• Chapter 44: Death And Destruction

    February 8, 2016
  • History on Saddam, Part 4

    There were exiled generals and politicians in Baghdad that convinced Saddam that Iran was an easy target. They claimed that many Iranian Air Force pilots would defect with their planes as soon as they were permitted to fly. They reported that Iranian armored units, especially in Khuzistan, were in complete confusion. They spoke of the Army's resentment toward the newly formed popular militia, the Revolutionary Guards, who acted as a political police, while trying to take over the Army's function and equipment. Saddam accepted their view. Together with the hostility of the international community toward Iran, and the seizure of the American embassy, Saddam figured that there would not be any international opposition toward Iraq if it attacked Iran.

    Saddam expected a quick and easy victory, within two or three weeks. Iraq's war plans were drawn up, but Saddam did not seek or want help from other Gulf states, believing that Iraq could easily achieve a victory on its own. Saddam appeared on Iraqi TV on September 15, 1980 in which he tore up the 1975 Algiers agreement. It was an agreement with Iran in which Iraq ceded half of Shatt al-Arab to Iran. Seven days later he invaded.

    Despite his lack of military experience, Saddam directed the war himself. He decided the timing of attacks and their objectives. He went to the front and conducted military operations from forward headquarters. Often his activities with the Army were shown on Iraqi TV. Saddam tried to use a strategy straight out of the Israelis playbook. He tried to repeat the success they had during the Six Day War with Egypt in 1967. He began by attacking ten Iranian airfields on the first day of the war. But these attacks achieved little. The Iranian Air Force remained intact and retaliated with strikes on Iraq. Iraq's air defenses proved to be completely inadequate, forcing them to turn to France for an effective air defense system. Iraq would eventually have one of the world's most sophisticated air defenses in the world. Yet, it was not enough to stop our U.S. forces when the Gulf War would begin some ten years later.

  • Imminent Danger

    Over twenty five hundred sorties were flown today. Hundreds of war planes flew strikes against Iraqi frontline troops, while others attacked bridges to isolate the Iraqis in Kuwait. The Bridge of 14 July was destroyed and the Bridge of Martyrs was seriously damaged.

    MAG-11 operations centered on Al Jabber airfield (pictured here). Al Jabber is centrally located in Southern Kuwait. It was the most forward of the Iraqi airbases and a prime Marine Corps objective. General Boomer wanted Al Jabber completely neutralized prior to sending his Marines against the airfield's defenses.

    The Iraqi Air Force woke up again today. More aircraft fled to Iran. In all, one hundred forty seven Iraqi aircraft managed to reach safety in Iran. While Saddam's Air Force was in retreat, His Scud forces were still a threat. A missile was fired into Saudi Arabia and the thirteenth Scud was launched at Israel.

    Today, our Marine units, supported by the Navy and our Counter Battery Radar team, Romeo Three, tightened the thumbscrews on the Iraqis. As the USS Missouri fired one hundred twelve 16-inch shells into enemy positions, the Marines conducted a probe of the Iraqi defenses in Kuwait. There were several of us entering Kuwait and approached to within weapons range of the Iraqi front lines. It's called imminent danger. At the time, I didn't even know we were that close to the enemy.

    Our objectives were much like the artillery raids, only using the Navy's battleship guns instead of our artillery. We were to test the Iraqi readiness, divert attention away from the western points of attack, and to reinforce the belief that the Americans were only concentrating on an Iranian style frontal attack. Once these objectives were accomplished, we would draw back into Saudi Arabia.

  • Just Like A Movie

    So as we marched on into Kuwait (more like drove in), we stopped just within range of Iraq's 155-mm artillery batteries. Romeo Three set up and prepared to provide counterbattery support if we were fired on. Think of the radar team as the tattle-tales. If you use your artillery guns against us, we're going to tell on you. We are going to know EXACTLY where you fired from and we're going to give your grid coordinates to our guys with guns just as big and bad as yours. And then you will only have seconds to live. And that's the way it was during all of our raids and during the ground war. We did a lot of that and destroyed many Iraqi hardware and took many lives.

    Because of the fiasco on the 29th, orders were given to have an upside down V painted on every Coalition vehicle to help identify friendly forces. My Humvee was one of those that were painted today, as well as having the M-60 mounted on top if it. I thought I had a picture of it but I don't know where it is. It may have been damaged or something and got thrown away. I did find a picture of another Humvee that looked exactly like mine so I'm using it here.

    As we were set up and the Missouri began firing, I remember grabbing a bag of Peanut M&Ms from the back of my Humvee and sitting back watching the action. It was like watching a movie on a giant screen. It was in 3D with surround sound and everything. I was wishing I had some popcorn. After about ten minutes of this, I started thinking about the poor Iraqi soldiers that were dying right now. I realized that we were killing men who were husband, or sons, or brothers, or fathers. They were no different than me, just ordered to participate in this war and longing to go back home and be reunited with loved ones. We were killing people and enjoying it. We were enjoying it like it was a football game, and with every kill, it was a point for the home team. I started thinking about them as human beings, and in war time, that's a mistake. There's plenty of time after the war, if you survive, to think about death and destruction. But now is not the time. When you start feeling sorry for the enemy, it becomes dangerous for you and your fellow Marines. When you come face to face with the enemy and you hesitate to pull the trigger, it could cost you your life and/or maybe someone else's. He's hoping you hesitate, so he can have that advantage.

    I had to start thinking differently about them. I struggled to sort out my feelings. I didn't want to have to look at the enemy's face. It would be easier to kill a faceless person and not have to remember the look on their face as they draw their last breath. I was hoping I would never have to encounter that, but if I did, hoping I had the courage and strength to go through it without hesitation. I felt the need to dehumanize the enemy and think of them as an evil object. As long as I was killing objects and not people, I would not feel as guilty. I did not want to face the reality that those we were killing had families and loved ones too;  waiting for them to return home safely.

    “Killing is not so easy as the innocent believe.”
    ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince