Assaulting Baghdad (Louisiana)

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There should be a maxim, given the Pentagon-organized nature of war reporting, that would go something like: If the military takes you to see it, you can’t be seeing what you seem to be seeing. So when Guardian reporter Julian Borger is transported to the burbs of Baghdad (Baghdad, Louisiana, that is) along with the correspondent from Al-Jazeera TV (!) to see a mock assault on urban Iraq (and notes heavy “casualties” in the process), what exactly are we all seeing?

I’ve believed from the beginning that, if the Saddam regime refuses to “change” (as we now so euphemistically put the matter) quickly, and reasonably quietly, under an air assault, we’re unlikely to ever see anything close to a full-scale assault on urban Iraq — too many echoes of Vietnam casualties, of Mogadishu etc. Too much quite reasonable fear in the top ranks of our military, who have a greater power to block civilian decisions than they once did. This, not the UN, our reluctant allies, or Hans Blix may be the greatest stumbling block in the way of our administration’s long-dreamt of and desired war on Saddam.

On another matter, I note today that our President has just appointed “Dr.” Henry Kissinger, that’s a Ph.D., I believe — the guy’s not a podiatrist — head of the 9/11 intelligence review board. Another thing to be thankful for. After all, what else would a retired war criminal do these days? It’s actually an interesting appointment, since Kissinger and Bush the Father evidently couldn’t stand to be in the same room with each other, and Doc K has been locked out of those high corridors of government for years. It may be a clever move indeed of Bush the Son to bring him back for a final, user-friendly curtain call. Tom

A very public wargame

As the military build-up continues in the Gulf, Julian Borger in Washington sees US forces preparing for house to house combat

By Julian Borger, November 27, 2002, The Guardian

After 10 months of secrecy and denial, US military preparations for the looming conflict with Iraq have abruptly been turned into well-catered press events over the last few days. Clearly, the message has changed.

American journalists have been invited into the vast tented camps run by US forces in Kuwait’s western desert, concentrated along the Iraqi border. All together, some 12,000 troops have taken over an entire quarter of Kuwaiti territory, which is now off-limits to civilians.

US television crews have been asked aboard the warships cruising in the Persian Gulf, where a fearsome armada including four or five aircraft carriers will have gathered by the end of December. Journalists have even been permitted to fly in planes patrolling the skies of northern and southern Iraq.

Meanwhile, in Louisiana last week, a group of more than a dozen foreign journalists – including a crew from the Arabic language television station, al-Jazeera – were allowed to visit the Fort Polk urban training centre to watch the 101st Airborne, the ‘Screaming Eagles’, practise house to house combat.

To read more of this Guardian article, click here.