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  Probing a Slaughter
Posted by FoM on May 22, 2000 at 06:36:34 PT
By John Barry and Evan Thomas 
Source: Newsweek Magazine A U.S. assault on Iraqi troops was 'a grouse shoot'—but was it an excessive use of force?

Veterans of operation desert Storm sometimes call the Battle of Rumaylah the Battle of the Junkyard, because when it was over, the battlefield was scattered with the burned-out remains of 600 Iraqi tanks, armored personnel carriers, guns and trucks.

Actually, it wasn't much of a battle. Only one American tank was lost —burned when an Iraqi tank exploded beside it —and only a single American soldier was injured.

Last week, in The New Yorker magazine, a 25,000-word article by famed investigative reporter Seymour Hersh raised serious questions about the commander who ordered this one-sided attack, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, a much decorated Vietnam veteran who is now President Clinton's chief adviser on drug policy. The article quoted eye-witnesses and senior officers who questioned McCaffrey's judgment for ordering an all-out assault on a retreating Iraqi tank division two days after the war had been halted by an American ceasefire. Even if the Iraqis had fired on McCaffrey's 24th Mechanized Division with rocket-propelled grenades, as his front line radioed at the time, McCaffrey's response —a five-hour tank, artillery and helicopter-launched rocket barrage —was all out of proportion, Hersh charges.

Coming after a ceasefire, McCaffrey's onslaught does appear excessive. But in an interview with NEWSWEEK, McCaffrey vigorously disputed some of Hersh's facts. Hersh writes that "many" of the Iraqi tanks were loaded onto trucks with their barrels aimed to the rear, marking them as non-combatants. McCaffrey, who was exonerated by an Army inquiry, insists that the vanguard of Iraqi tanks was advancing in combat formation with guns loaded. The ceasefire was unilateral —the Iraqis hadn't agreed to it —and McCaffrey felt he had to shoot back to protect his troops. Hersh quotes witnesses who claim that the Iraqis posed no threat. McCaffrey says those witnesses were miles from the action. The dispute will rattle on (Hersh did not return calls), but it misses a larger context.

Operation Desert Storm was intended to be a one-sided slaughter. "We didn't go up there looking for a fair fight with these people," says McCaffrey. The "new American way of war," he says, is to pulverize the enemy with overwhelming force at the cost of the fewest possible casualties. When McCaffrey was a company commander in Vietnam, GIs fought the enemy from 20 yards away with rifles and grenades. Now the goal is to annihilate the enemy before it can get off a shot. Superior technology and training made this possible in Desert Storm. The war, remarked one British commander, was "rather like a grouse shoot."

Time after time, U.S. tanks spotted Iraqi tanks through their thermal-imaging sights before the Iraqis even knew the Americans were close. The lethal range of the main gun of an American M1A1 tank exceeds that of the gun on the Iraqis' Soviet-made T-72s by almost a mile. At the Battle of 73 Easting on the second day of the gulf war, nine American tanks killed 28 Iraqi tanks in 23 minutes —in a driving sandstorm. Not a single American tank was scratched. In the battle of Medina Ridge, six American Apache helicopters destroyed 38 tanks. Since the Apaches were three miles away in darkness and rain when they fired their Hellfire rockets, the Iraqis literally did not know what hit them. Even when the Army went "over the top" into the Iraqi trenches, the slaughter was wholesale. An armored bulldozer buried alive the Iraqi defenders, unless they came out with their hands up. Terrified, Iraqi soldiers tore off all their clothes to prove they were harmless.

