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Light Casualties

I just happened to stumble upon this site and so glad I did. What caught my eye was (Nothing Learned from Black Hawk Down). I have not had the heart to read the book, I feel that I know enough about it; what a tragedy it was.  I myself am a widow.  I was only 28 years old when my husband Ricky, a special forces medic, was killed (shot down) in northern Iraq April 14, 1994, while traveling in a blackhawk helicopter, a mistaken identity so they say. Two of our F-15 fighter pilots did not know the difference between a UH-60 blackhawk helicopter and an Iraqi hind helicopter so 26 people were killed that morning, not a cloud in the sky, a bright sunny day, not a threat to anyone.  

I never will understand how this could have happened other than pure stupidity; this pilot had a brief IFF signal, why would this pilot push that button? Why would the wingman follow the lead pilot  without confirming what he was shooting at? As the AWACS lays sleeping in the sky not knowing what to do or say, watching the whole tragic incident unfold without interruption.

Bottom line; I don't think anything was learned from this tragedy either. They say they use this as part of their training, but what good is training when so many things are wrong? I would like to write a book on this as the events unfolded and the mistakes that were made, incompatible equipment and so on, but I would not even know where to start with it as I am not a writer. 


Ed: Politicians like to brag when casualties are "light". But to those who are wounded or killed in the fighting and confusion, it may as well be World War III.

Support the President

I just read your diatribe that passes on as journalistic analysis. The exact same calamities you are predicting for this coming conflict were the exact same predictions that were predicted right before Desert Storm and right before the Afghanistan conflict and NONE came true. Where are the thousands upon thousands of American casualties that were predicted by the nay-sayers? Where is the Quagmire? Where are the thousands of new enemies we just made ready to give their life to Allah? There are no more suicide bombers today, than there were before we attacked Afghanistan.

I don't have a problem with you making these predictions because this is a forum for debate with respect to the military. However, when you combine this "analysis" with the same Anti-Bush, Anti-Israel, USA-is-a-warmonger  political garbage of  the left leaning nay-sayers, then you just lost all credibility. Your supposed expertise is in military matters, NOT political ones. When it comes to politics you are an amateur and your opinions on the matter carry as much weight as an actor that "plays" a President on TV. On top of that, you go on to site an article by the Washington Post, recognized as the most biased left-leaning paper in the country, to help support your point...and again, you lose more credibility. And to top it off, you post an article by a "famous author" that has no relevance whatsoever in the arena of military ideas, just because he subscribes to your political view and "helps" reinforce it in your mind. Maybe the next time you have a medical problem you'll ask Alan Alda for medical advice, hey he agrees with you on politics, and he played a doctor on TV so he can't be wrong, huh?

If you had just stuck to the issues and not launched into the Anti-Bush, Anti-Israel, USA/Crusade-against-muslims diatribe that has nothing to do with the truth and facts of the upcoming war, then you would have some credibility. Stick to your area of expertise because if it has nothing to do with military tactics and equipment, your opinion has no more value as Joe Blow's off the street. I will be glad to see you eat your words after we're done with Iraq.

                                                                                           Richard E. Bonitz

Ed: If you read my editorial closely, you will discover that I didn't predict anything.  I just showed the challenges are far greater than the "walk in the sun" many people on TV act like it will be.  I realize the power of corporate TV is so strong that many Americans can't think clearly.  For example, it is now known that thousands of GIs died from complications after exposure to low-levels of nerve gas agents during the last Persian Gulf war, but you won't see that on Fox News.  We've spent tens of billions of dollars to keep US troops in the Persian Gulf since 1990, so yes, its a quagmire which about to get worse.

I am what used to be called a "conservative", one who believes in freedom, low taxes, balanced budgets, America-first, and a small federal government.  Since Bush has taken over, he's taken away freedoms, grew the government faster than any president since FDR, angered most of the world, and will soon hit us with heavy taxes in the form of inflation resulting from deficit spending.  I found it humorous that Turkey's parliament had to vote to accept $26 billion from US taxpayers, but Bush felt no obligation to ask the US Congress for approval of this outrageous giveaway.

No one considers our adventure in Afghanistan to be successful, it's just had some success.  We've spent billions of dollars, killed thousands of Afghans, let al Qaeda slip away, and still struggle to keep cruel warlords in line.  Finally, any American who spends several hours a day pursuing the truth can become an expert in most fields.  For example, you can learn that Bush went AWOL  during the Vietnam war, while Cheney and Wolfowitz dodged the draft.  However, the right-wing Washington Post will never print that "unfit" news, lest more peasants get angry.

