Tuesday, October 26, 2004
The Belmont Club on the missing explosive
As usual, Wretchard at the Belmont Club is there with great clarity.
In retrospect Saddam's plan to defend Iraq may bear a resemblance to War Plan Orange's retreat into Bataan. Since reinforcements could not come to the aid of US divisions in the Philippine Islands in time to repel an anticipated Japanese invasion, the plan called for the abandonment of the capital and a concentration of forces and supplies into the Bataan peninsula, where MacArthur's forces could hope to hold out until relief eventually arrived. MacArthur attempted to change the plan at the last moment, attempting to fight near the beaches and was belatedly forced readopt the strategy of withdrawing into Bataan, a mistake which cost him thousands of tons in supplies. Still, by skillful rearguard actions at the Agno and Pampanga Rivers, MacArthur slipped 80,000 men into his defensive redoubt and held out for four months. Three years later, Tomoyuki Yamashita, facing the same strategic problem against superior forces, moved his 272,000 troops into the mountainous spine of Luzon where he held out for a little over eight months.
Later, he elaborates on this:
The withdrawal of enemy resources into safe havens was the subject of Belmont Club's War Plan Orange. In this context, the loss of 380 tons of RDX is similar to worrying about a toothache after being diagnosed with AIDS and Ebola. Some 600,000 tons of explosive are said to have been dispersed throughout Iraq prior to the conclusion of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The loss of the RDX is serious, but in the overall scheme of things, one of the least worries. But it provides indirect confirmation of the preemptive dispersal of war materiel by the Saddam regime while the US was trying to negotiate UN permission to topple him for six months, compounded by Turkey's refusal to allow the 4ID to attack south into the Sunni Triangle.
The account above shows that the RDX explosive was already gone by the time US forces arrived. Although one may retrospectively find some fault with OIF order of battle, most of the damage had already been inflicted by the dilatory tactics of America's allies which allowed Saddam the time and space -- nearly half a year and undisturbed access to Syria -- necessary to prepare his resistance, transfer money abroad and disperse explosives (as confirmed first hand by reporters). Although it is both desirable and necessary to criticize the mistakes attendant to OIF, much of the really "criminal" neglect may be laid on the diplomatic failure which gave the wily enemy this invaluable opportunity. The price of passing the "Global Test" was very high; and having been gypped once, there are some who are still eager to be taken to the cleaners again.