There are always some things that have happened in the ongoing U.S. war against Iraq that leave me with a feeling of not having gotten to the bottom of an incident. Many times, research will provide the answers, but some things still stick out as unfinished business.
One of these quandaries was the taking of Saddam International Airport (later renamed Baghdad International Airport by the U.S.) in early April 2003. I read much of the news from the mainstream press of various countries. Most said the airport was taken with ease and few U.S. casualties.
However, there were gaps in the reporting as well as contradictory statements. Initially, most press agencies or publications reported heavy fighting when the U.S. arrived at the airport. Then, there was silence. About four days later, we heard about the airport’s fall to the U.S. But, was it all as easy as the press stated?
Russian agencies carried stories of fierce fighting in which many U.S. soldiers were killed. Some Arab news agencies spoke of a bloody battle with heavy casualties on both sides. These reports were totally opposite from the ones coming out of the U.S. and Britain.
To me, it was easy to believe that the public had been hoodwinked, but experience in journalism taught me to be leery of some information that seemed to be far out and research the subject properly before making a judgement. We all have seen the preposterous allegations made by Internet websites from people who opposed and those who supported the illegal March 2003 invasion of Iraq: Saddam was behind the 9-11 attacks; Saddam and the CIA planned the invasion of Iraq; the Bible predicted the invasion, etc.
In 1991, I heard a tape of a battle in which the U.S. lost thousands of troops. The background noise was loud with shooting and explosions. The narrator (supposedly on the spot) spoke in Arabic and talked of Americans falling like flies. This tape was widely spread after the cease-fire in the 1991 Gulf War. It was supposed to show that the media did not report of the tens of thousands of U.S. deaths. It was a fraud perpetrated by a citizen of Saudi Arabia.
Then, a U.S. nurse who used to visit Iraq with teddy bears for the kids during the embargo told of a small island in the Pacific on which 20,000 U.S. soldiers killed in the Gulf War were secretly buried. She lambasted me for not knowing of this. Again, another fraud.
A couple of weeks ago, I read an article written by Captain Eric May, a 14-year veteran of the U.S. Army. He alleges that the Battle of Baghdad, which began at Saddam International Airport, was far more devastating to the U.S. forces than had been reported. I went to various web sites that carried his writings and I was impressed. This was no conspiracy theorist looking for publicity. Additionally, he held knowledge that few writers about Iraq (including myself) have: keen expertise in the areas of military tactics and U.S. military intelligence. I thought it was worth calling him and interviewing him. That same day, we talked for more than an hour and I will publish our conversation in two parts.
Before we get to the interview, I will give you a short background of Captain May. He entered the U.S. Army in 1977 and served for 14 years. Captain May eventually received advance intelligence education and he spent years in deciphering messages, mainly from the former Soviet Union.
In 1990, he returned to civilian life and taught languages (Latin, Greek and Russian) at Mt. Carmel High School in Houston, where he was once elected teacher of the year. In 1995, he changed careers and became a freelance executive speech writer for many prominent companies, such as Texaco, Compaq, Hill & Knowlton, etc. At the same time, he contributed articles to Houston NBC-affiliate KPRC-TV. In addition, he wrote for two Houston daily newspapers: The Houston Post and The Houston Chronicle.
ML: Please tell us what prompted you to begin your questioning of the Battle of Baghdad, primarily the battle for the airport.
CM: I had just come back from teaching a martial arts class on Friday, April 4, 2003. That would have been the morning of April 5 in Baghdad. Immediately, what I saw on CNN, about 9pm Central time, was the Baghdad had been surrounded. We had dedicated the military forces to enveloping and making it succumb piece-by-piece, maybe sending in the 101st Airborne.
Then, all of a sudden, there was a report of explosions and CNN started to act like they were all rattled and didn’t know it was coming. Given that I was a prior service and intelligence public affairs office, I knew very well that meant unexpected contact. Pretty soon, they were saying there were huge explosions from the airport, and the next thing you know, they’re casting over to imbed Walter Rogers from CNN. As he’s broadcasting from Baghdad Airport, you can hear artillery hitting around his Humvee and you can hear small arms fire hitting it: a distinct ping, ping, ping. That pretty much told me they were getting fired up bad.
That was when it was still pre-dawn in Baghdad. By dawn, Lt. Col. Terry Ferrell, the 3/7 Cavalry Group commander appeared on TV during CNN evening coverage and he broke down into tears when he trying to say everything was okay at Baghdad Airport. That made it clear to me that the 3/7, the scout unit, the cavalry squadron that attended the 3rd Infantry Division, the U.S. Army division that had surrounded Baghdad, had wound up in a close fight in the Baghdad Airport. That’s what I picked up at the time.
By the next day, CNN was saying there was substantial contradiction in facts from various media reports. Arab media were putting out 200 U.S. dead at the airport. Russian Intel put out that dozens were dead and a real fight had developed. U.S. media were putting out that Jessica Lynch had been rescued.
ML: How do you account for foreign media reporting about a bloody battle and U.S. media being silent about the airport while highlighting the rescue of Jessica Lynch?
