VOICEOVER: Deep inside Kuwait close to the Iraqi border American forces start another day waiting for orders to go to war. Fearing the consequences many around the world oppose this conflict But America insists that it can ensure a much faster war than people think with its overwhelming firepower.
REPORTER: Here in the Kuwaiti desert US forces are gearing up for a massive ground assault on iraq. But pressure to make this a quick war and threats of chemical and biological attacks could mean a combination of tactics weve never seen before
VOICEOVER: They call themselves the tip of the spear an armoured taskforce that will lead George Bushs invasion of Iraq.At full speed their Abrams tanks could get them to Baghdad in just a few days.But the men of the 1-64 Armour Brigade know it wont be that easy.
SGT JASON HOLMAN: The biggest threat to me would be chemical. If they use chemical we do have an NBC system in the tank that will filter out anything. We can fight in it. Id rather not, but we can fight in it.
VOICEOVER: Todays testing is vital. At any moment now these tanks could be leading America in to an uncertain future in a blaze of deadly firepower.
LT. COL. ERIC SCHWARTZ: Theyre tank killers - they kill any enemy aggressor whether it be a personnel carrier, whether it be another tank. It can kill aircraft, can kill bunkers, can destroy buildings.
VOICEOVER: Forty-year-old Lt-Colonel Eric Schwartz knows his tanks and the area he came here in 91 to liberate Kuwait from Iraq.A company captain in the last Gulf War Schwartz is now commander of the entire taskforce and feels hes here to finish the job against a familiar, now diminished enemy
but havent the Iraqis learnt the lessons of the last war?
SCHWARTZ: Sure they did, we actually know we study not only the leaders, the commanders, but even our young soldiers study about the Iraqi soldiers, the Iraqi army, why they do the things they do, what makes then think the way they think. So we actually know quite a bit about them
VOICEOVER: Half of Kuwait is now off-limits to its citizens an operations base for 70,000 American troops ready to march on Baghdad more arrive by the day.American field commanders dont talk tactics.But well-connected Kuwaitis paint an intriguing picture of how Iraq might be won.
PROFESSOR ABDULLAH SAKAR MOHAMMED, FOREIGN RELATIONS, KUWAIT UNIVERSITY: The plan will have three phases. The first phase will be a kind of air war where they bombard Baghdad and they use smart weapon in this for about three or four days.
VOICEOVER: In those first few days America will hit Iraq with a bombardment so intense it will aim to overwhelm Iraqi defenders - while precision bombs target key command centres.
SHAFEEQ GABRAH, DIRECTOR, CENTRE FOR STRATEGIC STUDIES, KUWAIT: Its that with the targeted missiles with the precision on specific targets that will be in this war, as I understand it, less targeted on civilian areas, more targeted on all the symbols of power and all the symbols of regime and actually after that theyre going to go in for a ground attack using the Iraqi opposition from the north and the south and theyre going to have the Iraqi border or the periphery of iraq collapsing.
VOICEOVER: So far this strategy sounds little different to the conventional war fought by America and its allies in the Gulf twelve years ago. Then too Americans struck from afar their precision-weapons fueling a callous confidence. They insisted the smart-bombs reduced the numbers of dead dismissing the civilian casualties simply as collateral damage. This time the Americans will unveil another secret weapon high-tech bombs that will send out microwave surges to fry enemy electronics halting Iraqi mobility shutting down communications.
SHAFEEQ: Well we hear about something called microwave - it doesnt hurt individuals it hurts machines. It will jam communications fully it will make it very hard to think and to act.
PROFESSOR ABDULLAH: They will be in control of the Iraqi tv, they will be in control of the radio station, they will be in control even of the remote control of Saddam Hussein. He cannot move anything he cannot use his mobile he cannot use his telephone he cannot use anything even to call up his assistants. If they see on Iraqi TV a program run by the Americans that Saddam Hussein is in captivity I think everybody will be in the street. It will lead for more chaos and in the final analysis it will lead for the collapse of the government.
SHAFEEQ: I would say that it wouldnt take long for this kind of attack from air and missiles that the tanks will roll and the targets will be Basra and Baghdad and a week or two could be the duration of the war.
VOICEOVER: Kuwaitis pro-American confidence is based on past experience. The American slaughter of retreating Iraqi soldiers 12 years ago on what became known as the highway of death remains the enduring symbol of the last Gulf War. But at the time it revealed a mainly conscript Iraqi army without the will or support to face the American invasion.
US Troops: They had no food, their clothes were shreds, they were bombed all night, they were losing fifteen a night.
