Report Provides Iraqi Leaders' Perspective of War
By Jennifer Colaizzi
Special to American Forces Press Service
SUFFOLK, Va., Mar. 24, 2006 Can history be wrong? Not exactly, but history can be distorted if data is provided by only one side's perspective.
U.S. Joint Forces Command has released an unclassified historical report of military operations conducted in Iraq. The twist is that this historical report reflects the Iraqi civilian and military leadership's perspective of events.
"Opinions are not facts; one data point is not a trend, and a group of data points from a single perspective isn't going to convince anyone," said Army Brig. Gen. Anthony Cucolo, commander of JFCOM's Joint Center for Operational Analysis.
So how do you find "ground truth" in battle analysis? There are multiple options, but only one good answer, according to Cucolo.
"Ground truth is getting the red side, or enemy's, perspective from red," said Cucolo. "Looking at the enemy's actions through American military eyes," or even through the eyes of an expert trained in the enemy's battle and culture, is valuable, "but it's still a friendly's view of red."
The overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime during Operation Iraqi Freedom provided an opportunity to study an adversary.
"It's the first time since World War II (that) we had an opportunity to evaluate military events from both our own perspective and the perspective of the opposing political and military leadership," Cucolo said. "This means reading their documents, reading their orders, interviewing their commanders and civilian leaders and asking what happened."
This two-year project of delving into the decision-making processes of the former adversary started in 2003 and became known as the Iraqi Perspective Project.
The Iraqi military leaders wanted to tell their side of the story.
"Military professionals like to explain their actions, talk tactics, talk strategy, and give their view of what happened and why," the general said. "You get in a room, roll out a map in front of a former Iraqi general and say, 'Hey, sir, we understood you were here when this happened; what were your actions?'"
According to Cucolo, in terms of lessons learned, the historical approach implemented during the IPP provided excellent results.
"If I want to capture the most accurate history I can, I want to hear what you did and how you made decisions. I'll get more through dialogue than if I go about it and say, 'Where were you on the night of April 6?' It makes interviewees inhibited," Cucolo said.
The IPP team conducted more than 100 interviews, 23 with senior members of the former regime.
Interviews conducted by the IPP team included Saddam's personal secretary, Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as Chemical Ali; the secretary of the Republican Guard; both Republican Guard corps commanders; the commander of the Special Republican Guard; the director of military intelligence; division commanders; and others.
To augment the interviews conducted in Baghdad, the team also reviewed thousands of captured documents and the transcripts of hundreds of hours of secret regime recordings. The team also mined hundreds of interrogation transcripts.
The initial classified report has been used in a variety of Defense Department training courses, including Capstone, Pinnacle and courses at the Joint Forces Staff College.
JFCOM officials said the IPP report provides useful lessons learned that can be factored into ongoing and future operational planning against a similar closed regime.
Noteworthy items mentioned in the unclassified IPP report include:
Iraqi regime belief that Russia and France would act on behalf of their own economic interests in Iraq to block any U.N. Security Council actions to authorize an invasion;
Fedayeen Saddam planned for attacks in Europe (including London) and the Middle East;
Saddam was more concerned about internal revolt than a coalition invasion. Therefore, bridges were not blown, oil fields were not torched, and the south was not flooded - all part of the inadequate and ineffective military planning done prior to the invasion;
Saddam and his inner circle believed their own propaganda;
Chemical Ali was convinced Iraq no longer had WMD, but many colleagues never stopped believing in them;
Years of U.N. sanctions and coalition bombing had reduced the military effectiveness and usefulness of the Iraqi military forces;
Military and ministry leaders lied to Saddam about the true state of their capabilities;
Iraq military capability was also eroded by irrelevant guidance from the political leadership, creation of "popular" militias, prominent placement of Saddam relatives and sycophants in key leadership positions, and an onerous security apparatus; and
The regime ordered the distribution of ammunition around the country to support a prolonged war with the coalition, but not to support the insurgency or a guerrilla war.
The IPP report is just one example of the work JCOA does on a daily basis.
"We fill a void. While services do a great job of tactical and component lessons learned and the Joint Staff does strategic lessons learned, we do the operational level," Cucolo said.
The IPP is a step in the right direction, he said but the directorate is still studying documents to further expand picture of regime.
(Jennifer Colaizzi works in U.S. Joint Forces Command Public Affairs Office.)