CM: To me, at this point, it was a done deal. The Battle of Baghdad was essentially blocked out from April 5 all the way through April 8. On April9, you had the pull-down of the Saddam statue which represents a pretty efficient ending of the Battle of Baghdad. But, it really was a propaganda ending. The pull-down was a staged event and I’ve heard that the few Iraqis there were not even Iraqis.
ML: Why have you taken such passion about the Battle of Baghdad?
CM: The propaganda cover-up of the Battle of Baghdad, what we call BOBCUP (Battle of Baghdad Cover-up) was so conspicuously against the United States principles of information, which is what we follow in the Department of Defense Public Affairs operations, was so egregiously out of line, it was then that I self-mobilized my mission of conscience because, basically, it was apparent to me at that point, that we were under dictatorship. Suppressing the events of an entire battle and keeping it suppressed long after the battle was over … you know, you could have said, “Well, we didn’t want to tell the Iraqis where our troops were,” or something else. But, you can’t say that months and months and months and years after the event.
Baghdad was he beginning. I’ve finished a successful career; in and out of the active Army and in and out of the reserves. My last gig was that of a general staff officer. I’ve been around. Baghdad brought me out of the observation and analysis of this war to a participant in what we call the “info war.” The war to get real information to the public.
ML: Please describe the conditions that make an “info war.”
CM: What became apparent to me is that the willingness they have to close down any kind of information that doesn’t fit into the big plan. Make it apparent that the whole system of government that we grew up studying in books — the three systems to keep government honest — has really become a bipolar government where you have in imperial executive — we call it King George and the Bush League — who rule the country. The media translate it like a propaganda ministry. Your other two parts of the triangle, the legislative and the judicial branches of government, are really there just for dressing up. They’re just there to make it look like a democracy, but it’s not. (Note: to my non-U.S. readers, the term “bush league” in the U.S. represents a low-class entity. Captain May used the term doubly: Bush is the president’s name and fits right in with the Bush League. ML)
ML: You, like a few other people who can think, predicted in writing the outcome of the invasion. Please elaborate.
CM: I’ve been publishing war analyses for the Houston Chronicle since 1992 predicting this quagmire. In retrospect, now that things have turned out the way they have, it seems obvious what I wrote on April 3, 2003, as we were nearing Baghdad. I wrote in the Houston Chronicle that this would be called “The Quicksand War:” it would turn into quicksand. Now, that looks so transparently obvious. But, I can remember when I submitted it to my editor, he laughed at me and said I was really going to blow my reputation on this one because the U.S. Army was going to reach Baghdad the next day and prove I was wrong.
As with so many people who never served a day in uniform, he just automatically knew that once you got there and knocked the other guy’s capital down, they gave up. But, for somebody who’d been in the military at that time in three different decades, and who had studied the art of war for three decades, the idea that a war is over because you take a capital? I read Napoleon. Also, that what people were saying on the way to Moscow.
ML: What is your opinion about the Iraqi resistance at the time? Few people knew that it had been organized before the U.S. invasion.
CM: When we go into the Battle of Baghdad cover-up, that’s part of what was getting covered up. I was getting from Iraqi resistance reports that they were preparing a resistance movement and I picked up on this as the Battle of Baghdad was occurring. Groups like the Saddam Fedayeen were involved, not just the Iraqi military.
Teaching indigenous populations how to conduct guerrilla warfare is like saying you have to teach teenagers on a date alone how to have sex. They’re inevitably going to find out what everything’s for if you just leave them alone. Anytime you start a guerrilla war, you get involved in attacking and holding a country, the most brilliant work of that campaign is going to come from the people who are trying to get even for your initial attack.
The resistance was planned and according to my research, they were publishing an underground newsletter as early as the Battle of Baghdad itself. Covering up a battle and covering up military reality are only temporary advantages, but they bring long-term problems. The administration became invested in saying that it had a successful war with conclusive results. As a result, the entire paradigm was askew. It went in with the wrong policy in the military sense. Once you deny military reality enough, it screws up your military.
I have connections at Camp Casey. Cindy Sheehan’s son, Casey, was killed on April 4, 2004. Here’s the irony. He was killed on the one-year anniversary of the Battle of Baghdad. Let’s pretend we just came out of basic Lieutenant school. On the one-year anniversary of a big battle where the Iraqis put up a big show and fought the U.S. to a standstill, wouldn’t anyone figure there would be danger of recurrent attacks on a one-year anniversary?
Those guys who got wasted, like Casey, on day-one in Iraq, who just got off the bus, they were sent into a city that was hot with resurgent feelings of nationalism because it was the one-year anniversary of a battle the U.S. covered up and those boys didn’t know it. Their officers didn’t know it. Their commanders didn’t know it. They were not allowed to know this was the one-year anniversary of the April 2003 Battle of Baghdad.
(In part two, Captain May goes into more detail about the Battle of Baghdad as well as media censorship.)
See: Baghdad and Info Wars (Part Two)