by Austin Bay
October 8, 2002
The American president delivers a blistering speech promising anall-out assault on Iraq -- and economic aid in the aftermath. The Americanopposition leader, at times a doubting dove but always a calculatingpolitician, announces from the well of the Senate that the president willhave a definitive national mandate for war.
Suggestive reports circulate. The Pentagon is massing armor inKuwait and training troops in Jordan. Odd little wire stories mention U.S.and Turkish special operations forces at "abandoned airfields" in northernIraq. TV squawk shows host retired colonels who draw arrows on the screenrepresenting "multiple axises of advance." Upscale Iraqi refugees, nowcalled defectors, accede to interviews with left-wing British journalists.
Beyond the world of speculation and hot rhetoric, hot leaddelivers its own explicit message. U.S.-led airstrikes not only blast radarsites, but the town of Tikrit, hometurf of Saddam's ruling elite, sees itselectric power and water systems destroyed, its government offices smashedby precision munitions and local "palaces" reduced to dust.
Aggressive diplomacy, saber-rattling information, selective butharsh military action? Yes, and joined for a purpose.
Consider it a script for inducing a Baghdad coup. Except thisisn't Hollywood, where deception is paper mache and Barbra Streisand quotingfaux Shakespeare. In this script, deception relies on demonstrated,unquestionable intent and proven, violent capability.
To students of strategy, all warfare is psychologicaloperations. Whether the means are bullets or bluster, war is an attack on anopponent's will to resist. The targets of this psy-ops campaign are Saddam'shenchmen and fellow gangsters, the regime's human support structure that hasthe means and opportunity to remove Saddam.
Psy ops gives this inner circle the third element necessary fora coup, an immediate motive. Think of it as their personal "exit strategy."Imminent U.S. action translates into loss of Swiss bank accounts as well asloss of life.
Unless, of course, you do Uncle Sam a favor, and aiding a"ballot by Beretta" earns plotters post-Saddam consideration.
A successful coup has always been Washington's aim. InternalIraqi action means the war does not escalate. U.S. troops are not at risk.Iraqi infrastructure remains intact. Iraqi civilians (Saddam's chiefvictims) are liberated with less bloodshed.
Saddam's a master at thwarting coups. CIA-sponsored covertaction has a miserable record. However, open source indicators suggest theodds of a successful internal revolt or covert action may be improving.
- Republican Guard morale has declined.
- Members of Saddam's own tribal clan have been contactingIraqi dissidents, with a view to saving their own necks.
- Allied aircraft are dropping leaflets promising thedestruction of anyone resisting allied attacks. The leaflets end with, "Youcould be next." B-52 attacks on regime enforcement units like the RepublicanGuard and Special Republican Guard would amplify that message.
- U.S. intent is clear. That's vital. Coup plotters must becertain Western leaders are resolved to decisive military action. Few doubtPresident Bush has the gumption -- and that perception is critical. Leftistappeaseniks are doing their bit. Convinced Bush is a gung-ho warmongeringTexas Republican cowboy, their peace march megaphones reinforce the notion"he's gonna pull the trigger." God bless occasionally useful idiots.
With the exception of the attacks on Tikrit and Saddam'spalaces, the diplomatic and military moves in this column's first paragraphsare occurring. When Tikrit is bombed, watch out. The real cue for a coup,however, will be a concerted military ground move.
Would a coup solve all problems? Of course not. Post-Saddam Iraqunder any circumstances will be fractured and fractious. However, Saddamwon't be replaced by another Saddam. The new crew in Baghdad must rely onthe United States for aid and support. That comes at the price of destroyingweapons of mass destruction, the raison d'etre for war.
Is a coup d'etat at this late date a Bush administration pipedream? Arguably, the United States is attempting to take psy-ops to a newlevel, but with Iraqi morale already rotten, orchestrating diplomatic,information and military power to induce an anti-Saddam coup has a realchance of succeeding.