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Iraq

24 War Questions

Weighing the how and why of war.

By Times staff

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 9, 2003


1) Does President Bush need permission from Congress before attacking Iraq?

No. In October, Congress gave the president the authority to use military force "as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq" and to "enforce all relevant" U.N. resolutions. The House of Representatives voted 296-133 in support of military action against Iraq, and the Senate authorized force, 77-23.

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2) Does the U.S. need the support of the United Nations to invade Iraq?

President Bush has vowed to use U.S. forces to disarm Iraq with or without U.N. support.

The U.N. Security Council has called on Iraq to disarm, but the Council has been divided on whether to use force. The Bush administration has argued that the Security Council loses credibility if it ignores its own rules. But Security Council members France, Germany and Russia have argued that weapons inspectors need more time to do their work.

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3) Why has the United States singled out Iraq?

The Bush administration views Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein as a threat to his own country, to the United States, to U.S. interests in the Middle East, to U.S. Arab allies and to Israel. The administration contends that Hussein is developing weapons of mass destruction.

For many years, the United States overlooked Hussein's despotism because of a common enemy -- the militantly Islamic Iran, Iraq's neighbor. Many analysts regarded Hussein bas a moderate Arab leader and saw secular Iraq as a counterweight to the growing influence of Iran.

That changed on Aug. 2, 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, which led to the first Gulf War.

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4) Is this really part of the war on terror?

The Bush administration frames the conflict in terms of the war on terrorism. Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell have tried, with mixed results, to link Iraq to al-Qaida. But neither Hussein nor Iraq has been linked directly to Osama bin Laden.

Al-Qaida operatives have been and probably still are in Iraq, especially in the north, but there's little evidence of long-term cooperation against their mutual enemy, the United States. And there is no evidence that Iraq helped carry out the Sept. 11 attacks. Iraq is more a part of America's war on potential threats around the world.

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5) Why didn't the first President George Bush get rid of Hussein during the 1991 Gulf War?

The primary goal of that war was to expel Iraq from Kuwait. That goal enabled the United States to build an international coalition. Once the United States and its partners drove Iraq from Kuwait and once the Iraqi military began surrendering en masse, President Bush, the father of the current president, worried that further bloodshed would destroy the international coalition. Bush feared "making a martyr out of a defeated brute and tyrant."

U.S. officials believed Hussein would be overthrown by his own people soon after the war. But Hussein has thwarted every internal plot, even those backed by the CIA.

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6) How much would a war with Iraq cost?

Last week officials told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the buildup for a possible war with Iraq and occupation of the country afterward would cost the Pentagon between $47-billion and $67-billion this year. The administration has declined to estimate either the cost of the conflict, or its aftermath.

Billions more would be borne by the State Department, including aid offered to Israel, Jordan, Egypt and other countries.

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7) What's the cost -- in lives -- to remove Hussein?

An estimated 100,000 to 200,000 Iraqis could die during warfare, nongovernment and humanitarian agencies say. After the war, another 200,000 Iraqis could die because of malnutrition, poor health facilities and economic deprivation. More could die in the chaos during and after a war, as long-frustrated factions seek to settle scores. Iraq's population figures are not reliable, but estimates suggest it has about 24-million people. Figures vary, but an estimated 85,000 Iraqis were killed or wounded in the Persian Gulf War.

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8) What about U.S. casualties?

The Defense Department is not addressing that. Much depends on how much fight Iraq's military shows. During the Persian Gulf War, 148 U.S. troops were killed in battle, 235 died from noncombat causes, and 467 were wounded. Pentagon officials also are concerned about postwar casualties, which depend on how U.S. troops are received as occupiers of Iraq.

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9) How many American troops have been deployed to the region?

The United States has more than 250,000 troops in the area, of which about 215,000 are in the immediate gulf region, including all 17,000 soldiers of the U.S. Army's 1st Cavalry Division. There are some 19,000 members of 101st Airborne Division in the region.

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10) In addition to soldiers, what other military presence do we have ready for war?

The U.S. Navy has five aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf and eastern Mediterranean -- each with 45 to 50 attack planes -- that are in position to strike. Nearly two dozen ships and submarines capable of firing Tomahawk cruise missiles accompany those carriers.

There are about 700 Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps combat planes in the region. Fourteen B-52 bombers recently arrived in Britain, ready for gulf missions, and B-1 and B-2 bombers have been sent to the gulf and the Indian Ocean base at Diego Garcia island.

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11) How much resistance is expected from Iraq's army?

Military officials say they aren't taking the Iraqis lightly, but defense experts dismiss Iraq's current conscript army of roughly 350,000. They are described as poorly trained and not well armed. The experts recall that in 1991, thousands of Iraqi soldiers lined up to surrender to pleasantly surprised U.S. troops.

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12) What about the Republican Guard?

The Republican Guard, Hussein's elite 80,000-man corps, is viewed now as less of a threat than in 1991.

The most respected sector of the army is the Special Guard, the shock troops of Hussein's regime, who will protect Baghdad and Hussein himself. Many expect this inner circle of the Iraqi military will fight to the death. They reportedly are armed with about 100 tanks, armored fighting vehicles and antitank missiles. They could prove formidable if the war comes down to street fighting in Baghdad.

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13) Are other countries offering military help?

Britain has 42,000 troops already in the region. Australia has ordered 2,000 troops to the region and hints it's ready to join a U.S.-led attack even without U.N. backing. Denmark says it will provide 70 elite Jaegerkorps soldiers and the Saelen submarine if military action gets U.N. backing. Other countries are offering non-combat troops or the use of air space and military bases.

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14) Why are so many countries reluctant to support the U.S. position?

