Inside a sweltering, gold canvas tent, hundreds of US Army
military police (MP) sit fanning themselves while two uniformed
Arabic-speakers brief them on what to expect from Iraqi soldiers and
civilians. "As soon as the Iraqi people know the United States will
go all the way to Baghdad, we will get support," says a mustached
sergeant named Sami. "The Iraqi people are waiting for liberation.
"Hooah!" the MPs reply.
At desert camps across northern Kuwait, US military units are
building up not just for war, but for what many here anticipate
could be mass surrenders and capitulations by the Iraqi Army and an
almost overnight transition to "stabilization operations."
Even if the scenarios of a swiftly collapsing regime turn out to
be too optimistic, US forces will confront immense tasks once the
fighting is over as the occupying power of a fractious, downtrodden,
and potentially unstable nation. In the end, maintaining the peace
in Iraq - as in much of modern warfare - may be as difficult as
waging the war.
The US strategy going in is designed to minimize destruction that
would add to the burden faced by America and its allies in securing
peace and helping the nation of 22 million rebuild.
The imperative of US commanders is to try to force Saddam Hussein
out while minimizing civilian casualties and damage to the country's
economic infrastructure. American forces hope to achieve this
through an intense, compressed campaign combining precision air
strikes against Iraqi military facilities and regime targets with a
rapid ground push to free the bulk of the country from Mr. Hussein's
"We are taking extraordinary measures to prevent innocent
casualties," said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who has
retained the authority to approve any strikes against military
targets that risk more than about 30 civilian lives, military
sources say. Civilian bridges, roads, communications facilities,
power plants, and other infrastructure would not be targeted under
current US rules of engagement.
Yet even with a surgical military operation, American ground
forces rolling into Iraq would have to contend - almost as soon as
the smoke cleared - with humanitarian needs as well as potential
social upheaval. In a population that's suffered nearly a quarter
century of dictatorship and years of economic sanctions, war
prisoners, displaced residents, and factions intent on settling old
scores could all pose challenges.
To meet such needs, US ground combat forces are loading up aid
packages with enough food, water, blankets, and medical supplies for
thousands of Iraqis. "We have prepositioned packages for 1,000 to
1,500 people with our brigades," says Maj. John Chadbourne,
executive officer of the Third Infantry Division's 703rd Support