They’re calling it “A-Day,” A as in airstrikes so devastating they would leave Saddam’s soldiers unable or unwilling to fight.
If the Pentagon sticks to its current war plan, one day in March the Air Force and Navy will launch between 300 and 400 cruise missiles at targets in Iraq. As CBS News Correspondent David Martin reports, this is more than number that were launched during the entire 40 days of the first Gulf War.
On the second day, the plan calls for launching another 300 to 400 cruise missiles.
“There will not be a safe place in Baghdad,” said one Pentagon official who has been briefed on the plan.
“The sheer size of this has never been seen before, never been contemplated before,” the official said.
The battle plan is based on a concept developed at the National Defense University. It’s called “Shock and Awe” and it focuses on the psychological destruction of the enemy’s will to fight rather than the physical destruction of his military forces.
“We want them to quit. We want them not to fight,” says Harlan Ullman, one of the authors of the Shock and Awe concept which relies on large numbers of precision guided weapons.
“So that you have this simultaneous effect, rather like the nuclear weapons at Hiroshima, not taking days or weeks but in minutes,” says Ullman.
In the first Gulf War, 10 percent of the weapons were precision guided. In this war 80 percent will be precision guided.
The Air Force has stockpiled 6,000 of these guidance kits in the Persian Gulf to convert ordinary dumb bombs into satellite-guided bombs, a weapon that didn’t exist in the first war.
“You’re sitting in Baghdad and all of a sudden you’re the general and 30 of your division headquarters have been wiped out. You also take the city down. By that I mean you get rid of their power, water. In 2,3,4,5 days they are physically, emotionally and psychologically exhausted,” Ullman tells Martin.
Last time, an armored armada swept into Kuwait and destroyed Saddam’s elite republican guard divisions in the largest tank battle since the World War II. This time, the target is not the Iraqi army but the Iraqi leadership, and the battle plan is designed to bypass Iraqi divisions whenever possible.
If Shock and Awe works, there won’t be a ground war.
Not everybody in the Bush Administration thinks Shock and Awe will work. One senior official called it a bunch of bull, but confirmed it is the concept on which the war plan is based.
Last year, in Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan, the U.S. was badly surprised by the willingness of al Qaeda to fight to the death. If the Iraqis fight, the U.S. would have to throw in reinforcements and win the old fashioned way by crushing the republican guards, and that would mean more casualties on both sides.
Statement from CBS News Anchor Dan Rather: “We assure you this report contains no information that the Defense Department thinks could help the Iraqi military