VOICEOVER: On the same highway today few signs of the killing remain
instead its choked with a new traffic
the constant stream of American military convoys taking supplies to the front.But the forthcoming Battle for Baghdad may be different to freeing Kuwait 12 years ago in a fight to the end Saddam may use the weapons of mass destruction hes claimed to possess.
SHAFEEQ: Saddam believes this could be his real final protection so in that case will he use them you think 19.50 if he has to or if he gets cornered
VOICEOVER: In Kuwait City members of the Civil Defence Operations prepare for the worst. Well within range of Saddams missiles if Kuwait is struck with chemical weapons, these men will be on rescue duty. On secondment from the British airforce Flight Lt Joe Duhan is here to train them
but a chemical strike on Kuwait is a scenario he doesnt wish to contemplate.
LT. JOE DUHAN: Im not sure of the level of training the people in Kuwait have had to deal with that kind of thing but it would be truly horrific the consequences major casualities.
VOICEOVER: In a real attack they could be in these suits for days.
JAMAL, FIRE CHIEF: Its like a sauna inside. Youre sweating and feel dizzy and really tiring inside and its very very hot especially in Kuwait in this time. In the sun its really very hot.
VOICEOVER: Of course American troops are ordered to have now controversial shots for anything they can - small pox and anthrax the main fears. But behind their lines another enemy lurks among the people they call friends the Kuwaitis. Najeeb al-Wagayan is Kuwaits leading defence lawyer on security cases. Today hes heading to court to defend nine young Kuwaitis accused of conspiring to kill two US troops in an attack last October. All admit being members of Al-Qqaeda.
NAJEEB AL-WAGAYAN: They believe in paradise, frankly talking. They thought that the way to paradise was in killing the enemy of Islam, which the enemy of Islam in their beliefs is America right now.
VOICEOVER: As war draws near militant leaders are urging operatives to step up attacks.
NAJEEB: I believe they will not stop if they are intent on doing something they could easily do it. They will not stop. They have the same point of view, which is the enemy is still here.
VOICEOVER: In secured desert camps US troops focus on their main enemy - the Iraqis. This is the Pentagons worst nightmare a desperate, bloody last stand in Iraqs main cities by forces loyal to Saddam. But Kuwaitis believe the Iraqi resistance will instead crumble.
SHAFEEQ: I dont see major resistance in the Iraqi side and there could even be whole sections of the Iraqi army either surrender or move to the other side with the Iraqi opposition. And you could even see an intafada. You see attempt for a coup, you could see many scenarios as the military situation develops in the first hours or days.
VOICEOVER: Wishful thinking? maybe but seven months of Saddams repression gave Kuwaitis a taste of how Iraqis feel
and theyve had good intelligence on Iraq ever since.
SHAFEEQ: You have an army that is demoralised - an army that is weaker than it ever was. You have republican guards also demoralised and you have a country that also doesnt believe in its ruler and therefore it looks like an empty shell and therefore to jam it and to bring such an enormous amount of force is definitely something that will break down.
VOICEOVER: The former head of Kuwaits defence forces agrees
after ten years of studying Iraqs army - General Ali al-Momen has just retired.
GENERAL ALI AL-MOMEN: Obviously fighting in built-up areas is not an easy thing and it could delay things and cause some casualties. But I dont expect the Iraqi army will put up such a fight personally because when you know the end result you will come to your sense somehow.
VOICEOVER: Even if Iraqi forces eventually crumble there are many dangers - a post-Saddam civil war, Arab backlash against foreign invaders, chemical strikes on Israel, significant American and possibly even Australian casualties. But Kuwaits strategic thinkers see a post-Saddam democracy with an impact across the Arab world.
GENERAL ALI AL-MOMEN: Ive got a feeling the Iraqi people are not that stupid to have upheaval. I am very optimistic about the changes because the Iraqi people have suffered enough.
SHAFEEQ: All the Arab world will see how the Iraqi regime will crumble. All the Arab world will see the Iraqi people welcoming the liberators at least for the first five first six months. All the Arab world will see an that an illegitimate leader can be toppled by a superpower.
VOICEOVER: But no war goes according plan out here even the elements conspire against easy victory. The Americans have to move son to avoid debilitating heat. Last time Colonel Schwartz was here he lost two men to their own grenades, friendly fire a major danger when riding the American war machine.
SCHWARTZ :The tank moves very fast. Its very smooth, it will stop faster that your car. It is, ah, but its a very dangerous too. This tank is designed to kill people and if youre not careful it will hurt you as well.
VOICEOVER: America is gambling its superpower status on winning this war but a quick victory can not be guaranteed nor the survival of a new order imposed by the United States.