The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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America tastes shock and awe

Washington, March 24: Two- and-a-half crore leaflets! Could they all have ended up in the trash can'

Confronted with phoney surrenders, the spectre of Iraqi regulars fighting in civilian clothes and with fading expectations that US and British soldiers would be greeted as liberators at least in the Shia south, American military planners are reviewing their strategy on the fifth day of a war they had hoped would be quickly over and done with.

For more than six months, Washington’s propaganda machine has been priming the Iraqis for what was coming.

US planes dropped more than two-and-a-half crore leaflets over Iraq persuading Saddam Hussein’s army units to give up when the US-led forces arrived. And civilians to cooperate with those who wanted to rid Iraq of its dictatorship.

Aircraft stationed over Iraq has been broadcasting thousands of hours of propaganda into radio sets across the length and breadth of that country urging how the “liberators” of the Iraqi people should be met with.

So effective has been the technology used for these broadcasts that on the first night of the bombing of Baghdad, US broadcasts not only interrupted Iraqi radio and TV, but were briefly replaced by their propaganda.

For weeks now, when senior Iraqi generals and officials answer their mobile or home phones, they are greeted by an American voice telling them that their hopes for survival after the war depended on cooperating with the US military, not on fighting it.

Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander of the US forces in Doha was pointedly asked today why all this had not worked, considerably upsetting US and British calculations.

Fear, said Gen. Franks, was keeping the Iraqis from staging an uprising or a coup against their President.

But for the assembled journalists at his briefing, the explanation did not carry much conviction.

The biggest surprise for the advancing US-led army has been in Najaf, home to the shrine of Imam Ali and a holy place for Shias around the world.

It was from Najaf that a huge Shia uprising that covered most of Iraq’s south was orchestrated in 1991 and was brutally crushed by Saddam.

The resistance that the Americans faced in Najaf during the weekend has surprised everyone. Compounding that is their inability to produce any more TV clips of US soldiers being greeted as liberators after the first day in Safwan near Kuwait.

Not in Umm Qasr, not in Basra. In fact, Gen. Franks had to face some tough questions on why pockets of resistance were still being reported in the towns the Americans claimed to control by Saturday.

After yesterday’s fake surrender and other tricks used by the Iraqi army to inflict casualties on the Americans and the British, there are even fears here that generals loyal to Saddam may have been manipulating Washington with false expectations during their contacts which the Pentagon has been alluding to.

So far, Anglo-American war plans in Iraq have been made on the calculation that neither the Iraqi people nor the poorly trained, poorly cared-for ordinary soldiers in Iraq are the enemy. And that once the top leadership in Baghdad is incapacitated, the rest would be easy. That may well change if yesterday’s scenarios on the ground are reinforced.

Setbacks like the ones on Saturday would then have a ripple effect on areas of life outside the military or diplomacy.

When the New York Stock Exchange opened today after a weekend of assessment, equities tumbled by more than 3 per cent in marked contrast to a 13 per cent rise last week in the expectation that war would be quick and decisive.

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