Despite official U.S. government announcements that we have not yet decided if we will invade Iraq, the military has ordered the movement of tens of thousands of men and tons of supplies to the Gulf region on a scale not seen since Desert Storm. We’re going ahead with the war against Iraq, despite the fact that when we played out the scenario in a recent wargame, we lost.

This slow military build-up is the same thing that happened prior to the Gulf war, along with the same official denials. The U.S. navy has chartered a large civilian cargo carrier they claim will be used to take tanks to the Gulf at the end of September. However, sources familiar with the ship?s cargo say it consists of missiles and ammunition. 20,000 U.S. Marines from Camp Pendelton will arrive in the region in mid-October, while 2,000 troops are already stationed in Jordan to give Israel advance warning against an Iraqi attack launched in response to the U.S. invasion.

Allied aircraft have struck several Iraqi military sites recently. These attacks were common during the Clinton administration but were discontinued by Bush since they did not cause Saddam to back down. Their resumption is part of the upcoming invasion of Baghdad. ?What is clear,? says one anonymous source, ?is that the U.S. and Britain have begun the air phase that would be required for a wider attack, launching raids under the auspices of the existing no-fly zones. The intention is that Iraq will have no air defense capability at all should the U.S. and U.K. decide to attack. It is a pretty strong message to Saddam.?

Since the Gulf war, the U.S. has more than doubled the rate at which it can ship troops around the world, and we now have the use of bases in Georgia, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, which we didn?t have at the time of the Gulf war, as well as huge old Soviet airbases in Bulgaria and Romania.

This summer, the military staged a ?wargame? rehearsal, known as the Millennium Challenge, of the upcoming war with Iraq?and the U.S. lost. The wargame used over 13,000 troops, hundreds of computers and cost $250 million.

This wargame was won by Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper, who played the role of Saddam Hussein. In the first few days of the exercise, using surprise tactics, the 64-year-old Vietnam vet sank most of the U.S. expeditionary fleet in the Persian Gulf, bringing the U.S. assault to a halt.

Faced with an embarrassing end to the most expensive and sophisticated wargame in U.S. history, the Pentagon pretended the whole thing hadn?t happened. They ordered the ?dead? troops back to life and ?raised? the sunken fleet. They instructed the enemy to look the other way while marines performed amphibious landings. Eventually, Van Riper got so fed up with all this cheating that he refused to play anymore.

The wargame results might have been hushed up, if the Pentagon could have kept Van Riper quiet. A straight-talking marine with a purple heart from Vietnam, he says, ?Nothing was learned from this. A culture not willing to think hard and test itself does not augur well for the future.?

Millennium Challenge was planned for two years and involved the army, navy, air force and marines. The exercises were partly real, with 13,000 troops spread across the United States, supported by actual planes and warships. The virtual part of the wargame was fought using sophisticated computer models.

The game was set in 2007 and pitted Blue forces (the U.S.) against a country called Red, which was a militarily powerful nation on the Persian Gulf that with a crazed megalomaniac dictator (Van Riper). When the exercises were first planned in 2000, Red could have been Iran. But by July, when the game actually began, Red was definitely Saddam.

Van Riper thought Blue would try a surprise strike (which we seem to be doing right now), “so I decided I would attack first,” he says. As the U.S. fleet entered the Gulf, Van Riper gave a signal in a coded message broadcast from the minarets of mosques at the call to prayer. Seemingly harmless pleasure boats and propeller planes suddenly rammed into Blue boats and airfields along the Gulf in al-Qaeda-like suicide attacks. Meanwhile, cruise missiles fired from some of the small boats sank the only U.S. aircraft carrier and two marine helicopter carriers. The tactics were based on the al-Qaeda attack on the USS Cole in Yemen two years ago. Sixteen ships were sunk altogether, along with thousands of marines. If it had really happened, it would have been the worst naval disaster since Pearl Harbor.

The officers refereeing the wargame told him that U.S. electronic warfare planes had zapped his microwave communications systems. ?You’re going to have to use cellphones and satellite phones now, they told me. I said no, no, no – we’re going to use motorcycle messengers and make announcements from the mosques,” he says. “But they refused to accept that we’d do anything they wouldn’t do in the west.

?A phrase I heard over and over was, ?That would never have happened,?? says Van Riper. ?And I said, ?Nobody would have thought that anyone would fly an airliner into the World Trade Center.??

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