Viewpoint: U.S. bribes shortened Iraq formal war
By Joe Baker, Senior Editor
If you were wondering why the Iraqis didnt put up more of a fight, the answer has come from Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of Anglo-American forces in the recent invasion.
Franks confirmed senior Iraqi officers commanding troops crucial to the defense of key cities in Iraq accepted bribes from U.S. Special Forces to abandon their posts and tell their men to put down their arms and go home.
Franks said that effort took place well before the shooting started, in fact, some months ahead of the war, when intelligence agents and special forces troops paid large sums to several Iraqi officers. Gen. Franks said the support of those commanders was considered essential for a swift victory with few casualties.
Those officers did not hesitateonce they were paid-to switch their loyalty from Saddam to the invading force.
I had letters from Iraqi generals saying: I now work for you, Franks said.
Nothing was disclosed about how many Iraqi officers were bribed or what it cost. It is thought they probably were Saddams elite forces commanders as those troops were earmarked to defend Baghdad.
The Pentagon said the tactic was cost-effective and resulted in far fewer casualties. This part of the operation was as important as the shooting part; maybe more important, said a senior Pentagon official. We knew that some units would fight out of a sense of duty and patriotism, and they did. But it didnt change the outcome because we knew how many of these (Iraqi generals) were going to call in sick, he said.
The story was broken in the publication Defense News by reporter Vago Muradian.
Before the invasion, millions of leaflets printed in Arabic were dropped over many parts of Iraq. They told the troops how to surrender and urged them to do so. The result was that many simply put on civilian clothes and went home.
Some of the techniques used were successfully employed in Afghanistan where warlords were offered substantial sums to fight on the side of the U.S. Many of these Afghani warlords are now ignoring the U.S.- installed government.
In Iraq, one of the problems of the U.S. transitional administrators is that unemployed Iraqi soldiers and retired officers are looking for their paychecks and pensions from years of service to Saddam as members of the regular army. Not surprisingly, were not paying, and these inactive soldiers are none too happy. In fact, theyve been having protests that have turned violent.
Many assert that these are the very snipers, called hunters by the Iraqi people, who have been killing our soldiers since the end of the war. Now we have Operation Sidewinder, our largest action since the end of the war, to clean up Saddam loyalists in central Iraq.
Be it greenbacks or bullets, the future costs in U.S. taxpayer dollars and lives will be much dearer than imagined or projected, formally.