Such carnage was acceptable as long as it wasn't on TV. It wasn't until video cameras recorded American warplanes shooting up Iraqi cars and busses fleeing Kuwait on the so-called Highway of Death that President Bush decided to call an end to the massacre. A decade later, McCaffrey says he welcomes a public debate over the nature and goals of war. He worries that the American people —and even younger Army officers —have forgotten about the hard slogging of ground combat in Vietnam, and that they have an unreal view of modern warfare. "Do we understand that when we use military force decisively, we are actually killing people and breaking up their equipment? Do we understand that? Do you understand that when you actually apply power, you don't want a fair fight?" McCaffrey showed no signs of repentance or even disquiet. The lopsided nature of the Battle of Rumaylah, he told NEWSWEEK, made it "one of the happiest days of my life."

Published: Newsweek, May 29, 2000
© 2000 Newsweek, Inc.

Related Articles:

Overwhelming Force - The New Yorker Magazine

The Last Battle of the Gulf War

Persian Gulf War (Ret.)

Article on McCaffrey Sparks Furor

Gulf War Crimes?

McCaffrey Stands By Decisions in Gulf War

Article Questions U.S. General

Drug Director Criticizes Journalist

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Comment #3 posted by Desert Vet on July 24, 2001 at 21:19:15 PT
Cowards always whine the loudest after the fight!
You ***** ******* pacifists always whine about war and violence, regardless of it's necessity, but are always the first hypocrits to utilize the military when your political agendas, or your lives are at risk. Case in point, the completely insane political nature of airstrikes on Iraq imposed by former President (what is the definition of is?) Clinton every time his ass was in a bind. That is abuse of power solely for personal gain not action on the field of battle. Oh, that's right he dodged the draft! Oh, by the way, thank every soldier or veteran you have ever met for allowing you to have the freedom of speech you so soundly abuse that would be considered an act of treason in Iraq, and whereby you would be promptly executed. Prussian General Karl von Clausewitz once quoted, "War is an act of force, and there is no logical limit to the application of that force." Thats why we killed off about 70,000 of those idiots with overwhelming air power before we put one infantryman or tanker at risk resulting in only 145 combat deaths suffered by Army soldiers. By the way, the two guys from my platoon who died in Iraq, in the service of their country, (something you pious underachievers would never have the courage to do), would like to say to enjoy yourself rotting in hell with rest of bastards we put in sandy graves.

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Comment #2 posted by FoM on May 22, 2000 at 09:11:18 PT
Right Kapt!
Hi kapt!
You are right. When McCaffrey said in this article that what he did: made it "one of the happiest days of my life." I felt literally sick to my stomach. A person who finds happiness in what he did doesn't know what the word COMPASSION is! They better see what is going on before we have a revolution or something!
Peace, FoM!

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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on May 22, 2000 at 08:40:08 PT:

But who is the enemy now, MISTER McCaffrey?
Again and again and again: he's not a General, anymore. He's a citizen, now. And subject to the same laws... or he's supposed to be... that we all are.

McCaffrey: "Do you understand that when you actually apply power, you don't want a fair fight?"

In a nutshell, this is his philosophy. Applied towards the DrugWar. Towards his enemies. Towards *us*. We, the *citizens* of this country who don't agree with him and the insane laws he supports. However calm and reasonable he seems in his public appearences, this is what is really driving him. This is what's going on in his mind. Total annihilation of his opponents, using whatever means at his command.

The Drugwar had been partially militarized before he accepted the job offered to him by his hypocritical non-inhaling boss; but now, under his direction it is almost completely intertwined with the military to such an extant that we are planning on a de facto invasion of a *second* foreign nation over drugs. Which he is actively lobbying for. (The first, dear readers,was Panama, and we *still* don't know how many innocent Panamanian civilians died in *that* one. And the hard stuff keeps rolling in.)

To you military families out there: Is it worth your son's life trying to keep some damn' fool from putting a needle in his arm or powder up her nose? The retired Regular Army officer father of the woman that died piloting the crashed NSA spook plane in Colombia doesn't think so. But the problem is that McCaffery obviously *does*. You should clue him in before he gets even more ambitious.

Because, given his mindset, he'd happily throw this country into a bloody foreign civil war and social turmoil at home to achieve his objective.

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