Cheney Declares Iraqi Freedom 'Most Extraordinary Military Campaign'
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 1, 2003 Vice President Richard Cheney knows what it takes to launch a war in the Persian Gulf. He did just that in 1991 as the nation's 17th defense secretary.
Who better then to compare operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom 12 years later?
In a speech to the Heritage Foundation today, Cheney called Operation Iraqi Freedom "one of the most extraordinary military campaigns ever conducted." He said the campaign U.S. and coalition forces launched March 19 followed "a carefully drawn plan with fixed objectives and the flexibility to meet them."
The military men in command -- Army Gen. Tommy Franks, operational commander, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Vice Chairman Marine Gen. Peter Pace "have served their nation exceedingly well," Cheney added.
The vice president and former defense chief professed he's never been more proud of America's men and women in uniform. "By their skill, by their courage, they have made our nation and the world more secure," he said.
Citing several examples, he noted that Iraqi Freedom displayed vastly improved capabilities over the first U.S.-led war in the Persian Gulf.
In Desert Storm, 20 percent of the nation's air-to-ground fighters employed laser-guided bombs. In Operation Iraqi Freedom, all U.S. air-to-ground fighters were capable of employing laser-guided bombs.
"As a result," Cheney said, "with only two-thirds of the attack aircraft deployed in Desert Storm, we could strike twice as many targets."
Ground forces also employed improved combat power, he said. In Desert Storm, U.S. Marines had M-60 tanks. In Iraqi Freedom, they had the Abrams M-1, equipped with a thermal sight and a 122 mm gun that "increased their range by 50 percent and enabled them to engage the enemy before they could even fire a single round."
In Desert Storm, he said, Bradley armored vehicle crews estimated the range of their targets, often missing on the first round. In Iraqi Freedom, improved laser range finders enabled the crews to hit their targets with their first round.
Only one type of unmanned aerial vehicle was available to locate enemy targets in the early 1990s, Cheney added. In 2003, there are 10 types, "ranging from a tactical system that would allow our soldiers to look over the next hill, to strategic systems that operate at 65,000 feet and could provide images the size of the state of Illinois."
U.S. forces have dramatically improved their ability to use targeting photos, he continued, and command-and-control systems have become more flexible and effective. Where in the past only air component commanders had a near real-time picture of the air campaign, in Iraqi Freedom, all U.S. component commanders shared a real-time computer display of our air, land and sea forces.
"These advances in command and control allowed us to integrate joint operations much more effectively than ever before, thereby enabling commanders to make decisions more rapidly, to target strikes more precisely, to minimize civilian casualties and to accomplish missions more successfully," Cheney concluded.
Iraqi Freedom was also conducted differently from Desert Storm, he noted, highlighting the expanded role of special operations forces.
The 1991 war began with a 38-day air campaign, followed by a brief ground attack. "This time around," Cheney said, the ground war began before the air war. Unlike in 1991, when Saddam Hussein had time to set Kuwait's oil fields on fire, special operations forces went in early to protect 600 oil wells to protect the environment and safeguard a vital resource for the Iraqi people.
In Desert Storm, Saddam's forces fired Scud missiles at Israel and Saudi Arabia. This time, special operations forces seized control and prevented missile launches.
"Our special ops forces," Cheney said, "joined by those of our British, Australian and Polish allies, played a much more central role in the success of Operation Iraqi Freedom than they did 12 years ago."
Saddam Hussein apparently expected a replay of Desert Storm, and planned to destroy Iraq's oil wells, bridges and dams. "But the tactics employed by Gen. Franks were bold," he said. "They made the most of every technological advantage our military possesses and they succeeded in taking the enemy by surprise.
"With less than half of the ground forces, and two-thirds of the air assets used 12 years ago in Desert Storm, Secretary (Donald) Rumsfeld and Gen. Franks have achieved a far more difficult objective in less time and with fewer casualties."
The war's success, coming on the heels of victory in Afghanistan, Cheney affirmed, "is proof positive of the success of our efforts to transform our military to meet the challenges of the 21st century."