Sensible Americans

I just want to tell you (as a European) that I am very glad to finally read something sensible, written by an informed American, about the current Iraq-crisis.  Don't get me wrong, I know there must be many sensible Americans, but it is difficult for me as a non-American to get a sense of the current public opinion in the U.S. All the big US news agencies are spouting propaganda and it's virtually impossible to get a feel for what the true opinion of the American people is.

The European newsnets are of course much to blame for this since they seem just as interested as their American counterparts to distribute government propaganda ("our" propaganda is pretty much the opposite of "yours" though: "the US is bad, George W is stupid and wants to slaughter civilians" and so on :-) and to prove their point, they only show the silliest American news clips.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this (I'm not even sure if your website is meant to be political.. I stumbled in here while doing some research on tactical lasers under development)  If more Americans are as realistic and sensible as you seem to be, there is certainly hope for a peaceful solution. I mean, as long as the inspectors are in Iraq (even if they don't find anything) Saddam wont be making many weapons of mass destruction (as you already pointed out).


Ed: The latest Pew poll reveals that 57% of Americans oppose war without UN support, a topic TV news avoids.  The American media loves to bash France, a nation who intervened militarily to allow the United States to achieve independence from Britain.  It's not just the French who are opposed to an invasion of Iraq, but most members of the UN Security Council and most all nations on Earth.  Allowing the USA to conduct an unprovoked invasion of a weak nation is best described as "appeasement"; e.g. when the Europeans formally allowed Germany to invade Czechoslovakia in 1938.  Even former NATO Commander US Army General Wesley Clark referred to an invasion of Iraq as a colonial endeavor. 

Electronic Vulnerabilities

As soon as we enter the Tigres/Euphrates River delta we will be in a largely built up and modern environment where the Iraqi army will be capable of eliminating much of our technical advantages by jamming radio waves. No matter what slogans general officers use, the U.S. military is still a top down organization that's largely untrained and unprepared to go it alone if they lose direction from higher command. If we start losing our ability to digitally employ targets combined with a loss of electronic C&C, then it's game over.

Although it's likely that most of the Iraqi army will not fight hard, I suspect that the U.S. army would come to a screeching halt if they lost radio communications and GPS. Without a shot being fired the whole operation would become completely chaotic. When is the last time we really faced a EW threat? Well we're about to face one that's potentially formidable and on their turf. The closer we get to Baghdad the worse the threat will become. Even without jamming, communications in urban environments can be difficult but with a few minor preparations the Iraqis could make it next to impossible. It's the biggest chink in our armor and one that even Saddam is smart enough to figure out. 


Ed: When commercial aircraft first tested GPS in the USA a few years back, it didn't work in some areas.  It turns out a few local UHF television stations were broadcasting near the GPS freq, so they forced them to change.  I doubt the Iraqis will be that compliant.  You can't change the GPS freqs either, except over a 10 year period as satellites are replaced.


1. Drag chutes - yes indeed. The 'nuke type' drag chutes are highly compressed and ballistically deployed - and waterproof. That last is the key - fighter drag chutes could get wet if the aircraft was outside in the rain and then freeze in flight at altitude. Result - no deployment on landing. FWIW reverse thrust amounts to about 40% of the forward thrust available to the aircraft. Most of a transport's stopping capability comes from the brakes. On a contaminated runway (ice, water) the brakes lose effectiveness. Here a drag chute would be nice to have. They can be a bitch in a cross-wind but jettisoning them when lateral control becomes dicey is a solution.

2. Artillery tent city. Why do they have so many people? I think a management/manpower audit is needed. Sounds like a very juicy target for fighter-bombers - or counter-battery fire. I read that after D-Day the Germans bitched about that in Normandy. Seems their radios attracted attention.

3. Officer-EM ratio. Let's start with generals and work our way down. I believe we have more stars in the forces now than in WW2. And they all require horse-holders, etc. We can keep the paper justifications just cut the hell out of the manpower allocations. 50% is a good goal..

4. John Le Carre bitches well but I didn't see any suggestions. Peace is great - but I remember Chamberlain waving that piece of paper - it was in LIFE magazine when I was a kid in Alaska. Plus - what do you want to bet France has a secret agreement with Saddam that once the dust settles TotalElfAquitaine goes in and fixes the oilfields? 

                                                                                                    Bjorneby Walter