Today in Secret History: February 1 — Deceptions All Around

Deceptions All Around

On 1 February 2002, more than a year before the 2003 Iraq war, Gen. Tommy Franks briefed Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on his concept of operations for an Iraq war.  Communicating via secure video teleconference (VTC), the two discussed a variety of deceptions that would be employed prior to the war.

“Several Arab heads of state, with whom I had close relationships,” Franks would later write in American Soldier (pp. 366-369) “had provided valuable information based on their own personal contacts with Saddam Hussein…. I knew these leaders were invaluable conduits through which we could pass information – and disinformation – to the Iraqi regime.”

Franks doesn’t discuss the American disinformation, which in hindsight seems to have been mostly tactical in nature – such as how an attack would unfold – but he also doesn’t discuss what “valuable information” he learned, which we now know, was a lot of hooey about Iraq’s non-existent WMD.  What a sad self-reverential chain: Saddam bluffed, Arab leaders repeat it, U.S. leaders believe it, the public is convinced it is true, it justifies going to war…

Oh, and everyone’s favorite source – Hosni Mubarak of Egypt – is now gone, casualty of his own deceptive authoritarian corrupt echo chamber.

The second deception would be “increased kinetic strikes in the no-fly zones to weaken Iraq’s integrated air defenses,” Franks said.   In English, that’s a war before a war, under the cover of U.N. sanctioned no-fly zones.  And indeed by March 2003, enormous damage had been done to Iraq’s air defenses and command and control under Operation Southern Focus.  The government in Baghdad protested the accelerated bombing, the U.S. stuck to the description that they were routine operations in response to Iraqi provocations, and the public was none the wiser that war was a done deal.

Rumsfeld’s guidance to Franks for the conduct of Southern Focus, according to Cobra II by Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor:  ‘stay below the CNN line.’”

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