For some reason, I'm not terribly surprised.
I ran across this story from the LA Times today, and remembered thinking about this during the campaign. At the time, I concluded “I’ll bet nobody wants to fight for Saddam Hussein. I’ll also bet nobody wants to get shot telling Saddam bad news.”
I was mostly right. I’d forgotten that Saddam Hussein was an energetic idiot, which is the worst kind of supreme commander that a nation can be cursed with.
Some choice quotes:
“Typical of the erratic orders were those imposed by Qusai upon a Republican Guard unit outside Baghdad. As American forces approached the city in late March, the unit received a new order every morning to reposition its tanks. Each order contradicted the one before, infuriating local commanders, Col. Raaed Faik recalled.
But the orders had to be obeyed. They arrived by courier on slips of paper signed by Qusai, Saddam’s younger son and commander of the Republican Guard.
Every time the tanks were moved from their bunkers, Faik said, a few more were exposed and destroyed by coalition air power. Meanwhile, he said, another commander was ordered to disable all three dozen of his tanks for fear they would be captured and used by Kurdish militias hundreds of miles north.
“These were the orders of an imbecile. Qusai was like a teenager playing a video war game,” Faik, 33, said in the cool reception room of his Baghdad home, gesturing to his teenage son banging away on a computer combat game.
“We should have mined the roads and bridges. We should have planned a guerrilla war,” said retired Gen. Ahmed Rahal, 51. “We were crippled by a lack of imagination.”
“We were like 10 different armies fighting their own private wars,” said Nabil Qaisy, 31, a Baath Party militiaman who said he spent the battle cowering in a north Baghdad bunker, unaware that combat was raging in the city center a few miles away.
“The only order I got was to dismantle my airplanes — the most idiotic order I ever received,” said Brig. Gen. Baha Ali Nasr, 42, an air force commander who said Iraq’s entire fleet of MIG-23s, MIG-25s and Mirage fighters was ordered taken apart and buried. Dirt and grime in the pits and berms where the planes were buried ensured that they would never be airworthy again, he said.
After the information minister claimed that Iraqi forces had retaken the Baghdad airport from U.S. troops, two former commanders said, Republican Guard Gen. Mohammed Daash was dispatched to check out a rumor that four or five American tanks had survived the Iraqi counterattack.
Daash returned to his headquarters in a panic. “Four or five tanks!” the commanders quoted Daash as telling his fellow generals. “Are you out of your minds? The whole damn American Army is at the airport!”
At this point, the Iraqi army may have been more fortunate in its rapid defeat than if it had actually been effective as a fighting force. Being pitied is better PR than being hated and put on trial for war crimes. Plus, now everybody knows exactly who is responsible for Iraq’s rapid defeat: Saddam Hussein.
Moment of Zen