Now we know why “Team Heavy Metal” and “Team Rock and Roll” drove their 70 tanks and 60 armored troop carriers 700 miles across the sands and waddies of western Iraq to pop up at the city of Najaf, about 100 miles close to Baghdad. The 3rd Infantry’s 2nd Brigade met little or no resistance on the way. There are two reasons for this speed across the sand. First, it puts the brigade in a good position to push into the flank of the Medina division of Republican Guard, and to get to Baghdad pretty quickly after that battle. The second reason — which may be a mere accident, but sounds like a non-coincidence — is that they have uncovered one of Saddam’s WMD factories. The 100-acre chemical factory is being described as “suspect.” Sure. A huge facility dug into the desert for concealment, surrounded by an electric fence and commanded by a general was, I’m sure, manufacturing suntan oil.
Having the 2nd Brigade up north also relieves the principal weakness of other units operating in the area. Its M-1A1 tanks aren’t invulnerable, but the Iraqis’ favorite weapon — the rocket propelled grenade — just bounces off the M-1A1 “like a basketball” in the words of one First Gulf War veteran.
“Shock and Awe” — getting to be the most over-used term of this young war, began only a few days ago. The world watched as the precision strikes on Baghdad rained down, thoroughly misunderstanding what was going on. This wasn’t the “shock and awe” attack at all. Baghdad was hit hard, but the lights stayed on, few civilians were hit, and Saddam’s command and control centers were reduced to smoking powder. They have been hit again, expanding the target list over the past few days to include probable hiding spots.
The real “shock and awe” was delivered on the Iraqi soldiers fighting our Marines and Army in the south and west. What we saw in the Baghdad bombings isn’t one-tenth of what was delivered by every fly-guy and damned near every cruise missile we have. All of that came down, and is still coming down, on whatever Iraqi troops we can find that aren’t huddled into elementary schools, hospitals and other places where civilians are held against their will. I can’t describe “shock and awe” better than my pal Oliver North did in a conversation we aired last week. In the area where Ollie was, it was an overcast day. No, the sun was bright enough and there weren’t many clouds. But the aluminum overcast — aircraft, missiles and damned near everything else that flies — was dropping grief on the Iraqis. As Tony Soprano might have put it, “badda bing, badda BOOM.”
It’s pretty clear that Saddam’s days are numbered, and the number is probably down to single integers. Dubya was asked on Sunday about the possibility that Saddam would yet go into exile. The President said that his opportunity for that has passed. If Saddam survives, he will likely be tried as a war criminal. With a whole bunch of his barbarians.
I didn’t see the Al-Jazeera tape that showed the intimidation and interrogation of the few Americans taken captive so far. I also didn’t see the tape that shows the bodies of Americans with wounds that are consistent with death by execution, not in battle. It is to be expected that the Iraqis would beat, torture and execute prisoners. They did in the First Gulf War, and will continue to until we put them out of business for good.
There are still other reports of Iraqi actions that are simply criminal. Faked surrenders, luring Americans under artillery fire. In one such action, fifteen Marines were killed or wounded. I hope that all the Iraqis who committed this crime — and yes, it is a crime under the law of war — were killed in the action that followed. Any others who pull that stunt should be wiped out, without question or pause. And we will have to look at the rules of engagement to determine how to protect our people while they accept surrenders. We have to protect our troops from people who apparently have adopted as their principal tactics those that violate the Law of War.
We need to say it loud and clear: anyone who violates the Geneva Conventions by physically abusing prisoners will be executed after a fair — make that fair enough — trial. No International Criminal Court proceedings, nothing but a legal trial under the Geneva Conventions in Baghdad, that the Coalition nations are entitled to run themselves. Carry it live on Fox, MSNBC and even CNN. Publicize both the crimes and the executions. We owe it to our troops.
I’m having a growing sense of Saudi déjà vu. Saturday, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Faisal said, “Stop the war.” He said it was an illegal war, and that we should have a cease-fire in place. “Let’s have a breather after what we have seen of the destruction. Let’s let diplomacy work.” The Saudis gave that precise advice to Dubya’s daddy in 1991. We left Saddam in place, and we have to do this again. The lesson of Rome’s Punic Wars is that wars left unfinished have to be fought again and again until they’re concluded. I don’t think this president is going to stop until Saddam’s head is on a pike at the gates of Baghdad. And that’s exactly the right thing to do. Saddam delendus est, asap.
Jed Babbin was a deputy undersecretary of defense in the first Bush administration, and is the author of the novel, Legacy of Valor. He now often appears as a talking warhead on the Fox News Channel and MSNBC.