Lack of popular support at home, primarily. Many countries voicing opposition to war have democratically elected governments and must be sensitive to public sentiment. Opposition in some nations is overwhelming -- greater than 80 percent in France, more than 9 out of 10 in Turkey. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder recently won re-election, to a great extent, because he opposed war.

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15) How do the American people feel about the possibility of war in Iraq?

Antiwar demonstrations are becoming common across the nation. Yet nearly 60 percent of the population supports President Bush's plan to disarm Iraq, by force if needed, according to a poll released March 3. But 24 percent say they have serious reservations about a war, even while supporting the President.

About a third, or 34 percent, support his policy without reservations, according to the ABC News-Washington Post poll. And 37 percent say they oppose the policy.

Among reasons cited most often by those who oppose the Bush policy or have reservations: the need for more international support or the support of the United Nations; the potential loss of life; concern that the United States is moving too fast; or concern that there is an insufficient threat to justify war.

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16) Can the United States go to war alone, or with only a handful of allies?

The United States can handle the war. It's what comes after that will require an international coalition. Regime change in Iraq likely will require a long-term investment in both manpower and dollars.

Another danger is that if the United States goes to war without U.N. support, that could encourage other nations to act against countries they perceive as a threat.

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17) Will a war increase the likelihood of terrorist attacks in the United States?

Probably. Al-Qaida and other terrorist groups have vowed to carry out strikes in the United States in the event of an American war against Iraq. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge has acknowledged, "There may be more threats, there have been more threats, if we go to war."

A Feb. 13 classified memo from the Defense Intelligence Agency and obtained by Newsday said: "Anti-U.S. terrorist attacks during any conflict with Iraq are a certainty."

However, there were similar warnings before the war in Afghanistan. So far, those fears have not been borne out.

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18) Assuming Hussein is removed by a U.S. invasion, who will take over Iraq?

The most likely scenario is that a U.S. general would temporarily govern Iraq with an occupation force of up to 150,000 troops. Officially, the Pentagon says that would last 18 months, but other defense officials are saying occupation could last two or three years.

After World War II, the Western allies occupied Germany for 10 years; the Soviet Union set up a communist satellite government in its sector. The divided Germany wasn't reunited until 1990. The U.S. occupation of Japan lasted about seven years.

In Iraq, democratic elections would be the goal. Last year, Iraqi political exiles agreed on a power-sharing plan that would give the greatest political clout to Shiite Muslims, the majority of Iraqis.

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19) Will Iraq still be Iraq?

Some experts say after the war, the nation could split along ethnic and religious lines, similar to what happened in Yugoslavia after the fall of communism. The Kurds, who constitute 15 to 20 percent of the population in Iraq, might secede in the north. Shiite Muslims, 60 to 65 percent of the population, might break away in the south. Sunni Muslims around Baghdad hold the middle. Other experts disagree, saying control of the nation's oil riches will determine the country's future. Oil is most plentiful in the northern half of the country.

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20) Will the United States use the "smart bombs" used in the first Gulf War?

Yes, and this time they plan to use more. During the first Gulf War, roughly 10 to 20 percent of the bombs were precision guided. The battle plan for this war calls for 70 percent or more of the bombs to be guided by laser or satellite. The goal is to hit the target while cutting down on civilian casualties.

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21) Will the United States use other high-tech weapons?

Technology used by the military has changed a lot since the Gulf War in 1991. One unusual tool the military plans to use is a small, unmanned aerial drone that soars over the enemy or a battlefield recording video images. The battery-powered drones have a 4-foot wingspan and are guided by computers.

The U.S. military also planned to use some decidedly low-tech tools. If coalition troops invaded Iraq, chickens were to serve as gas detectors. The poultry would cross the desert in cages atop Humvees driven by soldiers and marines. If the chickens keeled over, troops would know to don protective gear.

The military called it Operation Kuwaiti Field Chicken, or KFC.

Unfortunately, just more than a week after 43 chickens arrived at Living Support Area 7 in Kuwait, all but two had died, effectively shutting down the operation.

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22) Will Iraqi troops use chemical or biological weapons against U.S. soldiers?

Secretary of State Colin Powell told the U.N. Security Council that Hussein has authorized his field commanders to use chemical weapons. Chemical weapons are effective in battle because they can kill quickly. Hussein's biological weapons, particularly anthrax, are more apt to strike civilian targets, U.S. officials said.

Much of Iraq's tactical chemical arsenal is made up of weapons that are fired by artillery or short-range rocket launchers, and generally can only hit targets a few dozen miles away or less, U.S. officials say. American troops are going in with gear to protect them from such weapons.

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23) Since Iraq has so much oil, won't that nation recover quickly from a war?

Iraq has about 10 percent of the world's oil reserves -- more than 100-billion barrels. Only Saudi Arabia, with more than 300-billion barrels, has more. However, it will take time -- and money -- to bring Iraq's oil infrastructure up to its potential.

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24) Are plans being made to help Iraqi civilians?

Yes. A war lasting two or three months could displace nearly a million Iraqis and send an additional 1.5-million refugees streaming toward Iraq's borders.

To prevent a catastrophe, the U.S. government is shipping everything from 3-million daily food rations to ladders, shelters, blankets, water and medicine to the Middle East. The U.S. Agency for International Development has spent $26.5-million on supplies and plans to spend $56-million more. The United Nations has appealed for $123-million just to make its preparations, but has received about $49-million.

-- Information from the Associated Press, New York Times, Detroit Free Press, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Newsday, Scripps Howard News Service and Knight Ridder was used by Times staff writer Stephen Hegarty to compile this report. Times researchers Kitty Bennett, Barbara Oliver and Cathy Wos also contributed.

-- If you have any questions about a possible war in Iraq, please send them to warquestions@sptimes.com.

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