Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume 3, Number 11 April 13 - 19, 2003 Quezon City, Philippines
Fought Bravely, but Without Direction
President Saddam Hussein had a plan to take on the might of the United States:
fight dirty and fight in urban areas to grind down a casualty-averse nation
still haunted by the horror of "Black Hawk Down."
a brief moment after the war started on March 20, it looked like his strategy
was working. One commander grumbled that he hadn't war gamed for what he found
on the battlefield and critics in Washington were warning of another Vietnam.
it was just a brief moment.
Iraqi soldiers fought valiantly -- as history has shown they can -- and they had
learned new tactics since their thumping in the open desert in the 1991 Gulf
War. But they were woefully bad at organizing themselves into a coherent
people have shown a degree of professionalism but collectively there was no
mechanism for coordination," said Andrew Brookes of the International
Institute for Strategic Studies. "I put that down to the fact that
communications were shattered between everyone."
started out with a formidable disadvantage despite its overwhelming advantage --
at least on paper -- in numbers. It had old weapons and tanks and its troops
were poorly motivated and disciplined.
and control uprooted
the course was set from the very start when U.S. and British forces used their
air supremacy to uproot Iraq's command and control, leaving even the elite
Republican Guard, who had been drawn back for a showdown at the gates of
Baghdad, in doubt and disarray.
the attackers were therefore dealing with were isolated pockets of people who
resisted out of either loyalty to the regime or wanting to oppose an invading
force," said Ivo Daalder at the private Brookings Institution in
it was nothing coordinated. The bombing around and in Baghdad left the
Republican Guards without coherence and what the Iraqis were left with were
irregular forces, or regular forces who became irregular. In many instances they
Pollack of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy said Iraq had latched onto
the United States' bloody tangle in Mogadishu 10 years ago, when rag-tag Somali
forces downed a U.S. helicopter and attacked troops sent to rescue the pilots.
experience -- etched onto the American psyche by the movie "Black Hawk
Down" -- was something the Iraqis had hoped to recreate many times over by
using irregular forces and tactics.
Pollack said in a briefing paper that the "unsophisticated copying" of
the Somali experience had not taken into account the unique circumstances that
Iraq found itself in.
civilians as human shields may have had some effect, but taking on Abrams tanks
with machine guns and grenade launchers mounted on pick-up trucks was quite
military history has demonstrated that its troops are capable of fighting
ferociously in static defensive positions and straightforward attacks, Pollack
this -- as with its plan to fight dirty -- proved to be of little use against
U.S. forces who excel in fluid battlefield conditions, maneuver warfare and
combined arms operations.
happened to the republican guard?
there were two big surprises delivered by Iraq they were the trouble it gave
U.S.-led forces with irregular forces such as Fedayeen, particularly in the
south, and the failure of its 70,000-strong Republican Guard to put up a better
there is still one division of the Republican Guard defending Saddam's hometown
in the north, Tikrit, two were torn to shreds as the U.S. forces closed in on
Baghdad and the others faded away.
Denison, a foreign policy and security analyst at Transatlantic Networks, said
the Republican Guard proved easy prey as long as they were in the field and they
would have been less vulnerable if they had backed into an urban landscape.
were they so exposed?" he asked. "Possibly Saddam feared some generals
might try to topple him, there have been attempts in the past.
left just the Special Republic Guards in the city. They are loyal to the point
of fanaticism, but they are not necessarily that good. Promotion is secured more
by loyalty than performance."
Korb, a former assistant U.S. defense secretary and now a senior official with
the private Council on Foreign Relations in New York, said the Republican Guard
collapsed because they had an overblown sense of self-worth.
believes they found themselves vulnerable to air power and unable to back into
Baghdad in an organized way because they had an exaggerated sense of their own
capabilities, something that was fed by public statements of confidence from
people like the information minister.
the other reason...was that even though Saddam wasn't killed on the first night
it was clear that he was pretty well shaken up," Korb said. "There
didn't seem to be anybody in charge of the overall operation."