The Battle Plan for Baghdad?
A secret Pentagon report sketches seven scenarios.
Posted Thursday, April 3, 2003, at 6:16 PM
6) "Segment and Capture." In this modified version of an overland, frontal assault, specific neighborhoods and areas of Baghdad would be identified and assaulted by air and ground operations. The briefing contains explicit ethnic and demographic details of Baghdad's neighborhoods, apparently to help commanders decide which sections to attack first and which parts would most likely welcome U.S. and coalition troops. But picking off one area at a time could be a long, drawn-out endeavor, not all that unlike the siege option.
7) "Softpoint Capture and Expansion." This would involve seizing "unprotected city segments" where military opposition is thought to be weak. The aim would be to "expand" those bridgeheads into more contested parts of the "urban area." The briefing identified several areas that could be captured relatively easily by U.S. troops.
No doubt, the military ordered up other how-to-invade-Baghdad studies. President Bush long ago put the military's top generals on notice that this difficult task would probably end up on their to-do list. Nevertheless, over the past few months, anyone reading the various news accounts about the Pentagon's war preparations and listening to the analysis of talking-head generals would have good reason to conclude that the U.S. military plans for a war on Iraq were more detailed about the initial assault—we take Basra on Day 1 and head toward Baghdad—and less specific about what happens once U.S. troops reach the capital. The Pentagon, as the PowerPoint presentation notes, had developed options, none of them a cakewalk. In the hours and days ahead, we will see which one of these—if any—morphed into the current plan (which the Pentagon might even still be rewriting at this moment).
David Corn is Washington bureau chief of Mother Jones and an MSNBC/NBC News analyst.
Mark Perry is the author of Four Stars: The Inside Story of the 40-Year Battle Between the Joint Chiefs of Staff and America's Civilian Leaders and four other books.
Photograph on the Slate home page of smoke over Baghdad by Partick Baz/Agence France Presse.