technology, which didn't even exist in the preceding war, was the surveillance technology—the drones that hovered over the battlefield, taking pictures of targets below and streaming the imagery back to headquarters in real time. According to the report, ISR ("intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance") aircraft flew 1,000 sorties, taking 42,000 battlefield images, 3,200 hours of "full-motion video," and 1,700 hours of images that indicate moving targets. (There were also electronic-intelligence aircraft intercepting 2,400 hours of Iraqi signals intelligence.)

The report notes that this war marked the first time that four Predator drones flew simultaneously in support of combat missions—and the first time that six U-2 spy planes (which, apparently, were also busy picking out targets) orbited all at once on the same "air tasking order."

These devices let the commanders know the precise locations of Iraqi tanks and troops, so the A-10s, B-52s, F/A-18s, and so forth could go attack them with smart bombs, dumb bombs, and 30mm shells. They're worth spending a lot of money on. So is the idea of buying more JDAMs. As for much of the other high-tech air dreams, especially the new generation of multibillion-dollar stealth planes, it's not clear how much we need them in the real world of war.









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